Memo to: Chris Rock
From: Peter Bart
Re: Oscar hosting
OK, you proved you could do it. Now do yourself a favor: Don’t do it again.
The Oscar show is a great gig, but it’s not your gig. Watching you cope with network standards and practices is like forcing you to drive a Ferrari with a Volkswagen engine. You’re just not a PG kind of guy, Chris.
Mind you, the Academy hierarchs were happy with the show. The ratings didn’t tank. The trains came in on time. Everyone kept their cool. Hilary Swank trimmed her normal half-hour acceptance speech to three minutes (the orchestra had to drown her out). Jamie Foxx paid tribute to his grandma on his fourth successive award show — I hope he finds a new relative to talk about next year. Clint was so self-deprecating he was almost invisible.
So you should feel fine about things, Chris. It all worked according to plan.
But in case anyone asks you for a repeat, tell them you’ve got other commitments. Tell them you’re making a comedy with Sean Penn.
* * *
As the Disney board intensifies its search for a new CEO, there’s growing interest in the question: Where does a media baron go when his time is up? Michael Eisner may cling to Disney in some emeritus role, but there’s not much in the way of precedent for someone in his position.
While Hollywood has lots of self-invented people, there are hardly any reinvented people. Stars and moguls tend to hit their peak, then vaporize.
Consider the vanishing act of luminaries like Johnny Carson, Doris Day or Kim Novak. Lew Wasserman became a shadowy figure hovering in the corner of the Universal commissary, munching on tuna fish. Ted Ashley was a dynamic leader of Warner Bros., then vanished into New York’s canyons.
Efforts at reinvention may take surprise turns. When Clint Eastwood was a star, he didn’t philosophize about re-inventing himself as an auteur (I suspect he never planned it). When Michael Ovitz was the grandee of CAA, he surely didn’t believe he’d devote his later years to wall-to-wall litigation.
MGM’s ex-CEOs never devised after-careers. David Begelman shot himself. Frank Yablans disappeared.
Among actors, many have found that television provides bountiful shelter once hopes for film stardom fade — witness all the “Desperate Housewives.” Stars like Tom Selleck and Angela Lansbury survive forever on the small screen, while the bigscreen seems unforgiving.
Media moguls like Rupert Murdoch and Sumner Redstone don’t have to worry about reinventing themselves. They own the store, so they don’t waste time worrying about their next gig.
That’s where Eisner made his mistake: He forgot to take Disney private — in his halcyon days, it was too much fun watching his shares skyrocket.
Whatever Eisner opts for, I doubt he will vanish like Carson or become a Wasserman-like wraith. Given his personality, he’ll find a new forum in which to assert himself.
I just hope he won’t follow the lead of, say, Art Linkletter. The grand old man of television finally ran out of talkshows, so now he’s leading the smarmy campaign of the former Swift Boat crazies to obliterate the AARP on the issue of Social Security.
How’s that for an ill-considered reinvention: A 93-year-old TV legend beating the shit out of retired folks?