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Men behaving badly. So many to choose from these days.
But two occur to me. Guess who they are?
Galliano and Sheen — sounds like a vaudeville act. One is my newspaper’s cover boy, the other had a down-at-the-precinct scene that is my favorite in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.”
Both are very rich men who were at the center of giant money-making machines until substance abuse and their mouths got in the way.
At the outset of each ordeal, you had to laugh. That’s exactly what several of my co-workers and I were doing last Friday in Milan, after John Galliano’s fateful night at La Perle. But that was before “I love Hitler,” when the most we had to go on was sleek-mag.com’s anonymous eyewitness report of Galliano’s alleged deliciously bitchy retort to what many assumed was a lawsuit-happy couple. “You’re ugly. And your f--king bag is ugly, too.”
“That is hilarious!” said one colleague. “I hope he said that.” One leading retailer was so amused she wrote a poem.
For fashion people, Galliano as the catty snob was far more believable than Galliano the vile anti-Semite. Too many mojitos, a crude comment. No one wanted to face the demons that keep taking the best designers away, yet everyone knew the dark side was there.
Then came the footage of Galliano — beyond ugly. And shocking to those who thought they had a clue.
But is it forgivable? It’s not to me. And certainly not to Dior.
On Tuesday night, after Galliano’s dismissal from Dior became official, some of the patrons at La Perle were sympathetic. One young French man, who said he had seen Galliano at La Perle on several occasions, immediately jumped to his defense, claiming that the designer was never drunk. He indicated with a finger to the side of his nose that cocaine was the drug of choice. The man was unaware that Galliano’s slurs had been caught on video, and went quiet after being told about it.
“Everyone says racist things with their friends,” said his friend.
Not everyone. Nor do they bring out the obscenity of Hitler.
Now, onto Charlie Sheen.
Sheen has yet to take it that far, though anti-Semitism has come up in his really, really, really long conversation when he referred to Chuck Lorre as Chaim Levine, a name Lorre has used himself, in an open letter to TMZ. Sheen’s response to his accusers: “So you’re telling me, anytime someone calls me Carlos Estevez, I can claim they are anti-Latino?” Put a point on that metaphorical scoreboard of his.
Sheen’s absurd yet impressive rhetoric has won me over in a sick, twisted way. Is that allowed? I’m not alone. In the two days since joining Twitter, Sheen has accumulated more than 800,000 followers and counting. GQ just published a largely flattering profile of Sheen and all his vices, with a genius headline: Coke, Hookers, Hospital, Repeat. The GQ piece floated the theory of his whole public meltdown as performance art, the media’s new excuse for obnoxious behavior by people they feel guilty about liking (see Lady Gaga and James Franco, as other examples). That seems like a stretch, although all of these uncensored interviews have revealed a deeper intelligence than I ever gave him credit for. He’s also funny, repulsive, idiotic and deranged. He’s done the unthinkable: granted all access in an age of complete image control. And he’s right: We can’t handle it.
But why? Isn’t it everything you expected? Unlike Galliano, whose darker tendencies have only been alluded to, Sheen’s always proudly reserved his right to party, take up with slutty, opportunistic women and work, as long as he’s clean — and he swears he is for now, though that seems completely implausible. What’s your problem, CBS?
Sheen plays dress-up, makes money and gets paid. Of course, so does Galliano, whose work I respect exponentially more than Sheen’s. Yet Sheen finds his employment status on hiatus, indefinitely, while Galliano finds his relationship with Dior severed, permanently. Both are a sad state of affairs. Which will come first, the 10th season of “Two and a Half Men” or Galliano taking a bow on a runway? It’s all a matter of the cycle of rehab and contrition. If all goes well, you’ll see Galliano in the cast of “Two and a Half Men” and Sheen on the runway by next year.