I think it’s likely that Justin Bieber is a major asshole. I have no real clue—just an innocent observation. He is hot, (in a twink sort of way) on the cover of the new Rolling Stone. I have seen him move on the tube, and that was cool. I’m fairly certain he has style, but he is not a star. I’m also cognizant and cop to a generational gap here, yet even with a gun to my head I couldn’t name a single song of his. We are likely not far off from “Justin who?”
I do wonder when the fascination will ebb on the shenanigans of folks like Bieber, Kanye West, Kim Kardashian, Chris Brown and the rest of the bundle. I understand the existence of multi-million dollar entities whose job it is to report on the crud of celebrity. I just miss the real stars of yesterday—that old Hollywood magic, the glamour.
For no apparent reason I have been blessed to be around lots of celebrities. I managed almost every teen idol of the ‘80s, produced tons of TV with talented people and have been involved in some dumb way with iconic folk.
The days of real talent and the bright celestial shine of mega-stars and glamour do seem numbered.
Back in 1982 I was lucky enough to work on a TV show that was a benefit for The Actor’s Fund. It was called Night of 100 Stars, and it was just that. We taped the program at New York’s Radio City Music Hall, and it was a spectacular evening in many, many ways. Logistics dictated that it turned into an eight-hour taping, but the rare treat to be backstage with 100 true stars was astonishing.
Check out just some people that were there—Princess Grace Kelly, Jack Lemmon, Liza Minnelli, Jimmy Stewart, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Goldie Hawn, Mary Tyler Moore, Al Pacino, Ginger Rogers, Gene Kelly, Robert DeNiro, Lena Horne, Warren Beatty, George Burns, Milton Berle, Cher, Bette Davis, Pearl Bailey, Myrna Loy and so many more—all packed together backstage and all introduced by host Orson Welles.
I watched as people approached a beer-guzzling Paul Newman in the greenroom, asking him to take off his sunglasses so they might see those blue eyes. All night he gave the same response with a smile: “Fuck You!” Elizabeth Taylor grandly strolled in late (she was always late), and I cracked up as Lauren Bacall rushed up with “Hi, Liz.” Taylor just shot back, “It’s Elizabeth.” I sat and chatted for an hour with Sammy Davis Jr. as he applied his own makeup, likely something he’d done for 50 years.
I even fooled around with one of the hottest movie stars of the time in a broom closet, something that is now laced with irony as he is still in the closet. Just a remarkable evening.
Magical moments like Night of 100 Stars and the memories created was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
The stage at Radio City has many levels and lifts to change scenery. Strolling downstairs, in the middle of a stage elevator that would soon reveal him was 82-year-old James Cagney sitting by himself in a wheelchair. This Oscar-winning actor has been called one of America’s greatest screen legends. He was the biggest box office star in the ‘30s and ‘40s.
I had the most amazing discussion with him. We talked at length about life, liberty and the pursuit happiness. He had marvelous tales of all the greats, and then it was over. He was lifted to the stage and the audience went crazy.
A few weeks home, back in California, I received a gift of true honor and class. Jimmy Cagney had remembered my name, tracked down my address and sent me an autographed picture. I cried at the sheer element of simple yet phenomenal and exceptional elegance.
As Justin Bieber flatlines by peeing in mop buckets, proudly getting baked for his kid fans to see, disrespecting a deposition and egging his neighbor’s home, I can’t imagine a simple act of benevolence to a young fan would ever occur to him. In Hollywood today, half the people are trying to be discovered and the other half are afraid they will be.