This week, I debated whether to write about LeBron James or Mel Gibson, both of whom didn’t exactly endear themselves with the public. (Unless, in Lebron’s case, you live in Miami.)
I chose Gibson because I’d met him on numerous occasions. (Assuming your definition of “met” includes chatting in an elevator.) In 1987, Mel’s apartment was on the same floor as mine at the Santa Monica Shores. (Now the “Shores.” Shorter name, higher rents.)
Mel resided here while filming “Tequila Sunrise.” That title was prophetic considering his tequila binge on July 28, 2006 when he was arrested for DUI and went on his infamous anti-Semitic tirade. In our elevator encounters, however, he couldn’t have been nicer. Then again, he wasn’t drunk nor did we discuss religion.
I have been a fan of Gibson since the 1981 movie, “Galipoli,” a powerful anti-war film about the slaughter of Australian troops in WWI in which Mel, at 25, was brilliant. The next year he starred in “The Year of Living Dangerously,” and, in 1995, in “Braveheart,” which won Oscars for Best Picture and Best Director.
So, how did this handsome, two-time Oscar winner with charm, talent and enormous wealth (reportedly $1 billion pre-divorce) wind up seemingly hating Jews, blacks, Mexicans and women? (Other than Asians, who does that leave?)
Following Gibson’s anti-Semitic rant, he went on an “apology tour” of Jewish community leaders. But I always sensed that he resented it. And, I still can’t fathom how, from the backseat of a sheriff’s car, he blamed the mess of his life on the Jews.
Now, four summers later, Mel’s back in trouble. His obscenity-laced phone calls from January to Oksana Grigorivea, his former girlfriend and the mother of his 8-month-old daughter, are all over the Internet.
One can question Oksana’s timing, i.e. during custody negotiations, but the violence in Gibson’s words is nonetheless chilling. A self-proclaimed Christian, he sounds like a character from “The Sopranos.” Frankly, the calls are more menacing than O.J.’s to Nicole. We all know how well that turned out.
In one, a hyperventilating Gibson admits to having hit Oksana. Moments later, he threatens to kill her and bury her in the rose garden. (At least we can’t say he never promised her a rose garden?)
Then Gibson had the unbelievable gall to offer Oksana “one more chance.” Gee, after all that “sweet-talk,” I wonder why she didn’t take him up on it?
Recently, I watched Mel’s 2006 interview with Diane Sawyer. (Go to YouTube: “Gibson Jewish Question.”) When Sawyer asked if he believed that “the Jews are responsible for all the wars,” Gibson literally had to think it over.
Finally, Gibson answered, “Well, technically speaking, that’s not true because it takes two to tango.” Technically speaking? So, other than the technicality, the Jews are responsible for all the wars? Yikes!
This past year, in promoting the thriller “Edge of Darkness,” his first on-screen movie since the DUI, Gibson did numerous TV interviews. On at least two occasions he got belligerent when reporters asked a seemingly legitimate question i.e., “How do you think fans will respond in light of the DUI and your rant?”
In one, Gibson aggressively challenged a perplexed Sam Rubin of KTLA, “Do you have a dog in this fight?” (Perhaps because Rubin is a Jewish-sounding last name?) The other was with Chicago entertainment reporter Dean Richards, whom, while still on the air, Gibson called “an a**hole.”
Where does all this anger come from? At the risk of sounding like Lucy and her 5-cent psychiatry booth, all fingers point to Gibson’s father, Hutton. Now 88, he still contends that the Holocaust was “mostly fiction,” and manufactured to move Jews to the Middle East to fight the Arabs. Can you say “insane?”
Imagine being raised by someone with Hutton Gibson’s beliefs. Talk about the “sins of the father.” In fact, when Sawyer asked about his father’s inflammatory remarks, Gibson was almost threatening, “Leave it alone, Diane. Just leave it alone.” As Lucy might have said, “You’ve got issues, Mister.”
Oddly enough, as I watched the Sawyer interview, I saw glimpses of the idealistic young actor in “Galipoli,” with all that talent and promise. What happened to him?
Whatever the source of Mad Mel’s rage, his movie career is probably over. He doesn’t even have an agent anymore. (That makes two of us.) Compounding that, the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department has opened an investigation concerning alleged domestic violence, including the use of a handgun in the process. (That makes one of us.)
Currently, Gibson’s filming “How I Spent My Summer Vacation.” Given the phone calls to Oksana, the kindest possible answer for how Mel spent his summer, would be, as it was four years ago, making a jackass out of himself.
On second thought, maybe I should have written about LeBron.
Jack can be reached at Jackneworth@yahoo.com.