The celebrity survival kit
Q: Not so long ago, Alec Baldwin called his teen daughter names in a horrifying phone call heard around the world. Now he's co-hosting the Oscars ceremony. Was the decision to spotlight Baldwin a wise one? And after a public figure embarrasses himself or herself so profoundly, how do they regain their footing? Who has managed to overcome such shame, and who has failed to?
First of all, let's make sure we are clear that Alec is not the Baldwin in rehab; it's his much chubbier and more loser-esque brother, Daniel -- which goes to show that there is a Baldwin brother with pretty much every kind of problem you can imagine.
However, only Alec has actual talent and a detectable career. They did not break the mold when they made Alec; they just kind of damaged it, which allowed the production of many lesser Baldwins!
You can survive embarrassing yourself if you have talent and star power. Robert Downey Jr. is still a movie star because he is a great actor. The late Marlon Brando said Downey Jr. was the best of his generation. A statement like that carries as much weight in Hollywood as Brando did himself in his heyday. (That was an accidental fat joke that a I won't apologize for.)
Overcoming shame in show biz happens to the talented who already have some name recognition. As in the case of Downey Jr., it actually made him more famous and helped his career, though it did not improve his acting. He has never equaled the performance he gave in the film Chaplin.
Baldwin is very good at what he does, which is being Alec Baldwin: a good TV actor with great, arrogant comic timing who is skilled at promoting himself on talk shows. Like most A-list or B-list celebrities, after having some trauma and bad press Baldwin (unlike Downey Jr.) seemed to be a bit more talented than before.
They say true talent is forged in pain and unhappiness, and there is a lot of truth to that for those of us with experience in the entertainment world (including motivational speakers.) But let's get real about celebrity rehab. The people on those shows only agree to it because it's work (it pays more than a talk show but much less than a sitcom) and they are broke and trying to jump-start their careers.
You will notice people who have not had a problem in a while on the show helping others. This is the foundation of a good 12-step program and a good reason for your agent to call the producers and pitch you for the show. Some people, like Michelle Phillips, disturbingly mug for the camera; but most are just being as real as they can, and some are in as bad a shape as they appear to be. I'm not criticizing rehab or recovery; I'm just being truthful about how reality TV really works.
Those who cannot overcome public embarrassment are the lesser-knowns and the not-so-talented. Sure, David Hasselhoff can get a gig as a judge on a talent show and for some strange reason is still considered a genius in Germany as a singer, but he will never achieve his former artistic height as a middle-aged TV lifeguard on Baywatch or that show where he played second banana to a talking car.
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