Ed Driscoll

In Through the Abattoir

At Townhall, Mark Tapson notes that pop singer Nelly Furtado recently donated one million dollars to charity — to atone for the fee she pocketed in 2007 for a private performance for Muammar Gaddafi. Of course, as Tapson notes, “It’s not as if Gaddafi became reprehensible only yesterday”:

“The mad dog of the Middle East,” as Ronald Reagan once called him, has been in power since 1969, and there has never been any doubt that Gaddafi has spent those decades funding, facilitating, instigating, and personally directing international terrorism – including, according to a recent claim from the Libyan Justice Minister, the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland. It’s hard to believe that any American performer who has ever accepted a check from Gaddafi or his family can plead ignorance of his monstrous evil.

In all fairness however, megastars often live in warm and fuzzy cocoons of political ignorance, tended by handlers who have a vested interest in keeping them clueless and the money flowing. Which is why Furtado, Beyoncé and Carey, claiming ignorance and subsequently donating the ill-gotten gains, have earned a measure of redemption.

Randy Phillips claims that if artists were asked to perform for Gaddafi and crew today, “the answer would obviously be a resounding ‘No way!’” Unfortunately, too many prominent figures in the biz would say “No way!” not because it’s unconscionable, but because such a performance would simply be bad press.

And who’s to say what constitutes monstrous evil anyway? Many stars like directors Oliver Stone and Michael Moore, and actors Sean Penn and Danny Glover, count anti-American dictators among their close friends, and progressives went apoplectic when Elton John “betrayed” them by performing recently at the wedding of the satanic Rush Limbaugh. So “Which private shows are unethical?” the industry rag The Hollywood Reporter recently wondered. Where to draw the line?

Well, to lay it out for those in the entertainment biz whose value system has been sucked dry of moral clarity, or who never had any in the first place: no artist should perform for enemies of the United States, foreign and domestic, and supporters of worldwide terrorism (whether you agree or disagree with Rush, he isn’t stoking international terrorism or trying to bring down Western civilization). Should artists have the right to accept private gigs from unsavory figures, even openly hostile anti-Americans? Of course. It should be their choice – and the price for accepting those gigs should be to face public denunciation and shame.

Of course, artists don’t just dig Middle Eastern tyrants, as we’ll explore after the page break.

A month ago at Big Hollywood, Humberto Fontova spotted a “Whole Lotta Stupidity—Jimmy Page Visits Cuba, Honors Che Guevara”:

Following in the footsteps of (among many other flower-children) Stephen Stills, Bonnie Raitt, Chrissie Hynde, Jimmy Buffet, and Carole King (who in 2002 serenaded Fidel Castro with a personal “You’ve Got a Friend”) guitar legend Jimmy Page made the pilgrimage to Fidel Castro’s fiefdom this week.

To Led Zeppelin’s former guitarist the visit probably seemed, not only fitting, but long overdue. Cuba was, after all, the first nation ruled by bearded long-hairs. Jean Paul Sartre, after all, hailed Cuba’s Stalinist rulers as “les Enfants au Pouvoir” (the children in power). Fidel Castro, after all, spoke at Harvard in 1959 on the same bill as pioneer beatnik Allen Ginsberg.

Remove the wispy beard and beret from the (late, thanks to Fidel Castro) revolutionary icon on those posters and t-shirts and you’ve got Jim Morrison of The Doors. Remove the cowboy hat from the (late, thanks to Fidel Castro) Revolutionary icon Camilo Cienfuegos and you’ve got Grateful Dead’s Gerry Garcia. Circa 1959, Raul Castro with his blond shoulder-length locks was a ringer for Joe Walsh circa Hotel California. These Cuban Stalinists were on the cutting edge of fashion. They pre-empted the Haight Ashbury look by a decade.

Castro’s captive (literally!) media, reports that Jimmy Page’s visit: “included tours of historic sites, and purchases of souvenirs such as the famous photograph of Che Guevara.”

In an interview with the BBC last year, Oscar and Cannes-winner Benicio del Toro explained the painstaking intellectual exertion that inspired his Che-mania: “I hear of this guy, and he’s got a cool name, Che Guevara! Groovy name, groovy man, groovy politics! So I came across a picture of Che, smiling, in fatigues, I thought, ‘Dammit, this guy is cool-looking!’”

In all likelihood, similar intellectual toil inspired Jimmy Page’s recent souvenir shopping spree in Havana.

Regarding Hollywood, as James Lileks once wrote, “Maybe directors like dictators because they understand the desire to have final cut.” But as far as rock music, a couple of years ago, I referenced rock critic Dave Marsh’s rather overwrought description that “Queen may be the first truly fascist rock band” back in 1979 — but he never said they wouldn’t be the last.

And if Jimmy really does have a Whole Lotta Love for Che, that sort of puts these iconic images from 1977 into a fresh light, doesn’t it?

Finally, responding to anti-Semitic outbursts from Mel Gibson, Julian Assange, Charlie Sheen and fashion designer John Galliano, Michael Weiss of the New Criterion writes, “We are witnessing an epochal moment in human history where men with undeserved power, poor self-preservation instincts and no morality are falling to the forces of popular judgment. This phenomenon has been recurring all over the world lately and although future historians may give it a grander-sounding title, for now let’s call it the Great Celebrity Implosion of the 21st-century.”