We live in an age of heroes: sports superstars, screen idols, military notables, and political figures. We put them on pedestals. We praise their achievements. We envy their notoriety. We want to be like them.
I have never wanted to know anything about my heroes outside their areas of expertise. But in our technological age, not knowing has become impossible. The media thrusts details of people's private lives at us whether we like it or not. As a result, many of us have watched our idols fall.
Think of Tiger Woods, arguably the most celebrated golfer of all time and a true sports hero. He won golf's most coveted trophies, made millions in endorsements, and was riding high--until he crashed his SUV into a tree in 2009. He was found barefoot and unconscious by police. As his bizarre story unfolded in the press, on television, on Twitter and facebook, it was revealed that he suffered from sex addiction and had engaged in numerous illicit affairs. With his image irreparably tarnished, he lost his family, his status, and much of his fortune. His glory days were over.
Who can forget Mel Gibson, the young god who lit up the screen in 1984 with Sigourney Weaver in "The Year of Living Dangerously". He subsequently gained fame and fortune with the "Mad Max" and "Lethal Weapon" films, "The Patriot", and "Braveheart". He actually shot a scene from "What Women Want" in front of my house. And then, he went off the rails. He left his wife and children for a short-lived liaison with a younger woman, publicly engaged in a series of anti-Semitic rants, and produced a couple of really strange movies. Good-bye my hero.
Consider Jodie Foster, an enormously talented actor who won Academy Awards as the hard-partying Sarah Tobias in "The Accused" and as Clarise Starling in "The Silence of the Lambs". Her distinguished filmography earned her a lifetime achievement Golden Globe from the Foreign Press Association in 2013. Accepting the award, she delivered a disjointed and inane speech that left everyone wondering, "what the h--- did she just say." Sadly, that might have been her defining moment.
The list goes on: David Petraeus, the most recognized and heralded general of his generation, head of the CIA, and touted as a 2016 presidential candidate. When he admitted to an affair with his biographer, social media was all over it, and his career was all over. Lance Armstrong , the six-time Tour de France winner, swore for years he never took performance-enhancing steroids then admitted that he did, earning him the title "biggest liar of all time". Even a soul-baring interview on Oprah--seen by half the civilized world--will probably not be enough to put this Humpty Dumpty back together again.
But for me, the one who fell farthest did so on live television with millions of people watching. I refer to Clint Eastwood ranting to an empty chair supposedly occupied by President Barack Obama at the Republican National Convention. He tottered onto the stage and shot himself in the foot forever by vilifying the President and letting loose a number of off-color jokes.
Until that night, I had paid no attention to Eastwood's political views, focusing instead on his amazing career as an actor and director. I remember when he first rode onto the television screen as Rowdy Yates in "Rawhide".
I saw and loved every one of his "Dirty Harry" movies. I thought "Unforgiven" and "Million Dollar Baby were masterful. Then I tuned in to the Convention. Big mistake. Now, I won't be able to watch Clint Eastwood again without seeing him babbling to an empty chair.
Will these fallen heroes ever be forgiven? Will they get a second chance? I don't know. Americans are generally a very forgiving people. We believe in second chances. So ask yourself this, Clint. "Are you feeling lucky?"
Filed under: Living in Interesting Times