Friday, October 2, 2009

David Letterman’s Top 10 Reasons to Fish Off the Company Pier

Will we ever learn?

We know absolutely nothing about celebrities but what their publicists and handlers let us know or what they create out of thin air. And we stupidly believe most or all of what we are told.

I love hearing women talk about celebrities as if they somehow know them. “I don’t know what that Jennifer Garner is doing with Ben Affleck!” “Jay-Z and BeyoncĂ© make a perfect couple, don’t you think?” “I don’t think that Ellen will tolerate what Paula put up with from Simon!”

Get real.

Celebrities are a mirage, figments of our imagination, who share DNA and, occasionally, a name with a real person, but rarely the same life stories. Kinda like “Jerry Seinfeld”, the fictional character who strongly resembled a comedian who had the same name; one who actually lived in a much nicer apartment building. With a locked door. And without a neighbor named “Cosmo Kramer”.

“Entertainment news” shows, gossip magazines, talk shows, and even traditional news networks and interview shows increasingly trade in fluff and fantasy created by the PR industry, regularly reporting puffy unverified trash in order to get access to any of the most popular celebrities. Beware of anyone claiming to have an “exclusive interview” with anyone because, in many cases, agreements are struck in advance with publicists, attorneys and the celebs themselves as to which questions will and will not be asked. An “exclusive interview” is usually a puffball interview done by an interviewer who agreed to ask far less challenging questions than other interviewers who also wanted the same interview. Philadelphia, hello.

Which brings us to the TV personality known as “David Letterman”.

Stupidly, most of us think we “know” him. And that is why so many of us are “shocked” to hear that he had sex with female staffers of his television show. I mean, after all, based on Letterman’s two most well-known relationships (with former Letterman show head writer Merrill Markoe and his now-wife, Regina Lasko), you have to admit that Letterman doesn’t exactly go looking on Craigslist or when he needs a taste.

So what exactly is so shocking about this?

Are we shocked that a man with the highest–rated late night television show who makes $32 million a year enjoys his position and fame by having sex with much younger women who work in his office? A man who has gone to great lengths to keep his private life private? A man who is married to someone whose name he rarely if ever mentions? To a relatively plain-looking woman whom he successfully avoided marrying for some 24 years?

We don’t know whether Letterman has had some sort of arrangement with his wife, Regina Lasko. We don’t know about whether Letterman was getting everything he needs at home. We don’t even know if Letterman and Lasko live at the same address! For all we know, perhaps Lasko knows exactly what Letterman has been up to.

If you know virtually nothing personal about this guy and he is not a public official, what, exactly, makes this a “bombshell”? After the scandals of self-righteous public officials such as Bill Clinton, a then-sitting president, Mark Sanford, a still-sitting (and occasionally reclining) state governor, Mark Foley, a then–sitting congressman, and Larry Craig, a then-sitting US senator (then sitting on a toilet, if I recall), why should this be concerning to any of us?

The real bombshell here is that the alleged perpetrator is a news producer with virtually no public persona. He is someone who has produced TV news stories you have seen and believed, and has won awards for it.

According to court documents, the alleged perpetrator, Robert “Joe” Halderman, is paying a buttload of alimony and child support to his ex-wife and, while extortion is horrific and perpetrators deserve to be punished to the fullest extent of the law, one can understand why a desperate man might attempt to do a desperate thing. However, if segments on a television show called 48 Hours Investigation are being produced by someone who is alleged to be committing crimes as bad as or worse (or at least more salacious) than those of some of the people he is investigating, that should certainly concern the people who watch CBS News, and CBS has responded appropriately by suspending Halderman pending the outcome of his indictment.

On the other hand, should it really matter to the public if a fabulously wealthy comedian enjoys his fame and fortune by fishing off the company pier?

What, exactly, is so shocking about another wealthy man having sex with young women who work near him?

The only shocking thing to me about this story is that a famous and successful man who makes $32 million a year wants to be married...only to be forced to live some sort of double life for which he could be blackmailed.

Two things will not shock me:

We will not hear the names “Conan O’Brien” or “Jimmy Kimmel” for the next three months at least.

And, all this is gonna make a great movie.