Ed Driscoll

The Guys Get Bat-Shirts!!!!!

Back in 2005, I linked to a typically great article titled “California Screaming” by the now sadly deceased Cathy Seipp:

Behind the New Age grin of beatific self-righteousness with which so many Hollywood celebrities greet the world often lurks a tantrum ready to erupt. When the full, roiling boil is over, the slow simmer can last for weeks, if not months. By comparison, old-style screamers can seem quaint, almost benign. The storm may have been intense, but it passed quickly. A classic of the type — the agent Norman Brokaw, for instance — could suggest lunch within minutes of a blowup. And the scream usually took the form of a statement: “Get outta here!”

But new-style screamers eschew declarative sentences for rhetorical, F. Lee Bailey-esque questions: “What were you thinking? Why did you even pick up the phone? Do you even have a brain?” This can be harder to bear. As an observer told me once, “If it’s ‘You’re fired,’ then at least you’re out. If it’s someone trying to teach you a lesson, you’re there, and you’re stuck.”

Some screamers can hardly utter a sentence that doesn’t contain the f-word. The syllable almost seems to function as their sound, signifying only that they are in the room. Others are more careful with their language, because being sworn at is the point where many screamees stop listening and may even quit. So bland, schoolmarmish words of displeasure are amplified to ear-splitting volume. A vein-popping “Un-ACC-EPT-able!” is a great favorite. Also, a drawn out “DIS…A…PPOINTED!!!”

When in full throttle, the classic Hollywood screamer cannot be neither stopped nor shamed. I once heard a story about a studio executive who screamed at someone’s assistant for a good five minutes before realizing he was in the wrong office — possibly even on the wrong floor. “Well, if you see her,” he yelled before stomping out, “tell her what I said!”

Screaming actors, it seems, can be easier to deal with, perhaps because they are not always famous for their brains. Many years ago, I read a story about how Roger Moore (a nonscreamer) took a younger actor aside and suggested he stop attacking everyone on the set. “I’m not in this business to win a popularity contest,” the screamer fumed. “I just want to be a good actor.”

“Well, you’ve failed at being a good actor,” Moore replied reasonably. “Why not try for the popularity contest?”

Christian Bale is certainly a good actor, but he makes Paul Anka’s infamous meltdown sound positively genteel with this must-hear rant.