STUPID SEX TRICKS -- AND A STUPID LAW
"If you mess up, 'fess up."
Simple words. Ones that should stand the test of time. After all, the importance and necessity of taking responsibility for one's actions is sacrosanct. Or is it?
Which brings me to the recent events surrounding David Letterman.
Apparently Mr. Letterman had a number of sexual affairs with several female employees (at least I assume they were all female). I guess CBS actually stands for you Can't Be Serious. Then again, if Marge Simpson is going to grace the November cover of PLAYBOY Magazine, then I suppose anything is possible. But honestly, folks, let's be real -- conventional aesthetics scream loud and clear that Letterman is one unfortunate-looking dude; what woman in her right mind could possibly want to have sex with him? Well, perhaps Dorothy Parker said it best:
"If all those sweet young wanna-be starlets were laid end to end I wouldn't be surprised at all."
But I digress...
What two consenting adults do behind closed doors is their business and in this case no laws of any kind were broken. Well, maybe one. And it wasn't by Letterman nor by his concubines, but by one Robert Halderman, a Producer for another CBS program -- 48 HOURS MYSTERY. According to published reports, Halderman threatened to go public with Letterman's sexual indiscretions unless he was paid $2 million. This is a rather simple business proposition, plain and simple, "Give me two million smackaroos old gap tooth or I'll divulge that you plunked your magic twanger where you shouldn't have. Accept my terms or these skeletons in your closet will be made known to the court of public opinion."
But wait -- forget the court of public opinion, it is the judicial court system that has top jurisdiction because our current laws say this is an illegal business proposition. In simple terms, the law states that one cannot threaten someone else with embarrassing, disgraceful or damaging facts about that person to the public, family, spouse or associates if asking to be paid off for not carrying out the threat. Interestingly, should one go public or tell family members about an indiscretion of some kind and does so without asking for money, it is not against the law. The way I see it, at least Mr. Halderman was giving Mr. Letterman an option -- one that he was free to accept or reject -- just like there exists in any free-market bargaining activity in contemporary society. Why it is legal to rat on someone for free but not for a fee is beyond my comprehension.
Remember, the allegations being made were true -- this is not slander. And the real issue is simply one of taking responsibility for one's actions, whether this entails wrong doing of any kind, or more accurately in this case, a perceived wrong doing. "If you mess up, 'fess up." And if you dont want to 'fess up, keep your twanger zipped.
Like Henny Youngman once said:
Patient: It hurts when I do this."
Doctor: Then don't do that.
Is Halderman a scumbag? Probably -- but being a scumbag doesn't mean you can be arrested and tried. If that were a viable criteria, there would be precious few in Congress, for example. So if Letterman was fearful of the consequences for his stupid sex tricks, if he knew it would hurt his marriage and his career if the facts got out, then the onus falls on him. It's time to pay the piper -- in cash or shame.
Consider this quote by Jean-Paul Sartre: "Man is condemned to be free: because once thrown into the world, he is responsible for everything he does."
Consider, also, this quote from Bill Maher: "We have a Bill of Rights. What we need is a Bill of Responsibilities."
In closing, I leave the reader with two final thoughts --
One is that I realize my point of view will not be shared by many, probably the vast majority, of my readers. That's o.k.
The second is this humorous quote from former Letterman producer Merrill Markoe, perhaps the most well-known former Letterman flame to have worked on his show. Markoe won five Emmy awards as the head writer for "Late Night with David Letterman," the NBC talk show that followed the "Tonight Show" and subsequently made Letterman a star. Markoe has been credited with the creation of Letterman's vaunted "Stupid Pet Tricks" and "Stupid Human Tricks" segments, both of which remain hallmarks of his show. Markoe posted a humorous statement about the scandal over the weekend on her web site in which she said, "Okay. Here it is. My big comment on Mr. Letterman... It is this: As you can imagine, this has been a very emotional moment for me because Dave promised me many times that I was the only woman he would ever cheat on."