Thursday, December 8, 2011

"Dear Alec Baldwin..."

By Peter Rodman

Dear Alec Baldwin:

I’m a big fan; always have been.
And guess what? I’m from Long Island, too!
You Massapequa?
Hey…me, Bethpage!
Who knows?
I might’ve actually wrestled you!
(Well, actually…no…that can’t be. See, I went undefeated--as a freshman, no less--on the Varsity Wrestling team, but that was simply because no other school could find an 85 pound kid--including Massapequa.)
Anyway, the point is…I like you!

You’re a comic genius, an acting legend, a master of timing, and a thoughtful, articulate liberal (although I must tell you, nobody out-liberals me!) and yes, I even bought the hardcover book you wrote, about your divorce.
(You know, the one every guy who’s ever had a divorce wanted to write--about how terrible the court system is, for guys getting divorces.)
Believe me: I related.
I also related, when your surreptitiously-taped personal phone messages to your own daughter were (viciously, I thought) released to the general public, and then broadcast on national television….exposing only the common temper tantrums that people who truly love each other (Who hasn’t called their kid ‘a little pig?’) might engage in.
Seriously, though...I thought it didn’t prove anything about anything--except a man’s thorough exhaustion and frustration, with a system he felt entirely trapped by, and a marital war that tore his heart apart.
I got it, man.
I got it all.

I also got how amazingly you transitioned--with the considerable help of Lorne Michaels--from a serious leading man to a comic 'straight man'--those were brilliantly stone-faced routines even you probably didn’t know you had in ya!

The transformation was incredible--although I must say, my first inkling (that something might not be 'right’ with you) came when, in your book, you actually blamed your (very typical) middle-aged weight gain (or as you described it, a decline in your fabulous looks) on your ex-wife, and the stress she ruthlessly administered in your direction. 
"It seemed that the ability to care for myself, to make any effort to maintain my appearance in line with the normal rigors of show business," you wrote, "began to seep and, eventually, spill away." 

That probably should have been a clue for me--because at around that age, I sorta beefed up myself.  I just didn't blame it on my ex-wife, Alec. 
Elsewhere in the book:  "If you think I wrote this book in order to settle a score, you are wrong."
I should have realized that...hmmmmm....maybe there’s something a little “off" here.

But you continued to write semi-brilliant columns (yet another talent!) for the Huffington Post,  (each one attempting to settle another score) as a passionate liberal, championing our various issues of the day.
All of this conspired to create in me a staunch “Alec Baldwin Defense-Mode.”

So whenever anyone--be it Bill O’Reilly, or some dopey relative at Thanksgiving dinner--attacked your veracity, I’d state (with great fervor) my belief that noooo…this was not some privileged guy slagging off right-wingers for the mere fun of it…

This was an extraordinary thinker, a man of compassion--a fellow Long Islander, for God sakes...and whatta Tony Bennett impression!!!
This was a dude who bucked every trend in his working class upbringing to not only make it, but to bring along with him a crazy fingerbowl of brothers (whose combined talents fall far short of his own), and still hold up an unlikely combination of east-coast machismo, with a dash of west-coast compassion.
Who ever brought as much fame to Massapequa?
Oh, that's right...Seinfeld.
But how many Long Island men have grown up so in touch with their inner-Alan Alda,  beseaching their fellow testosteronic creatures to seek out their own 'softie' like Alec Baldwin always seemed to--in his columns, at liberal charity events, and at every critical juncture, since he became nationally visible?
Good on YOU, I always thought!

Well, Alec…we need to talk. 
See...I have a problem with this latest round of publicity.
A BIG problem.

You know what I'm talkin' about:
The one where you threw a hissy-fit on an American Airlines flight sitting on the tarmac, called your flight attendant “a ‘50s gym teacher” and slammed the bathroom door so hard the pilots on your flight (who had no clue what was going on, when you did that) actually freaked out inside the cockpit, not knowing what had happened, or who was causing the disturbance--and subsequently (quite rightly) booted your ass off the airplane entirely.
Wow, man.

One thing I should probably mention here:
In addition to my radio, TV and newspaper work, I was an airline crew member myself, for nearly 30 years. 
In your defense, even as I write this, other crew members (all over the internet) have been debating whether or not you actually have a point, about 'electronic devices’ being restricted, during those long sits after the aircraft leaves the gate.

NBC Nightly News--"Electronic Devices on Airplanes"-- December 8, 2011
NBC Nightly News ran a decent piece (click the above link and listen to BOTH segments) describing the 'whys-and-wherefores' of what goes into devising such a rule--and yes, it can be frustrating, for us all--both passengers and the reluctant, low-paid ‘enforcers' you were so quick to put down.

But ya know what?
None of that--none of the logic behind the whole 'electronic devices' rule--none of that means anything.
Because the truth is, Alec...
You were a jerk.

You acted in a way that would have gotten anyone--star or not--kicked off my airplane, I can assure you of that much.
The sad thing is, I never--ever--wanted to oppose such a prominent, articulate proponent for so many great causes I believe in…but you’ve left me no choice.

Alec Baldwin, Tina Fey, and Tracy Morgan
...on the set of '30 Rock'
The entire basis of your credibility as a comedic television star, thus far anyway, has been the beautiful irony--that a man who looks so macho and uncaring could actually be so compassionate, in real life.
That a guy who plays such a cad--such a thoughtless jerk of a “boss" on TV for laughs--is actually nothing like that, in person.
Like that TV commercial, where you try to take the controls of the airplane, assuring the pilot that you know what you're doing, because you say to him (while winking at us), "It's okay...I've played one, on TV."
Funny stuff!
We always laughed along with you, no matter how convincing a brute you played.
See...he’s Alec Baldwin, for God’s sake!  He laughs at himself!!!
That’s the very thing that makes it so funny, when he mistreats the ‘little people’ on 30 Rock!

So yo, Alec:
You see what I’m drivin’ at, here? 
Mano a mano, do you have any conception of what this does going forward, to every time I ever see you on TV again, "acting" like an jerk?

Even Michael Richards remains tolerable as Seinfeld’s sidekick, in reruns--because we all kinda knew his tactless onstage rant was a blip, a mistake--that he was a good-hearted guy, whose blurted-out ‘n word’ never really reflected his heart--or his act, itself.
But then again…he didn’t play a racist.

You actually play a jerk who abuses working stiffs.
And you didn’t even have the good sense to shut the hell up, after the fact.

When asked for a comment after finally arriving
 in New York, Baldwin said only , "You're in my way." 
You had to go and use Arianna Huffington’s liberal bully-pulpit, to call in your carte blanche status and settle one more petty score--gratuitously slamming the working woman onboard that airplane whom you clearly owe an apology.
You may not have liked "her tone" that day, it‘s true.  But hey: Maybe she was having a bad day! 
And maybe--just maybe--she was doing her job.
From what I’ve heard, you were already pissed off, by the time you even boarded the airplane.  You weren't exactly having a good hair day--that's obvious in the pictures.
So let’s just assume you were both having the proverbial 'bad hair day,' shall we?

But that "50s gym teacher" crack?  Come on, man.  If Rick Perry had said it, we'd all be in the Huffington Post, exposing an obviously disparaging gay reference.  Chris Mathews would be salivating even more than usual.  So the question becomes, "Are you above not just the FAA law, but also above your own clearly expressed principles, regarding prejudice and racial or sexual slurs?"
Let's talk about this lady, for a moment.
Does your complaint about her mean that she should somehow be more responsible for her “tone” in performing her required duties than you should be for yours, when you acted like the guy who plays a jerk might actually be a jerk, on the airplane?
I’d like to give you both a break here…but I keep going back to the fact that you--not her--actually went on to use my favorite political outlet, Huff Post, to make us ALL look bad, the next day--while she (the flight attendant in question) hasn't been seen or heard from (at this writing) since the incident. 
Aren't you essentially giving more 'ammo' to the right-wingers who claim that all 'Hollywood elites' preach one thing, but practice another?   If the other three guys weren't so bad, I'd actually move you down a couple o' Baldwins, for this one.

You’ve embarrassed not just yourself.
You’ve embarrassed me--a fellow liberal, and one of your biggest fans--who may never be able to watch you play an a-hole again, without thinking, “I know where this comes from.”
Or worse yet:
“Maybe his ex-wife was right all along.”
You’ve always been a guy who pushed the envelope, Alec.
This time, though?
...a little too far.

Copyright 2011 by Peter Rodman.  All Rights Reserved.


I received several comments about this column earlier today, so let me address them:

* 90% were complimentary--so first, thanks to all of YOU!

*As to the matter of my saying "Who hasn't called their daughter a pig?" (in parantheses, for effect) I was being  facetious, I assure you!  It was to demonstrate just how much I'd been giving Mr. Baldwin 'the benefit of the doubt,' before it all began to implode.  I was using the quote as a simple step, a literary device, in the gradual unveiling of my current displeasure with Mr. Baldwin, in order to better highlight all the elements that led up to it.  

*Speaking of parentheses, a comment was made about my "poor grammar." 
I are taking that under consideration. 

* MOST importantly, I wish to address those of you who objected to the reference to how any similarly unruly passenger would be summarily ejected from "my" airplane.
Clearly, some of my respondents have no idea what a Federal Air Regulation is, but (despite the 'coffee, tea, or me' image) your crew is in full control of the airplane--like it or not--once you leave that gate. 
This tradition goes back hundreds of years, beginning with ships.

Ever notice how you can't even bring a Diet Coke from home, on that cruise ship?
Guess why:  It's because the rules are different there.
It is a serious violation of Federal Law to disobey a crew member's orders.
Mr. Baldwin's action may yet result in prosecution. 
There are thousands of pages of documents on this--each member of your crew carries them, at all times--and I could quote them for you now, but I just don't feel like it.   I'll simply say that, yes...I do understand some of your frustrations with snippy flight attendants, but that is not what we were talking about, here.  For both safety and security reasons, a certain level of decorum is essential, to protect us all--otherwise you'd end up with bar fights in the air!
But they don't take place, do they?

...know why?
It's precisely because --as Alec can now testify, first-hand--you WILL get thrown off  'my' airplane, for slamming doors around the cockpit on on taxi; being out of your seat; defying the direct orders of a crew member--especially concerning a safety item, such as electronic devices; or (Duhhhh!) cursing out any of the flight attendants (or anyone else, for that matter) did Mr. Baldwin.
For any of these things, you'd be gone in a hurry.

So please, get over the "my"'s a proud professional term, contained in every flight report ("my" trip, "our" airplane, "my" first class passenger who stars on 30 Rock, etc.) --and that same sense of professionalism/responsibility/ownership would very likely save your shirt, in an accident. 
It's just airline lingo, mostly used behind the scenes--nothing more.

Finally, I'd like to thank the majority of you, who complemented me on this column--especially
Roger Ebert, whom (I am told) tweeted it, this afternoon!!! 
That probably accounts for my newfound (albeit brief) status, as a blog-comment moderator!
I say 'brief,' because I've decided to pre-screen any 'comments' in the future--a couple obscene ones were enough for me.
My apologies if your comment disappeared (they all did, for some reason) during the 'settings adjustment' process.  I really did appreciate them all, and you are welcome to try again! 

Meanwhile...thanks again, y'all!