DeadAir 2012: Oh. The humanity.

"Now boarding..." This Week's DeadAir 2012 Nominees

This Week - Monday, August 1, 2005
Celebrity Religion Week

Remember when people used to go to church on Sunday and it wasn't a big deal; when religion was, for the most part, a "don't ask/don't tell/don't care all that much" affair? Sure, everyone looked at the Jews funny, mostly because of all their strange, unprounceable names, foods, and holidays, or because of the "Christ-killer" invective the Gentiles heard growing up from their Archie Bunker fathers. Yes, we lived in an age where it was just assumed by the status quo that everyone was a God-fearing American, but nonetheless few people ever saw it necessary to make a presentation of their spirituality, especially celebrities. Where did this all change? Professional athletes may have been the earliest practitioners of spiritual exhibitionism, going on TV and using phrases to qualify their performance like "the good Lord willing" or "God was looking out for me today" or "I just try and keep the faith out there". It played well in the hinterlands, but in all likelihood it was less a deep, sincere expression of their faith than a deliberate smokescreen to preserve their image when word was getting out that so many of them were eating narcotics by the handful and screwing teenage girls, and they didn't want to jeopardize their chances for the Wheaties box.

Then the Tinseltown celebs had to go and give all that money to Mondale and Dukakis, and the word was out in Reagan/Bush Country: The "Hollywood Elite" was a cesspool of depraved Liberalism. It was their own fault, really, living as they were in one giant glass house of cocaine, methaquaalone, alcoholism, sexually transmitted diseases, adultery, Las Vegas weddings and Mexican divorces (and God knows what else was captured on Rob Lowe's video camera). The spiritual defense mechanism was deployed with lightning alacrity.

But what to worship? Jesus was so old school, it just wasn't very imaginative. A large contract with dollar signs, while heartfelt, would probably send the wrong message. Dolphins? Dolphins are smart. And cute. Hmmmm. What about superheroes? Superheroes are cool, and they stand for all the right things!

Well, that probably wouldn't have flown either, but many did find something close and, at the urging of fellow celebs John Travolta and Tom Cruise, joined the Church of Scientology (though "joined" is a term of contention, as many still debate whether or not entrance to the church is a more complex affair involving a windowless van, duct tape, sensory deprivation, and three weeks in a basement closet). Scientology is the brainchild of science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard who speculated often through his career on the surefire moneymaking possibilities in starting one's own religion, and it crackles with sci-fi imagery, with its Body Thetans and E-Meters and Xenu implants--"Biblestar Galactica" if you will.

The unimaginative stuck to Christianity and AA, but for some Christianity was Dad's thing. They wanted something fresh, that was their own, and being exhibitionists for a living, a louder and more unique way to tell the world that they weren't callow hedonists; that they had Faith. I mean, sure, all of your mainstream Christian denominations have a certain meat-and-potatoes pragmatism to them, and that's great if you're looking for a no-frills way to express your belief in a higher power. But there isn't anything particularly sexy about being Presbyterian, or Lutheran, or Methodist. Besides, who wants to hang with the buffet-and-minivan crowd down at St. Andrews? Then suddenly, Madonna announced she was into Kabbalah, and the stampede of the newly-faithful was on. It's high-profile what with its ever-burgeoning number of celebrity parishioners, deliberately vague to non-religious scholars, and it comes with a cool red string bracelet.

It would be cynical (something we try at all costs to avoid at DA2K12) to suggest that all celebrity religious dalliances are empty, insincere attempts to deny accusations of being shallow, self-serving moral relativists. But celebrities are in the business of selling themselves and in 2004 spirituality is an eye-catching shelf-talker. For others, it's telling to witness the temporal correlation between a celebrity's conversion and a fresh personal scandal that's garnering a lot of unfriendly press. For still others, it's just plain deluded "look-at-me" lunacy. However you slice it, like drinking and driving, Tom Cruise and furniture, Gallagher and a full auditorium, celebrities and religion are simply a bad, bad mix.

Scientology
Kabbalah
Christianity
Paris Hilton in NightVision


Name: Jenna Elfman

Transgression(s): "Dharma and Greg" should be enough, but that's a topic for another day.

Evaluation: Jenna recently told the Scientology magazine "Celebrity" that it's her duty as a celebrity to "clear the planet of aliens", or "Body Thetans", whom Scientologists believe are roaming Earth, leftover from a nuclear explosion 75,000,000 years ago. She complains about the "rabid suppression" she encounters in her industry. Like Tom Cruise has recently postulated, psychiatry is "incorrect technology".

With her TV show long ago cancelled and her movie career not exactly skyrocketing with a voiceover in "Clifford's Really Big Movie" followed by a 2005 star turn with Randall Batinkoff ("For Keeps" with Molly Ringwald--I had to look it up), she's devoting the majority of her energy to Scientology. She's an "OT 7" in Scientology parlance--that is, a level 7 Operating Thetan (Church members can pay to move their way up each of 8 OT levels. At "OT 3" proprietary details begin to be revealed to them, and increase as they move their way up the ladder).

What next for this pert, frightening little firecracker? She plans to be "absolutely relentless and unreasonable about grasping [Scientology technology] and owning it,” she says. “That way, I can have complete KSW (Keeping Scientology Working)…[and] forge ahead with a very high speed of particle flow.” I'm taking extra Vitamin B supplements for my particle flow.

In 1999, Jenna refused to sign autographs for an auction benefitting children with HIV claiming "AIDS is a state of mind, not a disease."

Nominated by B. Kelter, 7.28.05

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Night Vision Paris

Name: Paris Hilton

Transgression(s): "Bless me father for I only took $450K and points for my Internet sex video. But at least I did better than that Croatian singer who got her salad tossed and didn't even take a cut of the DVD sales."

Evaluation: "When I split with Nick [Carter] I coped by going straight to the Kabbalah Centre in Los Angeles, told everyone about the break-up and got a new [red string Kabbalah] bracelet..." - Paris Hilton, "More" magazine (Britain)

Her split with Nick coincided with the release of "1 Night In Paris" (porn titles are usually great, but that's an instant classic), which showed a bored-looking Paris getting her pipes cleaned by then-boyfriend/future video entrepreneur Rick Solomon. Almost to the day press releases suddenly started appearing announcing Paris' devotion to Kabbalah. As PR conversions go, it doesn't get a whole lot more transparent.

Nominated by B. Kelter, 7.30.05

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Andy. Dick.

Name: Andy Dick

Transgression(s): Using Christianity as a PR "Get Out of Jail Free" card.

Evaluation: There are two cosmic certainties in our world. 1) Twice a year, the sun will be at its greatest distance from the celestial equator, and 2) Twice a year, at least, Andy Dick will have some kind of drunken, drug-induced, and/or overtly-sexual Chernobyl in public, giving his PR rep one of those headaches they used to show on the Excedrin commercials ("It starts right here and then...", running their fingers along a jagged graphic superimposed over the profile of their head) .

Last August Andy was booted from the club Suede in Chelsea after an epic meltdown that saw him curled up on the floor in tears yelling about the recent death of Rick James ("My best friend is dead! He's gone! He's dead! You don't understand! All my best friends die!"). Coralled into the kitchen, he thrust a pile of hundred dollar bills at a dishwasher so he could "live in the room" and said to former N'Sync-er/Suede co-owner Joey Fatone, "You! Fatone! Fat One!!!" Next, he rampaged drunkenly through the restaurant trying to kiss everyone, including Seth Green, following up with a violent slap to each. He jumped on the back of co-owner Jason Boyd and tried to kiss him. They finally "quarantined him" in a separate room, but "he slipped outside and skipped out on his $300 bar tab".

This past week at a party at an American Eagle store in New York, Dick--in the company of his teenage son, Lucas--introduced himself to a stranger by pinching the man's nipple, and groped and kissed another man while Alexandra Kerry was presenting an award to the teenage winner of American Eagle's "Live Your Life" contest. Later that night, he showed up again in Chelsea, this time at Home, making out with and caressing the chest and shoving his hands down the pants of an unnamed male clubgoer.

At a reunion for "The Ben Stiller Show"--the show that broke him nationally--he showed up drunk and hurled insults at his former fellow cast members. He stripped nude during a show at University of North Florida, and half the crowd walked out.

``I'm trying to figure out the ratio of how many people walk out, and it's still cool,'' he mused. ``If more than half your audience walks out, then you might not really have an audience. And then it' s like, `Now, what am I accomplishing?' I've had up to one-half walk out, so I'm used to anything.'' Tickets for his shows run in the neighborhood of $25-$35. He mentions nothing about a refund policy.

It's alright, though, because he's a Christian, and he struggles. "I always maintained a dialogue with God, especially in my darkest hours", he tells beliefnet.com. "Now I'm back on my feet, levelheaded, grounded, thanks to God, thanks to the people around me." (uh....refer to paragraphs above).

"It is totally my God-given gift and I say, 'Dear God, please let me be an empty vessel to do your work. This is all you. Thank you.'"

Of his outrageous behavior, Dick says, "I mean this stuff. People don’t know that about me. They just think I'm a freak. You cannot be this successful without having God on your side."

Did God sign off on this? Think Andy--what would Jesus do? From my limited knowledge of the Bible, I don't recall him exposing himself to, drunkenly lambasting, bitch-slapping, and attempting to tongue-kiss his followers, though I might have missed that chapter.

Nominated by B. Kelter, 7.28.05

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