Roaring Backslappers & Raging Bull Talkers


Chicago’s ‘Irish American News’, February 2018


“I’m not on speaking terms with half of the people here because I tell them what they don’t want to hear while they stand around like a bunch of glad-handing, back-slapping jackasses, congratulating each other on what they didn’t understand to begin with”. 

– the late, great Jerry Fielding, who wrote the soundtracks for director Sam Peckinpah, amongst others. No wonder he and Sam got on.


The New Year and Christmas season was over and I was coming back to Galway after a two-week break in Scotland.  I had been in the small town of Ayr on the west coast where I was incredibly lucky with the weather.  In fact, there were days when I felt like that guy in Lost Horizon:  wandering through the ice and snow of the Himalayas only to come across this inexplicably warm valley. Now I was at the airport and hearing of delay after delay as the snow really began to come down.  That was OK, though; I’d rather spend all night in an airport than not arrive at all.

Finally, aboard the flight, I had my usual feelings of excitement as I awaited takeoff and for the ground to fall away from under us as we get one of those reminders of just how tiny we really are.  I’ve been incredibly lucky to have travelled or worked in well over thirty countries through the years and I love flying; but that feeling of awe that anything as big as a plane can actually stay up there has never left me.  I hope it never does.

Yet as we took off I looked over the aisle at the kid across from me.  He was maybe ten years of age and glued to his phone or tablet or whatever the hell it was.  He might as well have been sitting in his own living-death room for all that he was getting out of this endlessly marvelous experience.  And I felt a sadness that a whole coming generation will never feel what I have been lucky enough to feel; the sheer excitement of beginning a journey that can lead to who knows what.  I wondered if his Christmas had even been such a big deal to him, now that every week is like Christmas for some kids.

As it happened I had taken along ‘An Actor’s Life’ to read, Charlton Heston’s journals from 1956-1976, and the entry I had opened to was from 1958:

“New York, 12.00 noon: – Sailing on the S.S. United States to Southampton.  It was a mad and wonderful departure.   We got to the ship, looming unbelievable and red-black… The sailing of a liner is all anyone ever said it was.  I’ll never forget it, from the warmish vintage champagne to the paper streamers hanging wet in the spray as we passed Ambrose Light.”

Later on Heston talks about the pleasure of going cross-country by train; and what comes across so beautifully is the joy that this man takes in travel and his gratitude at being in a position to do it.

This week another actor, the brilliant Jodie Foster, had the right of it:  we have become slaves to a technology that we ourselves created, but which now controls us.  If Heston was sailing on that liner today he would be surrounded by idiots who were too busy taking selfies to actually enjoy anything.

Talking about actors and talking about idiots, it would have taken a heart of adamantium not to laugh at the Golden Globes last week (as I write this).  Being a film fan I was actually AT the cinema that night instead of looking at this baloney; but the next day it was impossible to miss the oh-so-chic black dresses or the posturing or the excitement — the excitement, I tellz ya!!! – of Oprah’s speech.  WILL SHE RUN FOR PRESIDENT?

Be still, my beating heart.

Oprah, who has only BEEN in the industry for nearly four decades, so of course has heard nothing of what goes on, is shocked to the point of shedding a fetching tear at all the pure nastiness of utter creeps like Weinstein and what he and his loathsome ilk have been up to.

#metoo?  Try #weknewtoo.

If there’s anyone out there pretending to be outraged by this, listen:  I hate to burst your bubbles but Oprah is an actress – and as we know from such films as The Colour Purple and Beloved she is a damned good one.  What – you expected her to deliver less than a consummately professional speech?  Pull the other one; it’s got bells on it.

All of this stuff – all of the endless ‘he touched my back 30 years ago’ whining — is diluting the pure seriousness of what was really being done by true, sleazy and animalistic predators.  The showbiz shallowness of male clowns of actors turning up at the Globes with their little Time’s Up badges simply diminishes and dilutes what is a hugely important cultural movement.

But most of these fools don’t care about that.  They don’t care that their endlessly solipsistic nonsense simply makes the rest of us laugh our heads off.

They SHOULD be going after guys like Harvey Weinstein; they SHOULD have been doing it decades ago.  But as I pointed out last month, we are getting sidelined now by anyone with an axe to grind.  Just the merest whisper of scandal is now enough to finish a person’s career or at the very least lay them open to trial by social media.

And that’s not right either.

These actors make me laugh with their jumping-on-the bandwagon outrage: their little black suits and their teensy-weensy virtue-signaling badges as they look around them to see what their fellow gobshites are doing rather than actually thinking for themselves.  And sooner or later it will all turn out to be President Trump’s fault, anyway.  Hell, everything else is.

Did you get a load of Robert de Niro at yet another of the endless Backslapper’s Awards Ceremonies last week?

Jesus wept.  He was like somebody that was not all that right in the head.

And de Niro thinks TRUMP is deranged?  He came across like a foul-mouthed raving lunatic who had wandered in from the set of one of his own films.

For those of you under the age of thirty, genuine film fans once thought of a new de Niro film as an Event.  He put everything he had into a role and was just that bit mysterious because he rarely gave interviews and when he did, he didn’t say much.

Now we know why.  When he opened his gob he was a plonker.

It’s hard to have much time for any of them these days.  As Jerry Fielding said above, they’re just a bunch of glad-handing, back-slapping jackasses.  That guy was before his time.  So was Peckinpah.

You know what?  I’m so lucky to have had the time I had here; and I feel nothing but sadness for that kid on the plane, knowing shag-all except his iPhone and never looking up once to the wonderful world around him.