Mrs. Betty Bowers, Landover Baptist Church's embedded reporter in the Cultural Wars
Betty Bowers Reports from Hollywood
Goodness me, Pluto is no longer a planet, and Tom Cruise is no longer a star!

Well, it hasn't been a good year for movie stars wishing to keep their ravenous substance abuses a secret from people they don't work with, has it?  First, Lindsay Lohan (the only gal in Hollywood who makes Paris Hilton look like a shut-in) was called on the red carpet for trying to, literally, blow her career.  Was this urgent warning sent out of concern for an underage girl ruining her health with booze and drugs?  (Come now, you didn't really think that, did you?  How quaint.)  No, after innumerable late night key bumps of "prescription pain medication" that preceded her calling the studio from a cold bathroom floor to say she would  miss her call time, Lindsay was doing the only thing people don't like in this town: costing them money.  I have a hunch that her stinging reproof had something to do with this.

Just as the penitent Lindsay was showing profound remorse for her reckless behavior by engaging in more of it, she was given the gift that every irredeemably messy celebrity dreams off -- an even messier celebrity getting caught the very next day!  Like the chivalrous man he sometimes plays, but only when scripted, mentally ill Mel Gibson gallantly appeared to remove Lindsay from the tips of wildly fibrillating tongues all over movietown with his drunk driving arrest. 

Mel Gibson being drunk and obnoxious was only news to the most sheltered loner, paddling his wood canoe up the remotest tributary of the Amazon. No, there was no surprise in that. Perhaps, Mel was drunk because he was gloating over finally wresting the trophy from Dennis Miller in the "Saddam Hussein Celebrity Look-alike Contest."

Maybe he was simply rejoicing at being the richest crazy person in Hollywood (and, trust me, that's not as easy as it sounds).  Or, more likely, Mel was simply celebrating that it was a night of the week and he had a big, ole bottle of tequila.  It is, after all, no coincidence that Roman Catholic Gibson is just crazy about a religion that regards knocking back a chalice of wine as a holy sacrament.  Or that Mel worships a woman best known for her terrified remark, "Jesus, we're running out of booze!"  Let's face it: It's not an aversion to making ladder-back chairs that stops Mel from being a Shaker.

Yes, the fact that Mel was apprehended for driving like Billie Joel down the Pacific Coast Highway hardly deserves notice.  What is more newsworthy, and problematic to conservative Christians everywhere, is the unscripted dialogue Mel recited to the police.  According to the police report, Gibson launched into an unseemly barrage of anti-Semitic statements, including: "F*****g Jews... The Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world." Gibson then asked the deputy, "Are you a Jew?" before turning on his megawatt charm to say, "You mother f****r. I'm going to f*** you."

I bet if anyone had asked him whether his rabid anti-Semitic vitriol indicated that the writer and director of "The Passion of the Christ" really had intended for that film to be anti-Jewish propaganda, as many had suspected, Mel would have replied, "Thash jusht a coinshidensh, you f_ckin Jew!"

Frankly, I am furious with Mel for spilling the beans.  To drunkenly confirm that he froths at the mouth at even the thought of a Jew was an appalling slip into candor.  And when you are a conservative Christian, honesty holds no promise of new friendship.  On the contrary, Mel's honesty makes things very uncomfortable for Christians everywhere after we spent the past two millennia saying, "There is nothing anti-Semitic about a story that blames the death of God on those filthy Christ-killers!" 

Mel has already found a very expensive person who happens to be sober to issue a statement on his behalf. With the wave of a publicist's pricey wand -- and few complicit incantations from Entertainment Tonight -- poof,  a PR miracle!  Reprehensive anti-Semitic hatred is now suddenly merely an unfortunate, unintended side effect of the "disease of alcoholism." Like unattractive scaliness is an unpleasant offshoot of the heartbreak of psoriasis.  And, in a world presided over by Oprah, there can be no blame, no culpability once your publicist has e-mailed a perfunctory form letter of standard contrition.  Because in America if you say, "I'm having problems with alcohol/drugs" instead of "I'm having problems with being a bigot," you are cheered, rather than scorned.   

The lesson I take from this tawdry week in Hollywood is the same one I realized after seeing Britney Spears give her interview to Matt Lauer: No celebrity should appear in public.  Ever.  Their only contact with the us should be through carefully written statements that are vetted and luminous images that are CGIed.  Press releases can edited to sound sane and intelligent; images can be Photoshopped to remove the crows-feet and swastikas.

As that little Scientology robot Tom Cruise recently found (or rather, his handlers found -- none of them is willing to lose a job to break it to him), well known people are not recognizable -- or even likable -- without a press agent and a Mary Hart nearby. Otherwise, they are bound to be caught in public with their pants down -- usually right after condemning people who can't keep their pants up.  Hence, we found out that Bill "Virtue" Bennett gambles and that Ralph Reed facilitates it (or doesn't, depending on who's paying).  

This brings me back to Mel Gibson's unfortunate, drunken slip of the tongue. What he said is unfortunate because alcohol loosens inhibitions; it doesn't facilitate a mind meld with your favorite dead Nazi.  Besides, Mel's blood-alcohol level was 0.12%.  Yes, enough to get a sound face-slapping from a MADD activist, but not enough to make someone who admittedly drinks very regularly a raving "I'm not myself!" lunatic.  

Like most drunks, Mel Gibson is fond of words that are incomprehensible to most people.  His masses are in Latin (makes the message easier to forget); his movies are in Aramaic and Mayan (keeps the focus on the pornographic violence).   

Here's some Latin he may not have heard in his private, retrogressive Catholic masses:

In vino veritas

It means there is truth in wine.  And, apparently, tequila. 

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