Wednesday, March 26, 2014

You Think We’re Equal? Try Dying…

When Phillip Seymour Hoffman was found dead in his apartment, from an apparent heroin overdose early in 2014, it was a sad day for his family. He and his partner had three kids and his mother was his date to the Oscars when he won for playing Truman Capote. The theater and film worlds lost a true talent, one of his generations’ best. He turned in brilliant performances in some of the best films (and some of the not so best films) and plays of the last twenty years.

Strangely enough, no one really focused on that when he died…

One could not deny the heroin overdose and the fifty plus opium filled balloons found in his apartment. Sober twenty-three years, he has one scotch and he’s dead two years later. That fast. From scotch to heroin, it’s an old story and a gross miscalculation that addicts are taught about in the various programs. Fine, I get that he screwed up huge. What was confounding was the deluge of sanctimonious fucks that came out and chastised a dead guy, who clearly had a problem, as though it were a moral failing.

One face book placard I saw was that Richard Bull died the same weekend at seventy. Its main complaint was that no one “shed a tear for this great American” but instead focused on “that heroin addict, Hoffman.”

Do you know who the fuck Richard Bull was? Astronaut? Inventor? Nixon speech writer? Mother Teresas’ counterpart in Calcutta? Yeah, I’ll wait a second…

He played one of the dads on Little House on the Prairie. I may point out that this is also why no one gave a shit. I didn’t. Even if he had died on his own weekend, besides his family, friends at church, etc. who would have cared? Celebrity? Look, he was a character actor who was lucky enough to get work on a popular show, though I never watched it. Good for him. But was he on the level of a Hoffman, who had an effect on an entire industry? Hardly. He wasn’t as famous first of all and secondly, he wasn’t Phillip Seymour Hoffman!

No one likes to admit this but it’s true; you are missed in direct proportion to the lives you affect. Sorry. Moreover, relatively speaking, your funeral will be attended in direct proportion to the same formula. That’s a fact, so while we may be equal under the law, we are by no means equal. We are not all stars and little snowflakes. Cruel as it sounds, this is something we used to instinctively know but somehow, in our over precious, certificate for participation, trophies for ninth place t-ball world, we forgot. We bought into the same bullshit that we’ve been feeding our kids for the last forty years and it’s this same crap that has raised a couple of generations of self entitled, soft-headed, drooling rubber stamps…

Those of you freaking out upon this reading, fear not. I’m not judging anyone as though I’m “better” as I sit in no rarefied stead. Trust me, my funeral will be poorly attended and I guarantee there will be some who will line up to piss on my grave. So there’s that.

However…

A good friend of mine passed away in late 2013. It was a sad event in my life. He was a good family man, businessman and mentor to many as he also taught classes in business. He was funny, accomplished, well read, not without his flaws, had the ability to laugh at himself and still maintain a certain élan.

That being said, his “Celebration of Life” (not memorial) was heavily attended on two coasts by over five hundred people. Tales of his kindness, humor, and acumen were flowing like the booze, as he paid for an open bar, which I had the honor of being responsible for. He had more than one thousand friends and acquaintances on various social media and those pages were full for days of tales of his effect on people. I wasn’t Johnny Depp and he wasn’t Hunter S. Thompson so we couldn’t afford the cannon to shoot his cremated remains out of and he donated his body to science anyway. Still, not bad for a guy who never made a movie or wrote a novel. He was loved and is missed.

He had an effect on my life and quite a few others. Hoffman had an effect on many more lives. Little House guy? Not as many (more than me) but it doesn’t mean he won’t be missed by his own. But please, to make such asinine moral comparisons because of Hoffman’s addiction? It’s cruel to both parties and their families. You think Richard Bulls’ grand kids are making those comparisons?  Probably not and frankly, this makes routine my point that sitting in judgment is not the same as having judgment.

Anyone remember J.D. Tippit? Conspiracy theorists do but not too many beyond that community. He was the cop Lee Harvey Oswald shot after he allegedly shot President John F. Kennedy. I say “allegedly” because, well, you know…At any rate, Tippit died not two hours after the president on November 22, 1963.

Incidentally, his funeral was on the same day as the J.F.K.’s.

It got little coverage, except for the back pages of newspapers. Both widows cried for days, faces ashen at the services, their children haunted for the rest of their lives as their fathers were taken too young. Was Tippit “less” a person? Less loved by those who knew him such as family, Dallas Police, friends? Of course not. However, for better or worse the president touched more lives.

A few years back I was teaching school when the artist formerly known as Prince started putting out his own records, remember that? I was substitute teaching and eating in the lunch room when this math teacher, reading the paper says, “Prince, made $30 million last year when the average teacher makes forty grand. There’s societies’ priorities for you.”

I was acquainted with this prick so it wasn’t as though I was invading his space completely. I turned and said, “Yeah, know why? Prince can sell out Staples Center, play guitar like a god and people buy his records! Who’s gonna pay $200 a seat to watch a math teacher do equations on a chalk board? What kind of arithmetic are you smokin’?”

He made some dumb comment that implied I was part of the problem, etc. I laughed and said, “Wait, you really wonder why Prince makes more than us? OK, man…”

And so on…

It’s the same mentality that dictates the questions, “Who does he think he is?” or “Where do they get off…?” The Australians call it the “tall poppy syndrome;” get too tall and we cut you down. It’s the same mentality that irks us commoners when a famous person gets behind a cause or movement. I'm guilty too. “Stick to (insert art form here), man! We don’t need your kind telling us how to live!” The vox populi scream into the vacant night about how these “elites” have no clue and question the masses as to who needs to really hear that opinion.

In the dark ages, that may have been a point to be taken seriously. However, asshole, you now have a face book page, twitter account and whatever else, and before you “friended” me, I had no idea who you were or what your opinions are, yet I’m stuck with them and you bring no joy to my life at all but to annoy the shit of me. Whether I agree or disagree, I’d rather chat with Bono or Angelina Jolie...if we’re comparing notes. 

Why does anyone care or have to have a mean spirited opinion on someones’ success or death? What is the point? Why should I care when strangers die? Why care about what you think? Because we possess something that’s bigger than ourselves and when we care to know better, we sometimes do. But that’s the trick, knowing better and acting on it…And yes, it’s possible to care about strangers and treat them the way you’d want to be treated. It ought to be common sense, which I’m told is not that common.