Ed Driscoll

Why Not Try for the Popularity Contest?

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“Alec Baldwin, Drama Queen,” writes Michelle Malkin in her latest column, quoting from Baldwin’s train wreck New York magazine column, adding that Baldwin is “especially mad, mad, mad about how angry and hateful the rest of America has become:”

“The heart, the arteries of the country are now clogged with hate. The fuel of American political life is hatred,” he fumes. It’s all the fault, he fulminates, of Roger Ailes, Fox News, and Andrew Breitbart.

Funny guy. These complaints are coming, after all, from the hate-clogged hate-monger who called Breitbart “a festering boil on the anus of public discourse” for exposing rapes and violence at Occupy Wall Street camps — and who taunted Breitbart’s friends after the father of four’s tragic death in 2012 by gleefully floating conspiracy theories on Twitter.

Bawling Baldwin can’t take it anymore, America, but he sure loves to dish it out.

Remember: Our born-again champion of civility and tolerance is the same rageball who attacked a Starbucks barista he didn’t like as a “queen,” derided conservative women who identity themselves as “moms,” mocked Filipina women as mail-order brides, smeared the entire state of Florida as a “f***ed up parallel universe,” and savaged an American Airlines stewardess who told him to put his iPad away before takeoff. “Last flight (with) American,” he sneered. “Where retired Catholic school gym teachers from the 1950s find jobs as flight attendants.”

One of the most interesting segments of the otherwise fluffy Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee series of Web videos from Jerry Seinfeld was the episode in which Baldwin was Seinfeld’s guest. It reminded me in a way of the hermetically‎-sealed insularity of the first Godfather movie. As long as it’s just Jerry and Alec, hangin’ out, toolin’ around town in a boss 1969 Mercedes roadster, slingin’ the hash, sippin’ the coffee, it’s sort of fun watching the banter between these two very different television veterans each made very wealthy from the largesse of NBC. But the segment becomes hypnotic each time the waitress — the “civilian” amongst these two showbiz Godfathers — approaches to deliver their food or refill their coffee mugs, and you’re waiting for Baldwin to switch into HULK SMASH!!!! mode if she says the wrong thing or simply looks at him funny.

Perhaps that’s totally unfair, but Baldwin has done quite a job over the years crafting a very toxic image for himself. As the late Cathy Seipp wrote a decade ago in a piece on show biz anger titled “California Screaming:”

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?”

Sounds like good advice – I wonder if anyone ever suggested something similar to Baldwin early in his career?