So, they fired Charlie.
My heart goes out to all the folks who work on Two and a Half Men – all but one. I don’t wish Charlie ill. I hope he picks up the clue phone before he kills himself. I hate that the media uses this sort of tragic spectacle as ratings fodder. Lindsey, Anna Nicole and now Charlie. They still cannot stop talking about Marilyn – I always wonder how her story would have played out if she’d lived? Lushy old has-been or grand dame of the business? Either would have been more interesting than 50 years of badly written, National Enquirer, conspiracy theories.
But the people who suffer most in all this are not the ones getting all the air time.
I know from personal experience how this plays out. A few years back, I was convinced to write a couple of novels with Pamela Anderson, based on her life – or at least what people believed her life to be. I was paid almost nothing. I was promised a nice cut of the profits but what convinced me to do it was the assurance that we were developing a series.
Every writer hopes to come up with a writing project that keeps on giving. Harry Potter, Miss Marple, Twilight, Lestat, a new novel every year and a built-in audience waiting to buy it. It’s a writer’s dream come true. This was hardly the stuff that I’d dreamed of writing, but the promise of regular work and the possibilities that it offered for my life and my career seemed worth the sacrifice. I went along for the ride.
Success was far from assured. She’d tried and failed before. The project had been around for a while and was foundering and, I think, considered a bit of a lost cause by the time I signed on. She was like press catnip, but the book just wasn’t coming together — I realize now it was because she wouldn’t get it together.
Carrie Fisher once said to me that in publishing “you get the money up front or you surely get it from behind.” And not in a good, loving, well-lubricated kind of way. It’s more like jailhouse shower ambush. I had learned my lesson in publishing the hard way, long before I met Pam. But I was starry eyed, I guess, though more for the promises than for her. She seemed nice enough. I figured if she could deliver the press, I knew how to do the rest.
For wages far below the poverty level — and paying a percentage of that pittance to my agents — I wasted more than two years of my life. She did her part and I did mine. The first book was a New York Times Best Seller and the critics, hmmm, let’s say tolerated it. The tour was amazing. The crowds were enormous here and abroad. It was more than anyone had hoped. My editor began calling me “Golden Boy.” I was, by proxy, Amazon’s Chick Lit Author of the year. I wrote a second book that almost no one has ever seen. It was a genuine sequel to the first book. It was damned good. Pam said she loved it. The publisher was thrilled. The tour was planned to be more sumptuous and glamorous than the one before. We began shopping for voice talent to do the audio versions. All we had to do was score another best seller and new contracts and real money were a genuine possibility.
Then, at the eleventh hour, I was summoned to a teleconference not unlike the recent series of “press releases” Charlie has issued on YouTube and radio and every formerly legitimate news outlet on earth. In a breathless discourse – literally I don’t think she inhaled for half an hour – Pam revealed to me and our publisher that she and her brother had “stayed up all night” and “fixed” the book that no one thought was broken. As an alternative to the book I’d written and she’d signed off on six months before, she pitched us what I later discovered was the plot of a dreadful movie called Paparazzi. She told us she wouldn’t do the book tour if we didn’t make the changes. We really only needed her to do the book tour. The books were fiction and I wrote them. The publisher got them printed and distributed and planned the tour. It was do or die.
I had literally 72 hours to create re-writes of the book in a series of cuts and insertions to the already typeset manuscript scheduled to go to press the following week or the deal was off. I worked through the long Memorial Day weekend and managed to achieve coherence, at least, and something of a the twisted narrative she had blackmailed us into deforming the book.
Once the novel was printed, our “Star” announced she was “too busy” to do the book tour after all. Too prove it she went to Miami to attend the VMA’s at the very same time we would have been there on book tour. I guess it was the parties she was there for since she wasn’t nominated and isn’t a musician. She was even filmed signing our book – something she never actually did in real life – for the movie Borat. She destroyed the novel, sabotaged the promotions and killed a successful series. The last time we spoke was when I called to wish her a happy birthday a month before the book was published.
She has never paid me a dime of my share of the royalties. She has broken every deal and contract we ever had. She has never returned a call of mine, let alone called to find out if I’m okay after she left me destitute. She has never offered me any explanation for her bizarre and selfish behavior.
All she had to do was show up for the tour, be wined and dined, go on Letterman and Leno, wear the fancy clothes, fly on the private jet, be a star. In exchange, she might well be reaping the benefits of contracts for a bestselling book series. Ask JK Rowling how that’s worked out for her. The only price she had to pay was to do her job and be the star. All she had to do was a couple weeks of celebrity summer camp each year and we might still be minting beach reads and making a tidy profit. Instead, she needed to get fucked up with her friends at the VMA’s.
Charlie’s show, like my book project with Whats’ername, was the collaborative effort, the hard work and the living wage of a lot of people who were not being paid the big money. Charlie was getting millions for a success in which he had to do little more than say the words and not crash into the furniture. It wasn’t Hamlet. I suppose he has some talent. I never saw it. I found the show a bit misogynistic but I don’t think they made it for me and thirteen million people a week thought differently. He was the star and I know how the system works. Still, it’s a pretty dingy little star who puts his ego above the welfare of those who have bent over backward to try to help him (or her) surmount what is admittedly a potentially fatal malady and refuse to go to rehab and clean up.
I wish Charlie a speedy recovery. I hope Pam sobers up, too. I’d help her out with that if she asked. But she’s had a series of — albeit increasingly degrading and exploitative – jobs since she suffocated our book series in the crib. Fired, Charlie has begun the Anna-Nicole-reality-series-death-march that will keep him in porn stars and crack pipes until his heart stops or the next hot mess pushes him off the front page. I only worry about them to the extent that someone might let them drive or that they might do themselves harm as they are encouraged in their insanity by the same forces who use celebrity to make gold. Tarnished gold spends the same as shiny.
No, my heart goes out to all the folks who built the scenery, painted the faces, wrote the scripts and produced the series that made Charlie famous and paid him so disproportionately for blessed little work. I feel for Holland and Conchata and John and Angus and Chuck and all those people that this selfish, childish jerk has put out of work because he’s too good and too smart and too cool to clean up his act and toe the line that the least of his cast and crew must meet by necessity each day.
At the Oscars this year, the speeches that impressed me most were those of Christian Bale and Natalie Portman. Each, while standing in the spotlight before billions to accept the accolades of the world, took time to remember by name and thank the people who, by their hard work and unsung achievement, had not only made Chris and Nat look good but, in a real way, given them the opportunity to stand where they stood at that moment. Not just producers and directors, but make-up people and beat up old boxers. More than that, Christian and Natalie and all their fellow nominees and winners showed up for work and did a bloody good job while they were there.
Those are stars with some real sheen.
Everyone else should take a lesson or maybe shut up.