I tried to ignore the contretemps over Mel Gibson’s run-in with the law, but it was like trying to ignore the elephant in the living room.
My friends kept attacking him, and I kept finding myself sort of defending him. It wasn’t that I approved of his conduct, but when I was a younger man, I occasionally got drunk and said really stupid things; usually, as I recall, to young women. I know this to be the case because there’s nothing that some people enjoy more than making your hangover even more painful by reporting verbatim the morning after all the really loutish things you said the night before.
Heck, if in vino veritas were true, you wouldn’t have to use the third degree to make felons confess, you’d merely need to ply them with booze.
Unlike some people who have sprung to Gibson’s defense, I can’t claim to know him. I’ve never met him. Even though by this time he’s apologized for just about everything but causing Hurricane Katrina, I have no way of knowing what’s really in his heart. I do know that a lot of people condemn the guy because his father, Hutton, is a Holocaust-denier and apparently a bit of a religious nutcase. But I don’t go for blaming the son for the sins of the father—and neither, I’d imagine, do the untold millions who still love and admire John F. Kennedy.
Some folks who already disliked Mel Gibson for his religious beliefs or because he made “The Passion” were naturally ready to crucify him, so to speak. They quickly dismissed his intoxication as an excuse for his behavior, although I’m willing to wager that they’ve excused far worse transgressions committed by celebrities who share their politics. I mean, look at all the really dumb stuff that’s come out of the mouths of Michael Moore, Jane Fonda, and Harry Belafonte, and they were all cold sober.
One never knows how much or how little influence a father has on a son. Many people simply assume that Mel is the fruit of a poisoned tree. But how can we know that he doesn’t simply suffer from an inferiority complex because, for all his millions, he knows that his dad fathered 11 kids while Mel conked out after a mere seven? Or perhaps carting around the name Mel Columcille Gerard Gibson for 50 years just got to be too much, and that night, on Pacific Coast Highway, he simply cracked under the strain.
In the old days, I used to interview a great many celebrities. Before meeting them, my biggest concern wasn’t whether they’d make good copy, but whether they’d turn out to be oafs. What if I didn’t like, say, Fred Astaire, Jimmy Stewart, Gene Kelly, and Ginger Rogers? What if they didn’t like me? I ran the risk of having a dozen of my all-time favorite movies ruined forever. That, for me, was the upside of the Gibson affair. I was never a fan.
In conclusion, let me simply say that I can forgive him his tacky behavior, and even the hateful things he said. He’s just an actor, after all. He makes movies, not national policy.
But I can’t ever find it in my heart to forgive him for his “Mrs. Soffel” and “Lethal Weapon 4.”