The day after the Golden Globes, I got together with a friend for breakfast at the Four Seasons in Los Angeles. The Four Seasons has long been known as a celebrity hangout – it’s a super-posh hotel smack in the middle of the city – and so it wasn’t all that surprising to see Hollywood celebrities milling around. One of those celebrities was Harvey Weinstein, the man whose company stands behind such art-house hits and commercial mediocrities as The Iron Lady, My Week With Marilyn, The Artist, and W.E. This is the man Madonna called “The Punisher” and Meryl Streep called “God,” large pockmarked bullies with enormous pocketbooks passing for deities in Tinseltown.
Weinstein is also widely known as one of the biggest jerks in Hollywood. The word “jerk” is a dramatic understatement here, but the more accurate terms don’t belong on a family website. He once put New York Observer editor Andrew Goldman in a headlock and dragged him out into the street after Goldman had the temerity to defend another reporter who asked Weinstein tough questions. He has reportedly threatened and assaulted other writers and directors. Hollywoodites have accused Weinstein of cooking the books.
So it was no surprise that when my friend at breakfast had the temerity to say “Congratulations!” to Weinstein on his Golden Globes victories, he glared at my friend as though he’d thrown up on his $1,000 shoes before muttering “Thanks” without enthusiasm.
Which leads to a bigger question: who the hell do these people think they are?
Hollywood doesn’t seem able to understand why the bulk of Americans both adore them and think they’re the scum of the earth. Both answers were in evidence at the Golden Globes this week.
First, why we adore them. We adore Hollywood because it entertains us. It’s that simple. The people there may act like royalty but they’re glorified court jesters, dancing to our amusement at $10 a pop. They make us laugh, make us cry, and tell us stories. What’s not to like?
Well, what’s not to like is who they actually are (here we speak mostly of actors, who have the most unearned self-esteem). They make lots of money and dress beautifully, which is all fine and dandy (although it must be pointed out that making millions to cry on film is not exactly the same as making millions to perform heart surgery). The real problem, though, is that so many Hollywoodites treat others badly; they act as though we’re interested in them not because of what they do on screen, but because of their sheer intellectual brilliance; and, more perversely, they act as though they’re men and women of the people—the 99%– when they scorn the people with the unbridled contemptuousness of the true elitists who define what the 1% is.