Celebrity is an ephemeral thing. One minute you’ve got a hit song, a hit movie, and the paparazzi chasing everywhere you go. The next you’re appearing on “Celebrity Wife Swap”, and constantly fending off the question…”Hey didn’t you used to be so and so?” Celebrity can, and most usually is a mind warping experience. Take for example the case of Dustin Diamond aka Screech, from hit TV show Saved by the Bell. His descent into purgatory has been well documented, and finally culminated in his conviction last week of two misdemeanors stemming from a barroom knife fight. I repeat, a BARROOM KNIFE FIGHT. Diamond, reports say, hated being called Screech in public, but hated not being recognized much more. As Shakespeare wrote “Therein lies the rub.” What happens when the phones stop ringing, and when they actually do ring they’re for a character you haven’t been in 20 years? Trust me; “Screech” isn’t the only crew member on this voyage of the damned. This boat is packed with one hit wonders in music (The list is endless), where are they now athletes (Terrell Owens just to name one), and my personal favorites, “reality stars” (Remember Joe Millionaire…yeah I didn’t think so!) All of these “has-been’s” seem to follow an eerie pattern, of substance abuse, violence, money issues, and the obligatory “random” sex tape (See Scott Stapp the lead singer of Creed). Perhaps the pattern isn’t that difficult to discern; Dismayed at their fleeting fame, the former “star” abuses drugs and alcohol. This leads to violent public encounters (which gets their name in the papers, and people talking about them…which in itself feeds the abuse and the outbursts…paging Shia LaBeouf) Having had to bail themselves out with a now fleeting fortune, legal fees, and the “lifestyle” they’d grown accustomed to taking its toll, is a sex tape really so farfetched a concept? I mean it built the Kardashian Empire. So let’s not be too hard on our old pal Screech. In the Celebrity world, best not to ask for whom the bell tolls…it tolls for thee.
Gracing the upcoming cover of Vanity Fair is Caitlyn Jenner, formerly known as Bruce Jenner, formerly known as the guy on the cover of the Wheaties Box. Say what you will about whether you approve or disapprove of the transition that Caitlyn is making…actually whatever you may think or want to say is best kept to yourself. This is not our issue to commend or to condemn. This is the act of a desperate individual searching for some shred of normalcy to a life they described as anything but…normal. Yes it’s being played out for the entire world to see, and though we may have our views, one way or the other as to whether this furthers or hinders the cause of transgender individuals. We cannot deny that it is a conversation starter. It compels us to talk openly about topics once considered taboo. But more importantly it forces us to rethink our ideas about masculinity. When the gold medal winner in the Men’s Decathlon, transitions into a woman…you don’t need the Village People to tell you about a new definition of a “macho man.” I for one will refer to Ms. Jenner as Caitlyn, because that’s what she asks to be called, and my mother taught me never to disrespect a lady…especially when she’s bigger and stronger than you.
So much is being reported. Too many talking heads are weighing in with their opinion on what the appropriate response/punishment should have been, for former NFL running back Ray Rice and his domestic abuse scandal. I will not bore any readers with the brutally offensive statistics concerning the rate at which in this country, a woman is either sexually assaulted or physically abused. Suffice to say, that in the time it took for you to read that sentence, it already happened somewhere in America to a woman, who is a mother, a daughter, a sister, or an aunt just like the one you have. I will not bore you with the speculation rampant on social media, that if this tape never existed, it would have been business as usual in the NFL. I won't even begin to waste your attention, on the audacity of NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. He, who would have us believe like gullible sheep, that a sporting entity that nets annual revenue in the billions of dollars, was unable to gain access to the video recording of Ray Rice's brutal attack, and the disgusting callous treatment afterwards of his then unconscious fiancée, yet somehow TMZ was able to do so. Video footage from a casino, perhaps the most heavily scrutinized private location on the planet. I will spare you the time expressing my outrage at a judicial system, which indeed saw the tape, and chose not to put Ray Rice in jail, but rather allowed him to "agree" to enter counseling. For the sake of expediency, I won't delve into the psychological trauma domestic abuse can have on the abused party, made all the more horrific when we consider that Ray Rice's then fiancée Janay Palmer, was questioned by the commissioner of the NFL in the presence of the man who abused her. Too keep things short and sweet, which is the way we as a society seem to prefer things, I will simply offer this brief statement.
The NFL, a billion dollar entity, and the Baltimore Raven's a hundred million dollar entity, suspended their million dollar running back two games for knocking a woman unconscious on tape, in an elevator, and then dragging her lifeless body around with the same amount of grace you would treat a sack of dirty laundry. That not until the public outcry reached a deafening crescendo was Ray Rice cut from the team and suspended indefinitely from the league.
Perhaps we can't stop domestic violence; we are not in every home in America. But the NFL is...make sure we continue to hold them to a higher standard. The power for change lies in us.
Little known truth…I am an insomniac. Typically when I can’t sleep, it’s because my mind won’t shut off or can’t shut out, what it has experienced during the day. I’m probably no different than many Americans, and like most of America, for the past several nights I have been shocked to my core unable to close my eyes to the terrible carnage wrought by the monster Elliot Rodger. If you have not been following our ongoing discussion here at Dr. Drew on Call, allow me to get you up to speed. Elliot Roger a 22 year old college student, fatally stabbed 3 men in his home, proceeded to shoot two women outside of a sorority house, and then shot a man at a deli in Isla Vista California, before turning the gun on himself and ending his own life. By the end of his rampage, 6 innocent people were dead, and a community was left searching for answers.
Unfortunately in situations like this, there are always far too many more questions than answers. How could an obviously disturbed individual purchase guns legally? Where are the checks in the system, to keep firearms out of the hands of the mentally ill? How could his parents, knowing that their son was disturbed unleash him upon an unsuspecting college campus? How could the psychotherapist that received hi s 137 page manifesto, fail to alert the police? How could the police, in an unrelated matter when they searched hi s home (at his mother’s request) fail to thoroughly search his room, and not find his arsenal of weapons? Lastly, how could a seemingly good looking young man of financial means feel so much rage and despair, causing him to commit such heinous acts?
For almost a year now, I have been privileged to be in the company of one of America’s most famous doctors. Four nights a week on HLN, Dr. Drew Pinsky is most definitely on call, and I have a front row seat. As one of the regular panelists I trade words, often times harshly with the good doctor’s diagnosis. I am a journalist/social commentator by trade, and thus a skeptic by nature. To me, mental health is akin to sorcery, or fortune telling. Regardless of the “why” someone does something, society is left to deal with the aftermath of the deed. If a mentally ill person commits a crime, the stain on humanity is still there the same as if a mentally fit person committed the act. However, what Dr. Drew has been able to do, is to open my eyes to the fact that until some of the stigma is lifted on mental illness and mentally ill people, to quote Shirley Bassey… “It’s all just a little bit of history repeating.”
Starting from the year 2000, thus excluding the thirteen souls that perished at Columbine in April of 1999, and listed from greatest number of lives lost, the death count beggars all sense of reason:
· 32 Killed – April 16, 2007 - Virginia Tech University – 23 year old student Seung Hui Cho kills 32 people, and wounding countless others, before ending his own life.
· 27 Killed – December 14, 2012 – Sandy Hook Elementary School – Newton Connecticut, 20 year old Adam Lanza guns down 20 children, ages 6 and 7, and six adults, before turning a gun on himself. His mother is later found dead from a gunshot wound. Including his suicide the total dead is actually 28 people.
· 13 Killed – November 5, 2009 – Binghamton, New York – Jiverly Wong kills 13 people and injures four more, during a shooting at an immigrant community center. He then kills himself.
· 12 Killed – September 16, 2013 – Shots are fired inside the Washington Navy Yard killing 12 people. The shooter is identified as Aaron Alexis, age 34 who dies in the altercation.
· 12 Killed – July 20, 2012 – Twelve people are killed, and 58 are wounded in a shooting at an Aurora, Colorado, movie theater. The gunman, James E. Holmes 24, is taken into custody outside the movie theater. He is dressed head-to-toe in protective tactical gear as if preparing for war.
· 10 Killed – March 10, 2009 – In Alabama, Michael McLendon kills 10 and himself. Among the dead are his mother, grandparents, aunt and uncle.
· 8 Killed – October 12, 2011 – Eight people are killed at the Salon Meritage in Seal Beach California. Scott Evans Dekraai, aged 41 is arrested while trying to flee the scene. He is armed with multiple handguns, and has body armor under his clothes.
· 8 Killed – January 19, 2010 – Christopher Speight age 39, kills’ eight people at a house in Appomattox, Virginia.
· 8 Killed – March 29, 2009 – Robert Stewart, aged 45, kills a nurse and seven elderly patients at a nursing home in Carthage, North Carolina.
· 8 Killed – December 5, 2007 – Robert Hawkins, aged 19, opens fire in a shopping mall in Omaha Nebraska. He kills eight people before killing himself.
· 8 Killed – March 21, 2005 – Red Lake Minnesota - Jeff Weise, aged 16, kills his grandfather, another adult, four fellow students, a teacher, and a security officer. He then kills himself.
The chilling fact is that I stopped my list at eight people being killed. If I had continued down to five, it would have covered several pages.
Now I’m not silly enough to engage in a conversation about gun control. Smarter individuals, families that have been ripped apart by gun violence, even the President of the United States, Barrack Obama have not been able cure American’s of their infatuation with guns. Even the impassioned pleas of Richard Martinez, whose son Chris Martinez died at the hands of Elliot Roger, probably won’t sway enough politicians to enact stricter gun control laws. My beliefs on guns, the right to own guns, and gun safety are an argument for another time. What I’m writing tonight, what is keeping me from sleeping, is my fear that we are only glimpsing the tip of the ice berg.
With the proliferation of “Social Media”, we have created a “celebrity without talent” culture. Kids and even adults are starting to feel that they are entitled to better lives, without having to work for it. Instant gratification, selfishness, delusions of grandeur, narcissism, and good old fashion jealousy and envy, are infecting the minds of those online. If a person can go from obscurity to notoriety due to the release of a sex tape, or become bank breakingly rich due to the amount of “views” they can muster on YouTube, society is in serious trouble.
Dr. Drew believes that “Social Media” can be used to help ferret out the mentally ill, by monitoring their posts on websites such as Twitter, and Facebook. And this is where the good doctor and I differ greatly in our opinion on the merits of “Social Media”. Mental illness is difficult to diagnose even by trained professionals. The idea of the untrained masses trying to ascertain the sanity of their “Friends” posts is too scary to contemplate. When the number of “followers”, “likes”, and “re-tweets” has become a form of currency people use to assess their self-worth, who knows what someone might conjure up just to start “trending”. It would be the literal manifestation of the children’s story, “The Boy Who Cried Wolf”. We would have every manner of charlatan, and fame seeker, trying to outdo one another for attention. I fear that those who are in dire need of medical care would fall further thru the cracks than they already have.
My solution to be honest, seems a bit draconian and barbaric. I would have all diagnosed mentally ill individuals registered in the same manner that states force sex offenders to register. Moreover, any diagnosed mentally ill person that committed a crime while off their medication would be shown no more leniency than a sane individual. I have neither the zeal of the newly converted, nor the staunch denial of an unbeliever. I can understand someone being mentally ill, I just don’t believe that they can be cured of their illness. Dr. Drew and I may differ on many points, but one that we do agree on, is that for the mentally ill, the only solution is constant treatment. I only advocate that we treat them as severely as the crimes they commit. Our current methods aren’t working…perhaps then we are the crazy ones. Insanity, after all can be defined as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
Cue up Shirley Bassey…
Regardless of what you believe in, to me God is good, and good all the time. No sooner do I sign my contract with #PodCastOne, but come to find on my doorstep a package from the great people at #DockersBrand who have been awesome in their attempts to make me look...presentable. The month of June is shaping up to be a maelstrom of possibilities. The month of May, which isn't even over has already offered me more blessings than I can count.
I've had an article published http://on.hln.tv/6Iyzew. I launched my website SegunTheProgram.com. I have a new niece in San Antonio (Shout out to Mike and Lindsay Harris Richard). One of my former players Trey Dickerson signed his letter of intent to the University of Iowa. My El Salvadorian brother Chris Dominguez bought a house with his fiancée. Plus I finally lured my big brother Bayo Oduolowu out to Los Angeles where, surprise surprise...he had a great time.
Typically this is where some self serving yahoo, will give thanks to God, though in reality they never attend church. These same narcissistic chuckle heads, will thank parents who don't even use Facebook or twitter! Or lastly, they will thank their "friends" whom they never pick up a phone to call....as you all know I'm typically a self serving yahoo/chucklehead. But the only person I want to thank here for all my recent good fortune is...Me!
For being smart enough to listen to all of you great people that see something in Me, I don't always see. Expect more from Me, than I think I have to give. That push Me to be better everyday. That watch Me on TV and tell Me when I'm good and when I stink!
The success is really YOURS...thank you for letting Me take the credit.
Is it still ok to be straight, and uncomfortable with two men kissing on TV? Can I, as a man have gay friends and be uncomfortable at the idea of them making out? The popular media would have us believe that if you are not an ardent supporter of all things “same sex”…you’re a card carrying homophobe. For example, recently ESPN aired the intimate kiss Michael Sam shared with his boyfriend, upon learning he had been drafted by the St. Louis Rams. Now we can debate on whether they stayed on the couple for too long, or if Michael Sam wasn’t gay, would the network have shown the drafting of a 7thround pick? But that’s a slice of cake, and an argument for another day. The question I pose is can I be happy that Michael Sam was drafted, and still say I was uncomfortable watching him kiss his boyfriend?
To be honest, I don’t know anymore. I have gay friends, which I know sounds like when white people say they have “black” friends. But in reality, I do have gay friends. I’ve been to gay bars with them, been to baseball games with them, played in basketball games with them, and even introduced them to my “straight” friends and family. This does not make me the arbiter of tolerance; it’s just a statement of fact. I’m in the television business, my hair, my makeup, my clothing, at one time or another has been coiffed, applied, or selected by a gay man or woman too many times to count. Hell, my regular barber is a lesbian. Can I still say that gay sex makes me feel icky? Darn it…I just don’t know.
Part of why I’m confused, is that the argument for, or against tolerance is so convoluted and hypocritical. On the religious right side, where politico’s can’t wait to get in front of a camera, thump the bible, and decry homosexuality as a mortal sin. These same zealots seemingly have no compunction with two hot women getting it on, which is a cinematic staple of porn. Furthermore, more pornography is purchased and downloaded in the “Bible-belt” states than in any other area of the country. So…is it gay sex that’s the issue, or is it man on man sex?
Many may have a problem with seeing gay sex, or affection openly shown, because “it’s just the way things have always been”. But the way things have always been, isn’t always good. Times were once, that an interracial couple was taboo. Women couldn’t actively serve in combat. Homosexuals couldn’t serve in the armed forces. We wouldn’t live long enough to see a black man serving as President in the White House...Times change, and people evolve. We often times learn about accepting things, by excepting things. Because we are not used to seeing two men kiss, it rankles our sensibilities. We’ve seen women kissing one another for years. Sharing the same beds, getting dressed, and supporting one another in times of grief and joy. We haven’t been exposed enough to men expressing themselves the same way. Perhaps this is the solution. More men kissing; doing it openly until those uncomfortable by it, are forced to see it and accept it for what it is. An honest display of affection towards someone you love.
I don’t know if I’ll ever be comfortable watching anyone “make-out” in front of me. Could be my own prudish sensibilities, or it could be that I never know if it’s being done for show. I think affection is a uniquely private thing shared between two people (Now just watch, my inbox will be flooded by swingers who think I’ve trivialized their lifestyle). I don’t want to see into your bedroom, no more that I want you looking into mine (Though mine would be classified as “MUST SEE TV”).
To my homosexual brethren I say, “get down with yo’ bad selves”. You shouldn’t have to change your actions, just to make other people feel comfortable. To my straight, seemingly liberal do gooders, hiding in the closet afraid to say that man on man action disturbs them, I say “it’s okay”. Just because you don’t like it, doesn’t make you a hater. Real intolerance comes from not being allowed to express yourself openly, and truthfully… and for all those religious, bible thumping bigots, who decry smut, and deviant sexual behavior in all of its forms, yet somehow have turned porn into a multi-billion dollar a year industry, I say this…”You’ve already downloaded so much dick, one little kiss won’t kill you.”
In an age where every impulse the heart desires can be indulged at the push of a button, it boggles my mind that on a global scale more is not being done to end the unrelenting kidnapping of Nigerian girls. Perhaps I am naive, and imagine a world where the forced incarceration, sale, and degradation of human beings is not sexy enough to lead the evening news. To be fair it's not as mind numbingly captivating as the pending nuptials of #Kimye. It definitely, no pun intended packs the same punch as the private Jay-Z vs. Solange Knowles assault tape. And in retrospect, it is happening in a continent that the rest of the world tends to ignore, provided that there are not natural resources involved. I can promise you that if this were about the price of oil, our interest would be piqued.
Here in lies the issue I have with the media's coverage towards news of consequence, which I might add I'm a part of. If we continue to focus on the TRIVIAL, our PURSUITS will be just that! I would like to think that as American's we are more racially and ethnically evolved than recent #DonaldSterling comments would indicate. Over 300 black girls in Nigeria should rate more media coverage than say, one missing white girl in Aruba. But I don't, I repeat don't want to focus on race. I am here to preach the philosophy of numbers.
Big bad Joseph Stalin, once said that "one death is a tragedy; one million is a statistic." This sentiment is echoed in the writings of Jean Rostand, "Kill one man and you are a murderer. Kill millions of men, and you are a conqueror. Kill them all, and you are a god." Furthermore this type of thinking is even apparent in our own American justice system, which operates under the maxim of British legal scholar William Blackstone; "It is better that ten guilty men go free, than that one innocent man be convicted." It's all about the numbers, and unfortunately we are so mesmerized by them, that we are lulled into a state of apathy.
I appear regularly as a Social Commentator for Dr. Drew on Call. A show on HLN that does its best to bring some sense of sanity to headlines, which beggar all sense of reason. Recently, we have seen a rise in the stories of mother's taking the lives of their children due in large part to mental illness. The tragic irony is that we receive more tweets, more emails, and more handwritten letters on stories pertaining to celebrity fights, divorces, and custody battles, than we ever do for infanticide. We did a story on an 18 year old serial rapist, alleged to have sexually assaulted at least 27 girls. There was more social outcry in the Jodi Arias case, a woman who killed her lover, than for a monster who potentially destroyed the lives of almost 30 other children.
The equation it seems can be charted like this. Celebrity nonsense is > (greater than) 1 innocents death. However, One innocent death is > (greater than) Countless (faceless) lives.
So who's to blame??? Is it we in the media who cover the stories, or is it you the viewing public whom by your interest, and our ratings, determine what it is you really want to watch. Again, as with race, and ethnicity, I don't want to place blame, or point fingers. As my big sister always says to me, "if you point one finger, you've got four pointing back at you." What I will do, is leave you dear readers with this thought. If it is all about the numbers. If we cannot as a society gin up enough interest on the kidnapping of 300 Nigerian girls, guilty only of the crime for wanting to learn and be educated. If we the media; the story pushers, and you the public; the story consumers, are complicit in this demise. If the salacious, and lurid celebrity tales are the only thing that moves the needle. If this is the case in a world so ruled by numbers, I would ask only this from all of us as individuals. "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." (Edmund Burke)
Are YOU good, and if you are...What are you doing?
The greatest tragedy in the Donald Sterling racist remarks fiasco is the attempt to excuse his behavior due to age or infirmity. Mr. Sterling is over 80 years old. In that time, he has witnessed a plethora of landmark decisions in the civil rights struggle.
1. The integration of the Army in 1948 (Ordered by President Truman)
2. The desegregation of schools in 1954 (Brown vs. The Board of Education)
3. Kenny Washington, the first Black American signed into the NFL 1946 (Los Angeles Rams)
4. Jackie Robinson, breaks the MLB color line in 1947 (Brooklyn Dodgers)
5. Earl Francis Lloyd first Black American to play in the NBA in 1950 (Washington Capitols)
6. Martin Luther King Jr. marches on Washington D.C. 1963 (I Have a Dream Speech)
7. The end of Apartheid in South Africa in 1994 (First Non-White democratically allowed elections)
8. Tiger Woods becomes first Black American to win the Masters golf tournament in 1997
9. Bob Johnson becomes the first Black American owner of an NBA franchise in 2002 (Charlotte Bobcats)
10. Barrack Obama becomes the first Black American president of the United States 2008
11. Jason Collins becomes the first openly gay NBA player to play in a game 2014 (Brooklyn Nets)
12. Michael Sam becomes the first openly gay NFL player to be drafted 2014 (St. Louis Rams)
To say that Donald Sterling is an anachronism is to open the question up for serious debate. In which time would Mr. Sterling like claim? What period of his life, does he feel most comfortable in? Because when taken as a whole, throughout his existence, there has been a constant changing of social and political views as it pertains to race relations. Furthermore, since as the cliché implies “no man is an island”, the ever rising tide of the civil rights movement has continually washed upon his shores. In his business as an NBA owner; in his city as Los Angeles citizen which has had both Black and Latino mayors; and even the agent to his downfall, V. Stiviano is herself of Black and Latino heritage.
So I’m sorry Mr. Sterling, and to each and every person out there who would explain away his hurtful and insensitive comments with the inadequate response of “He’s an old man, who doesn’t know any better.” He has lived through more civil rights history than most of us will ever witness. He is a bigot, he is mean, and just like the apartment buildings for which he is a notorious slumlord…his apology…I ain’t buying.