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Why Is the Media Giving Charlie Sheen So Much Attention?

We Americans do love our bad showbiz boys running amok.

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Then, in the McCarthyite '50s, along came the explosive New York-based, Reds-under-the-bed Confidential magazine – the National Enquirer of its day. Edited by an alcoholic former Communist Daily Worker writer Howard Rushmore, it “ripped the lid” off scandal by publishing sex-and-race scurillity – naming names!  Liberace gay!  Clark Gable’s first wife tells all! Elvis! Kim Novak and Sammy Davis Jr! Pinkos, ex-felons, illegitimate kids! 

When House Un-American Committee informers and narcs ruled Hollywood, the Confidential operation depended on a spy network of shady private eyes, waitresses, going-nowhere starlets, parking valets and call girls.

Millions in America read this 25-cent weekly but nobody would admit it. Or as Humphrey Bogart – one of its targets – dryly remarked, “Everybody reads it but they say the cook brought it into the house.” My mum devoured Confidential claiming she’d found it in the garbage dumped by a neighbor.

This spy network is reincarnated today in a vast network of tipsters to celebrity programs like TMZ and other Hollywod gossip programs that deliver the unflattering dirt, preferably with iPhone images of the star sprawled in the gutter. Trouble is, most of the nailed “stars” are publicity crazed Day Of The Locust hangers-on you never heard of because the real megastars – Matt Damon, Julia Roberts, George Clooney, Natalie Portman -- often lead dull domestic lives. If America ever goes more rightwing than it is, say if a Tea Party president were elected, an American fuhrer would have a ready-made gestapo in this seemingly innocent TMZ-like web of informants.

Politics and celebrity overlap until they’re almost the same. Most recently, the ethically challenged and confessedly twice-adulterous former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has been making the rounds of evangelicals upchucking his personal miscreancies in the hope of getting their pastoral support for a 2012 presidential run. In this context, Charlie Sheen sounds almost reasonable, rational and honest.

Clancy Sigal is a novelist and screenwriter in Los Angeles. He can be reached at

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