I really spend a lot of time reading fat biographies of show business figures, not to mention press coverage of show business figures, not to mention reviews of theatrical productions that, realistically, there is no possible way I am ever going to get around to seeing. And, yes, I appreciate that all this has got me nowhere. It has, however, got me thinking. It’s got me thinking about some of the less-openly-talked-about blows that life can inflict, either on the creatively inclined or on those who, in the style of Pamela de Barres, want to ‘spend the night together’ with the creatively inclined.
For example, I recently read a most interesting article in The New Yorker called ‘First Banana: Steve Carell and the meticulous art of spontaneity’ by one Tad Friend. One interesting aspect is that it was written back in the days when Dinner For Schmucks was still filming and so is quite enthusiastic about the now widely derided flick, reminding me of the laudatory tone of a Sydney Morning Herald article about Dog’s Head Bay that had been written while the show was first in production and so had not actually hit our screens. Anyhow, the point is that, in common with so many films featuring Steve Carell, a lot of Dinner was improvised. Now, I’m all for improvisation, so that in itself is uncontroversial as far as I’m concerned. My question is merely how it’s possible to be completely at peace with your name being on the script of a film when many, or even all, of the really terrific lines have come from the heads of the actors. Do you feel humbly grateful that another party has done some of the work for you, or do you become as sulky as a five year old whose older sibling has stepped in to fix up her colouring-in? And what if a well-meaning person complimented you on a line for which you were in no way responsible, similarly to the way musicians in restaurants used to strike up ‘Yesterday’ to honour the arrival of John Lennon? Speaking personally, I’m certainly petty enough for this state of affairs to eat away at me like a cancer.
And, on the subject of torment, I would really like to know how if you’re acting in a play and you’re the only person in the cast who’s been harshly reviewed, it’s remotely possible to get up on stage the night after having undergone the horror of finding out this information. And that’s without even mentioning what it must be like to arrive at the performance venue aware that you have ahead of you difficult conversations with the other members of the cast, who, you would surely have to know, are silently thanking some Richard Wherrett-like God of Theatre that they’re not in your pitiable shoes.
One of the other things that must be hell on wheels if you’re an entertainer is having to read articles about how you’re not as successful as, in a just world, you really should be. Yes, in one way this is a fine compliment but, in another, it would be a comprehensive kick in the guts, especially if you’ve been labouring under the delusion that you’re actually doing quite well for yourself. Now, one of the few musical groups founded later than Australia’s Bicentennial year about whom I know anything is the magnificent You Am I. And all I can say is that it’s no wonder Tim Rogers likes to stay close to an alcoholic drink considering how many articles the man must have read about what a tragedy it is that his band isn’t striding the world’s stage like, say, Silverchair and that it doesn’t sell as many records as it once did. ‘Australia’s bard’ Paul Kelly is another who’s attracted press on the topic of why, oh why, he’s not successful all over the world, even though I would argue that he’s simply paying the price for having been responsible for the bollock-destroyingly tedious ‘Bradman’. And, anyway, both he and Rogers seem to me to be doing very nicely; most musicians would consider merely being crammed into a vehicle to motor down the Hume and then sharing one Melbourne hotel room, in the manner of The Takeaways in Sweet and Sour, to be really hitting the big time.
As a person with no talent either for acting (if you don’t count lying to people) or the playing of music, my entertainment-industry-related kick in the head has always been discovering that a celebrity I find attractive has a girlfriend or, worse, an actual spouse. Yes, I realise that I’m now going to sound like I’m most at home in the dock of a courtroom while a famous person gives testimony on video because they’re frightened of being in the same room as me, but I find it hard not to have a queasy feeling of betrayal when I discover that a celebrity whom I find attractive is not simply there for my picking. I can never decide whether it’s worse when this individual is with someone who’s plainly not worthy of them, given how violently unjust this seems, or whether it’s worse when they’re with someone who is worthy of them, meaning that, yes, the world now seems a fairer place but that you may as well hang up the old duelling pistol.
I’ve been keeping my eye on who John Cusack is dating for twenty-five years now, starting with his little-remembered period with Wendy, or possibly Lisa, of Purple Rain fame (incidentally, I’ve read that they’re now both lesbians). I continued observing his romantic movements through the Minnie Driver era; then, much more recently, his involvement with one of Julian McMahon’s ex-wives; and, most recently, apparently, Gong Li, who has allegedly described him as ‘a wizard full of charms’. Yes, I finally care a lot less about what Cusack gets up to than I used to, thanks to his famously illiterate Tweets. (While it has an applause-worthy sentiment, a recent sample is: ‘why is worst thing a troll threatens is if u xpress beliefs – he wont see my movies – I dontt care – go back to watching Steven Segal Lawman’.) The fact is, though, that Cusack’s relentless dating has measurably affected my mood over the years, as demonstrated by the fact that I once physically punched the air in the olden days when I heard that he’d broken up with Neve Campbell.
No doubt getting so worked up about the above matter is as illogical as the outrage and hurt I experience when I discover that someone whom I don’t like doesn’t like me either. Perhaps Cusack felt this same outrage and hurt during his ‘troll’ exchanges, but it seems that Gong Li is really the woman you’d have to consult about that.