Wanda Sykes in Concert

The Hollywood Hoax: Why Today’s Stars Don’t Shine as Brightly

They are too busy shouting, showing off and self-destructing instead of showcasing their talent.

During the 22nd annual Comics Come Home fundraiser in Boston last month, the nation’s longest-running comedy fundraiser, an event intended to help cancer patients, comedian Wanda Sykes couldn’t help making it all about her instead. And not even about her comedy but her political opinions. Sykes castigated the newly-elected president for being a racist, sexist and a homophobe.

“I am certain this is not the first time we’ve elected a racist, sexist, homophobic president,” said Sykes. “He ain’t the first one. He’s just the first confirmed one.”

When the crowd booed, signaling they didn’t come to hear Wanda the political pundit but instead wanted to hear her tell jokes, she turned on them. “F__ you,” she shouted at the crowd. “F__ you motherf__ers. F__ y’all. F___ all y’all.” It was shocking even by Hollywood standards.

If this was a one-time meltdown attributed to the shock of the unexpected election result, and she apologized to her fans, it MIGHT be excusable. But it wasn’t, she didn’t, and it’s not.  Politics aside, Sykes’s attitude is simply indicative of her hatred and disrespect for her audience if they don’t agree with her.

She believes the audience is there for her pleasure and approval, not the other way around. But don’t take my word for it. After Trump supporters walked out of Amy Schumer’s show because she criticized Trump, Sykes openly admitted as such. “It’s like what the hell are you doing there in the first place?” exclaimed Sykes. “It always cracks me up – just the arrogance that they think they can come to my show and tell me what to say. I’m like, get the f__ out of here man. What is wrong with y’all?” Yes, Wanda, we know.

Arrogance is the right word, but it’s not the arrogance of the fans that’s the problem. It’s the arrogance of celebrities. Hollywood used to be the place where creative dreams came true. And not just for the stars. It was a fountainhead where inspirational movies and TV shows inspired ALL our dreams, and where the stars shined brightly FOR US and wanted to brighten OUR lives.

“Talent is God-given. Be humble. Fame is man-given. Be grateful. Conceit is self-given. Be careful.” Legendary College Basketball Coach John Wooden

Nowadays most modern stars care more about entertaining themselves, starring in their own tired, and seemingly never ending self-indulgent, self-absorbed and self-destructive lives while we pay for it!

Instead of trying to entertain you, they only want to shock you with their indulgent lives. Make you envious of what they have or tell you how to think. Even insult your beliefs, especially when your beliefs differ from theirs.

They insult all of our intelligence, whether we are to the right, the left or in the middle by filling the airwaves and magazines with their incredibly uninformed political, socioeconomic and socio-cultural philosophies for how you, your family, the nation and the world should live. And that is incredibly arrogant.

Turn on any late night talk show for a case in point. Singers rarely sing, comics don’t do stand up anymore, and actors don’t even act like they care to be there. Instead they talk about how great their lives are, how rich they are, how wanton a life they lead, and finally how everything you believe is probably wrong since you are not a star.

Why do they think they have the right to do so? And more importantly why do they think we care? Why don’t they shut up and entertain us again, like they used too?

The answer is because being an actor is no longer a job, but a title. And Hollywood is selling us a fraudulent bill of goods filled with cheap idols to worship instead of stars to brighten our lives. And this culture of idiotic idol worship is damaging our nation and our world, not to mention just making it a whole lot less fun and entertaining.

The Hollywood Hoax is killing the American Dream

“You seem like a pretty smart and reasonable guy,” said comedian Dana Carvey to me a few months after I arrived in Hollywood in 1993. “What are you doing here? Everyone here is really screwed up!”

It was the first time I really thought about it since arriving in Tinseltown but it certainly was not the last. Over the next decade I was up to my scruples in the glitz and grime, the glamour and greed of “Hollyweird.” And eventually I figured out that when he said insane he meant certifiable.

The week I arrived in Hollywood River Phoenix died. The 23-year-old overdosed on a speedball – a deadly cocktail of cocaine and heroin – outside of Johnny Depp’s Hollywood nightclub. And over the next ten years of my career I got an overdose of the insanity and absurdity of stars pushing well beyond the limits of artistic license and eccentricity to the pinnacle of the destructive, the bizarre, and the reprehensibly narcissistic.

A few of my infamous favorites — one of Hollywood’s top leading male actors married to one of Hollywood’s hottest and most attractive leading ladies who trolled the streets of Hollywood looking for underage male prostitutes at night.

Then there was the carefree kleptomaniac who used to steal from local department stores to get a thrill when she wasn’t in a drug and alcohol induced coma.

And lest I never forget–the star who spoke out for human and civil rights but banished her troublesome mother to a subpar mental facility rather than take the time to care for her personally or risk the stigma that might be experienced if the public ever “found out” about her.

The epitome of the madness was working on the O.J. Simpson murder and Michael Jackson child molestation cases. The real horrors and reprehensibility go way beyond what you have heard and what I could even share here without having their estates sue me for everything I own.

So much for the love, kindness and wisdom of the stars! These folks put the greed, avarice, and sociopathic ugliness of any Wall Street wolf to shame.

But the real kicker was that so many of these modern stars were incredibly devoid of talent in comparison to their earlier counterparts.

In stark contrast, interviews with legendary comedian George Burns or Red Buttons would have me in stitches laughing. And I could always roll into the Café Roma in Beverly Hills and say hello to regulars like Milton Berle, Norm Crosby or Rodney Dangerfield if I wanted an impromptu free show (They were like human joke machines delivering one-liners like a human Gatling gun.)

Even a simple fundraising event for a hospital turned into an impromptu singing and comedy extravaganza when legendary entertainers Jim Nabors and Carol Burnett showed up.

One of my favorite old guard actors Anthony Hopkins had me spell bound discussing his research on the philosophy and demeanor of C.S. Lewis when preparing for the movie Shadow Lands, including the humble actor asking me if I thought his portrayal was effective.

But with the younger stable of stars like Charlie Sheen, Sean Penn, Julia Roberts, Ben Affleck, Matt Damon–the list goes on–it was a whole different story, or a lack of a story. Coverage shifted from talent to tantrums and from character to condescension and conceit.

When they were sober, serious and gracious enough to actually “grant” their total presence for a real interview they wanted to talk about very superficial details of their roles, trite personal details, or to state their opinions about politics or social matters. And incredibly these misfits were filled with far more hubris and arrogance than their forerunners.

It Wasn’t Always This Way

If you are around my age (a young 48) you grew up watching the stars entertain on the Johnny Carson Show. Singers sang, comics told jokes, and actors tried to do something to entertain you like making up stories or shticks! Your entertainment was more important than their latest vacation, political stance or personal beliefs unless that was funny or really interesting, educational or entertaining. But most importantly the stars felt a responsibility to brighten our lives, and they were happy to do it.

For all of you too young to comprehend or believe that audience-centric and humble entertainers ever existed you can tune into the old reruns of Carson on Antenna TV seven nights a week (Thank God!).

When Carson signed off in 1992 he summed up that altruistic attitude with some final words, “To you people watching I can only tell you it has been an honor and a privilege to come in to your home all these years and entertain you.”

By the next year, 1993, when I showed up in Hollywood it certainly seemed like the beginning of the end of an era as the old guard of entertainers were passing the torch to the new guard of narcissists.

And now almost 25 years later stars go on TV to tell people how great it is to be on TV and to be them. Or use their celebrity not to practice and showcase their talent but rather their opinions and/or hatred for you and me.

Like Matt Damon making the anti-fracking propagandist flick Promised Land a few years ago, while not even being aware it was funded by money from an oil rich OPEC nation with more than a few self-interested reasons they wanted to see fracking efforts in America go up in smoke.

Or consider the actor Michael Shannon. You probably have never heard of him, right? But he’s trying hard to remedy that. Not with his talent, having just starred in a critically panned film called Nocturnal Animals. Instead he’s hell-bent on an “anti-Trump rage tour,” as described by New York magazine. And his message is that older people who voted for Trump should be killed – or at least succumb naturally.

“If you voted for Trump, it’s time for the urn,” says Shannon.“There’s a lot of old people who need to realize they’ve had a nice life, and it’s time for them to move on. Because they’re the ones who go out and vote for these assh__s…No offense to the seniors out there. My mom’s a senior citizen. But if you’re voting for Trump, it’s time for the urn. And if your parents voted for Trump. F__k ’em. You’re an orphan now.”

And by the way, lest you think this is solely aimed at liberal stars, I am no more interested in washed up celebrities like Scott Baio, or Duck dynasty Willie Robertson, or Anthony Sabato Jr, showing up at political conventions to tell me what they think either. It’s just that the liberal side of the goofball celebrity aisle is so much louder.

How Did This Happen?

Well first of all the mindset in America changed. The culture of giving and contribution gave way to a culture of self-satiation. And less talented people showed up in Hollywood.

Now I am not saying they aren’t there. During that same chat with Anthony Hopkins I met Jodie Foster who was one of the most impressive, respectful and interesting celebrities I ever met. Her body of work as an actress, director and producer speaks for itself.

A few years ago she expressed her disgust with showbiz superficiality during her Golden Globes acceptance speech in 2013. “But now, apparently I’m told, that every celebrity is expected to honor the details of their private life with a press conference, a fragrance and a primetime reality show,” exclaimed the two time Oscar winner. “You guys might be surprised, but I’m not Honey Boo Boo.”

But most of Hollywood has become Honey Boo Boo, while pretending to be Albert Schweitzer. With the lack of talent, PR people needed to take another tactic. Enter the age of the famously famous – stars known either entirely for or mostly for the fact that they are known.

Most importantly I want everyday people to stop feeling like they have less or should feel less proud because they don’t have what those people have.

Countless examples abound whether it’s any of the Kardashians, the Jenners, or the Paris Hiltons, and don’t get me started with the “star” formerly know as Bruce Jenner. Believe me when I say that Kaitlin has very little to do with promoting any great understanding of human issues surrounding her “transformation” and a whole lot to do with transforming her bank account and her celebrity. Yes there I said it.

As the cardinal rule of journalism goes – follow the money. Because it’s easier, it’s cheaper and it maximizes Hollywood’s bottom line far more than holding out for talent.

In other words, famous fools inserted into the bedrock of our consciousness through cultural propaganda make more money than talented stars we watch and listen to when we need an inspiring break. Or at least that is what Hollywood has come to believe.

The intention is simple – to hyperbolically maximize their profit potential by exponentially increasing the value and money making ability of the star with the least amount of cost – effort – possible. It’s a bottom line churning out of bankable stars in an environment where talent is in short supply, thereby maximizing promotional appeal.

The stars are no longer actors, actresses, singers and directors who happen who have become famous; they are famous people who happen to sing, act, or direct. They are simply idols and Hollywood now promotes pure unadulterated idol worship. The aim is to make you worship the star not what they do. So that you watch, applaud, respect and accept everything they do, regardless of the value of it.

The result is that we are no longer truly entertained, but indoctrinated and brainwashed to worship the stars, the ideas, the lifestyle and the products they endorse.

Why It’s A Problem!

In hacked Sony emails from 2014, producer Scott Rudin refers to actress Angelina Jolie as “a minimally talented spoiled brat…..a camp event and a celebrity and that’s all.” He uses the terms “insanity and rampaging ego” to define her. And this is someone who is making money off her.

But this same Jolie is now a special envoy for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and is set to join the faculty at the London School of Economics’ Centre for Women, Peace and Security in September 2017.

Now I am not judging the formerly heroin-addicted actress who once hired a hit-man to try to kill her, or her life choices for that matter. That’s her business. But she hasn’t been in a good movie in over five years. And she’s pretty much been riding the acclaim of her Oscar win over 16 years ago for Girl Interrupted, for the role of an emotionally and mentally unstable teenager – a role one can argue was a self-portrayal.

The problem is she’s speaking out more than she’s acting. What on earth did she do to earn the respect and right to speak out as a leader of society while there are a whole lot of real heroes and leaders out there who people aren’t hearing from and about?

Our media today is saturated with sensational tales of the famous, the fortunate and the powerful. But they aren’t the age old success stories of those that persevered against all odds, or tales of visionaries coming up with an idea to save the planet. They are portraits of modern royalty who don’t have jobs but the titles of actor, actress, singer and director.

What we have lost is the inspiration.

Martin Sheen PSA for ElectorsIn fact, the HOAXters’ voices reached a fever pitch last week when then created a video asking the official presidential electors not to abide by their constitutional responsibility. The group, which called itself Unite for America featured actors Martin Sheen, Debra Messing and Bob Odenkrik, among others, urging Electoral College members to cast their votes for someone other than Donald Trump. (The effort failed spectacularly, with more Democrats switching their votes (4) than Republicans (2).)

Now everybody has the right to speak their mind, celebrities included. But these uninformed “artists” are playing with fire, and not fake controlled movie fires, but the real potential explosive chaos that could erupt if this nation ever disintegrated into one guided by the emotional whims of those who thought they knew best over the will of a legitimate election.And the problem is that people in this country feel marginalized and unimportant as if their lives aren’t as meaningful as those “special people” they see on TV and in the news.

They are valuing the lives and behaviors of famous media personalities whose lives and lifestyles deliver little if anything to society when compared to the everyday person.

And that leaves many of our young aspiring to be psychotic, deceitful, greedy narcissists because that is primarily what and who they see on TV and in the headlines. Why should any of them want to work hard when they can simply become famous and do whatever they please?

And though it took me a couple of decades to realize just how impactful and destructive this was, eventually I realized the deleterious effect it was having on our nation and our world.

I say this not because I want to stop anybody from going to see movies, or turning on their TVs, or their radios, but because I want people to stop paying any attention to whatever these people say or think beyond the space of their supposed talents.

And most importantly I want everyday people to stop feeling like they have less or should feel less proud because they don’t have what those people have.

Because the truth is that these people are the unhappiest, most spiritually bankrupt people on earth. And if they cannot give us something we need, something of value, and something to entertain. Then maybe we need to tune them out!

Written By
Chris Benguhe is a columnist and author of numerous non-fiction titles including "Beyond Courage: The 9 Principles of Heroism."
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5 Comments

  • Great article! We have been boycotting shows or movies when we hear some actor speak their opinion and show their intolerance of others. I hope your article is read by many.

  • Hi Chris,

    Read the entire article and agreed with it 100%. It sickens me when I hear these so called “talented people” spout their opinions on issues that never affect their lives and their hate for this country. I’m not saying this because I’m a Trump supporter. I always felt that people who do not struggle to live on a fixed income, like seniors, the struggling middle class, or the youth of today trying to find jobs that are no longer there, have no idea what life is like in the real world.

    I enjoyed your writing very much, it was filled with so much accuracy and truth, thanks for sending it to me. I will forward it to my friends who I know will love to read it.

    Merry Christmas to you, your mother and John.

    Love,

    Rosemarie

  • Such irony. A spritually bankrupt entertainer has just been elected President of the United States. I await your indictment of him, but I suspect it will be a long wait.

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