Celebrity scandals can be so predictable. Once you've seen Charlie Sheen snort elephant tranquilizer off a seven-foot-tall Pyrenean woman for the tenth time, it starts to lose its shock value. Fortunately, on occasion well-known folks get embroiled in scandals so incongruous with we know them for it'd be like Alanis Morissette ruining her career by figuring out how to correctly use "ironic" in a sentence. For example ...
Whether as his role as a progressive libertine in Bored To Death or as a laid back god in The Good Place, most Millennial fans know Ted Danson as comedy's woke grandad, the kind of cool, progressive boomer who remembers all of his grandkids' pronouns and also what weed was like in the sixties. And while Danson always has been the furthest from being an edgy performer, he did once give it the old college try. Specifically, that of a racist frat bro at a pimps and hoes party.
In 1993, Ted Danson was in a weird place. Cheers had just ended and so had his 16-year-long marriage to Cassandra Coates. In the meantime, he was starring in a movie about American jizz and dating his co-star, noted anti-PC comic Whoopi Goldberg. (Maybe 1993 was just weird for everyone). It was at that exact moment that Goldberg was being honored by the Friars Club, the New York comedy lodge infamous for its edgy, offensive celebrity roasts. So who better to host this night of unfiltered meanness and insensitivity towards a notable Afro-American icon than the nicest, whitest boyfriend she ever had.
Despite being out of his of depth, Ted Danson, untethered from his milquetoast life and buffered by the promise of a media blackout, put on a brave face. Did I say a brave face? I meant a black face. The guy from Cheers put on blackface, big lips and all, and performed an elaborate minstrel roast to a stunned audience. And Danson went the distance, saying "nigger" about a dozen times, casually eating watermelon and, at one point, hailing the arrival of New York's first and only African American mayor by saying: "The mayor's coming, so be careful, don't do any political jokes, just do nigger jokes."
Even for the Friars, the Anthony Jeselnik of clubs, Danson went too far. He finished his routine to nothing but the sound of several prominent black celebrities walking out, with talk show host Montel Williams storming off the stage and later resigning from the club by telegram -- that's how backwards he thought they were being. The blowback was so bad it's a good thing Danson's face was already blackened. His speech was quickly leaked and the scandal dominated the headlines for weeks, with Whoopi Goldberg later joking that one dude pretending to be a black guy knocked the Somalia crisis off the front of all New York newspapers.
So why is Ted Danson currently not sharing a bunk with Mel Gibson in a halfway house for rehabilitating racist celebrities? Because a black lady saved him his bacon. Whoopi publically stood by Danson, claiming she had written and approved most of his racist speech beforehand and adding: "I don't care if you don't like it. I do." A pretty classy move given that the two had secretly broken up even before the Friars Club roast. Meanwhile, Danson kept his tiny white lips shut, only talking about his massive mistake years later, comparing the decision of performing in blackface like "sticking my finger in a light socket" -- both terrible ways to find out how good you look with an afro.
While the concept of a good billionaire is as contradictory as that of a good serial killer or a fun breadline, Warren Buffett is definitely is at the top of his terrible class. Despite being the third richest person in the world, the billionaire has always eschewed the typical rich guy culture. He's a humble man who eats McDonald's breakfast, loves his family and doesn't mind paying his fair share of taxes. He's also vowed to use his money for good, intending to give away 99% of his wealth. Just as long as not one cent of it goes to his hippie granddaughter.
Nicole Buffett wasn't born into one of the richest families, she was adopted into it by Warren's youngest son Peter. And despite not being blood, Nicole always believed she knew how to act like a real Buffett. So in 2006, she appeared in a film called One Percent, a documentary that, while billed as a hard-hitting, all-access expose on the brutal wealth disparity, was actually just a bunch of trust fund kids gossiping about the hand that feeds them. Not an issue, Nicole likely thought, given her grandpapa's similar stance on the issue economic crisis. But in doing the doc, she ignored the core Buffett tenet: snitches get stitches.
Nicole soon found out how much her step-granddad valued his privacy when, with a-typically typical billionaire drama, he wrote Nicole a personal letter informing her that he was cutting her out of his will. In the letter, Warren goes full Ebenezer Scrooge, insulting Nicole by claiming that she only got attention for her name "rather than who you are or what you have accomplished." A name he feels she doesn't even deserve, adding: "I have not emotionally or legally adopted you as a grandchild, nor have the rest of my family adopted you as a niece or a cousin." And for good measure, Warren also decided to disown Nicole's twin sister for no discernibly logical reason aside from making sure Nicole couldn't just switch clothes and sneak back into the famous Buffett Christmas parties.
Statistically, every single person who has read this sentence has seen, left a review of and bought the cast album of the Broadway sensation Hamilton. The 2015 show has become the most popular musical since the stage performance of the hit movie Cats and owes all of that success to creator and star Lin-Manuel Miranda, a man who (as long as you don't read his Twitter) is impossible not to like. Except, sadly, by the very people whose love he wants to most: Puerto Ricans.
In 2017, after the horrible disaster of Hurricane Maria and the U.S. government's equally horrible emergency response, Miranda decided to move the entire production of Hamilton to San Juan, pumping $1 million into renovating the local university's theater and promising to donate all tickets sales in support of the Puerto Rican arts. A noble gesture, but Miranda had made a small judgment of error. Due to not just the U.S. leaving Puerto Rico to starve after Hurricane Maria, but also due to the oppressive austerity measures implemented by the Obama government's Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act (PROMESA) on the territory, anti-American sentiment was at an all-time high. And while Miranda considered himself part Puerto Rican, a lot of Puerto Ricans considered him to be all-American.
What followed was a Rube Goldberg-meets-Larry David chain event of accidental pro-colonialism accusations. It didn't take long for hardline activists and critics to note the irony that Miranda was bringing a play that celebrates America's victory over oppressive colonialism to one of America's oppressed colonies. That rumbling intensified when employees of the university threatened to protest over budget cuts, cuts that Miranda had inadvertently supported by advocating for PROMESA. This then forced Miranda to move Hamilton to another venue due to security concerns, something he could only quickly achieve by accepting the help of Puerto Rico's second least favorite politician, governor Ricardo Rossello. And just like that, America's sweetheart, the guy who had raised over $40 million in Puerto Rico relief funds was being accused in the Puerto Rican media of being a "Nuyorican" carpetbagger propelling his propaganda and pennies at the poor people of Puerto Rico, a painful punishment for a patriot who publicly professed to the Puerto Rican press that "I just want you to be proud of what I made."
Is Kevin O'Leary a nice guy? Definitely not. He's made his name as the mean, ruthless operator on Shark Tank. His nickname, Mr. Wonderful, was given to him ironically yet he still co-opted it nonetheless. But as far as bad guy tycoons go, he's refreshingly mild, the kind of obvious heel who then also speaks out in favor of #MeToo and treats his workers fairly well. In America, that makes him a rugged individualist who could take seventeen steps to the right before becoming remotely problematic. But in Canada, his native land, his unapologetic and vaguely rude behavior makes him the closest thing to Donald Trump they could ever produce.
And no one is more aware of that than O'Leary, who looks at Donald Trump like he's looking into a mirror someone spilled Tang on. "I've watched him work. I think he's smart as a fox," O'Leary once said of Trump, mistaking the word "smart" for "orange" there. Having already mimicked his idol by becoming a media personality who runs his actual businesses into the ground, O'Leary saw a new opportunity to follow in his idol's tiny footsteps when the The Apprentice's star ascended to the Executive Office of the President of the United States. So in 2017, Mr. Wonderful started a campaign to become leader of the Conservative party and run for prime minister, Canada's most coveted public office that non-moose can apply for.
And the fit was perfect -- by Canadian standards. Like Trump, O'Leary flaunted the rules, but only because he wanted to use his own money to pay off his campaign debt. And like Trump with Obama, O'Leary also had a bitter rivalry with Canada's current ruler Justin Trudeau but, instead of racism, he just doesn't like Trudeau for being a nice man who has nice hair. But most importantly, despite all of that going against him, just like Trump, O'Leary was polling incredibly well among conservatives, ready to win the party's leadership. But then Canadian Trump made the most fatal mistake you can make in Canadian politics by unapologetically speaking French at a toddler's level, which by Canuck standards is like saying you could shoot a guy in the middle of Fifth Avenue and still get elected. This pissed off Quebec so much that O'Leary had to drop out citing his lack of national support (or soutien, as he would never call it) when going up against Trudeau.
So in the end, Canadian Trump did succeed where American Trump failed: knowing when to quit your ego trip so you don't have to actually run a country. A prescient decision as it turned out, otherwise it would've been Prime Minister O'Leary and his First Lady who in 2019 drunkenly got into a boat crash that killed two people and injured three others. Not that that would've slowed down a true Trump clone, mind.
Imagine you're in the eighties. Your sleeves are rolled up, your hair is slicked back and you've done so much cocaine only Drakkar Noir is powerful enough to mask the smell of baby powder. And as an eighties' dude/dudette, now imagine that Donald Trump is not a racist despot or known sexual abuser, but just this fancy rich guy who lives in a luxury penthouse and puts gold leaf on everything like he's a disgraced French king. Now imagine your surprise when you find out that this fancy one percent playboy actually makes his money as a grubby, wifebeater-wearing slumlord.
While people have always been aware of Trump's status as a misogynist and a dick, Reaganomics had also made hyper-capitalist America regard Trump as the epitome of eighties opulence. Which might explain why it was such a sobering scandal when Americans found out that the guy from Home Alone 2 didn't make his money by performing the art of the deal, but did so by running his housing empire with predatory mob tactics. His biggest enemies (aside from black people) were tenants with rent-controlled contracts. When these money drains wouldn't leave, Trump would shut down their water and heat or even send out squads of thugs "specialized in relocating tenants" to bully them out. Like one elderly stroke victim who one day saw "three big fat men" barge into her apartment and throw out all her stuff, with Trump illegally voiding her contract by claiming she had back-rent due.
As a slumlord, Trump used every dirty trick in the book. He tried to rob another elderly woman of her home abusing the eminent domain law, pretending he was providing a "public service" demolishing her house and turning it into parking spots for limos. Another woman (notice a pattern here?) who was dying from cancer and suffered from emphysema woke up one day to have Trump construction workers drilling holes in her ceiling and flooding her bedroom with dust, forcing her to move out.
And while the days of Trump the Slumlord (and of us being surprised that he's a total scumbag) are long gone, someone is continuing the proud family tradition: Jared Kushner, Trump's Vampire Tween-In-Law. Kushner Companies owns a series of "Kushnervilles" From New York to Baltimore, but the only thing his diverse tenants all have in common is believing that their least favorite White House adviser is a shitty landlord with even shittier properties. His company has not only been accused of racking up hundreds of building code violations and complaints about infestations, leakage and mold, but also of behaving like an "apex scavenger,'' using old-school underhanded tactics to get rid of entire buildings' worth of rent-controlled tenants. Papa Trump must be so proud.
Johnny Cash was a true American outlaw. A dashing man in black, his angry rejection of authority was only tempered by his love of liberty, family and the American land, things he cherished for every minute of his life -- except for the parts when he was actively burning it all to the ground.
One day, likely to get away from his increasingly concerned family, a very high Johnny Cash herded his nephew Damon Fielder into a pickup truck for an impromptu camping trip to Los Padres National Park. But if Fielder didn't know his uncle was a drug addict before, he was probably been tipped off when Cash constantly grabbed handfuls of uppers from a full mason jar, the kind you'd win in a guessing game at the annual Meth Fair. So like any great male bonding experience, when they arrived at the park, the pair immediately split off with Fielder going to fish in the creek and Cash going to trip balls in the great outdoors.
But after a few solitary hours, Fielder noticed a strange smell in the air. Returning to the campsite, he discovered the acrid smoke of a polyester fire as the family's camper was going up in flames. The blaze was spreading throughout the forest, but Cash refused to budge. In a panic, Fielder tried to knock his uncle out to drag him away from the burning ring of fire, but he refused to go down down down and the flames went higher. Eventually, Fielder fled to go get help, but by the time he returned with a fire helicopter crew, Cash's fiery performance had already cost the park 508 acres of protected land and, worse, 49 rare condors out of a total population of 53.
When dragged to court, the country star who sang about admitting to shooting a man just to watch him die did everything he could to avoid taking responsibility. According to the man in soot, he had nothing to do with the fire, telling the judge: "I didn't do it, my truck did and it's dead, so you can't question it." But according to the only sober and coherent person present, Cash had started a campfire to get warm and was so wasted he didn't realize he had set the entire forest on fire. The courts were inclined to believe the latter, especially when they asked Cash how he felt about almost wiping an endangered species off the map and he replied: "I don't care about your damn yellow buzzards."
Once again, the Folsom prison crooner avoided any jail time -- implausibly thanks to an intervention of the Native American community who were such fans of his Bitter Tears that they threatened to take the land back if the judge went too hard on Cash. Instead, he had to pay a record fine of $82,000. Perhaps as penance, in the '80s Cash opened an exotic bird sanctuary in his house. And perhaps as aviary revenge, he was then almost disemboweled by an ostrich.
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