Mary Kay's crime pays

Posted: May 27, 2005 12:00 AM

Webster's Dictionary defines famous as "widely known," but also "honored for achievement," while infamous is defined as "having a reputation of the worst kind," a synonym for "disgraceful." In the big business of celebrity journalism today, there is no discernible difference between fame and infamy.

 Today's celebrity journalism is only interested in that which is interesting , no matter how vile the atrocity. It will make all kinds of excuses for the infamous if they can be milked for Nielsen ratings points. Worse yet, it will pay the infamous for the privilege of wallowing in their vomit-inducing lives.

 Some of today's infamous are merely highlighted for making fools of themselves on TV. Take Paris Hilton. Try finding something she's accomplished where she deserved to be "honored for achievement." She's famous for being Barbie-doll pretty, stinking rich, dumb as a mud fence, and casually, completely amoral.

 But she's not a criminal. There's a separate category for truly infamous convicts. Take Mary Kay LeTourneau, the grade-school art teacher who first collided with the TV news cycle in 1997 when, as a 35-year-old mother of four, she was convicted of seducing a 12-year-old boy into sex. How many people would consider honoring her "for achievement"? She was convicted of child rape and forced to register as a sex offender. She was released early, but then returned to prison when she was caught once again molesting the child. She was a repeat offender, a repeat child rapist, to be precise.

 You can see where this train wreck would be fascinating, and appalling. Just imagine being the husband of this woman, or one of her four children. (They moved to Alaska to avoid the glare of reflected infamy.) Imagine being the parents of this boy, who had no idea the art teacher was stalking their grade-schooler, fantasizing about him, and finally violating him.

 But today's media will rationalize anything to draw eyeballs to the tube, so when Mary Kay's conquest, a boy named Vili Fualaau, grew into a man, and she was eventually released from prison, the next stage of infamy could ensue: They would be married. Suddenly, the celebrity-making vampires were playing the strains of "Love Story," and pedophilia means never having to say you're sorry.

 In the last week of April, Paramount's "Entertainment Tonight" and their spinoff show "The Insider" announced they had obtained the "exclusive rights" to wallow in the pedophile wedding of the century. They also mysteriously claimed that they do not pay for interviews, which no one should believe. The first to point accusatory fingers was the competition at "Access Hollywood," where host Billy Bush insisted Paramount paid big money for the privilege, "close to $1 million -- a figure they deny," Bush said. "Go to prison, get on TV, get rich," he declared.

 To fully profit from the "exclusive rights" they insisted they didn't buy, these Paramount "entertainment" shows treated (or better, mistreated) viewers to days of panting after the Lucky Couple. Inside the rehearsal dinner. Inside the wedding. Inside the reception. Then there was the most frightening part: Asking Mary Kay for romantic advice. What? "I think sexual intimacy should be in a marriage only -- or else a close-to-marriage situation," Mary Kay helpfully told the public, her own actions light years removed from those stated beliefs.

 The show's amoral neutrality suffused the coverage even as it seeped into the mainstream news media. In a piece for ABC's "Good Morning America," ET reporter Jann Carl hyped the wedding as "the icing on the cake of a notorious soap opera that still sparks admiration and outrage around the world." Wait a minute. Just who "admires" the rape of a 12-year-old boy, other than the folks at Paramount? She then hyped her exclusive first interview with the couple. She cooed: "Was it everything you dreamed?" Without giggling, Carl explained the new Mary Kay Fualaau hoped to teach again in the future, failing to add: If some school administrator can just compassionately look past that registered-pedophile record.

 Mary Kay was delighted that Paramount took their time and money to promote her side of the adultery/pedophilia argument against the troublesome opinions of the public. In her first interview, she exclaimed: "I feel like I'm happy for the public that they get to see us finally and that they aren't given misinformation or someone's opinion as information."

 A vast majority of Americans may see her as infamous, or disgraceful, but our "entertainment" media is not above devoting their time and millions to promoting the glamorous and romantic side of pedophilia. Paramount has defined itself, as well, as infamous and disgraceful.