Justin Bieber throws punches, drops trou and urinates in a mop bucket? Promoters and record execs have little or nothing to say. Lindsay Lohan blows probation, zips in and out of rehab and along the way gets accused of grand theft and crashes a few cars? Directors, writers and producers largely stay mum. Amanda Bynes drops a bong on your head from 36 floors up? Keep a tight lip. Nothing is said or done.
At least in public …
Almost 90 years ago, Hollywood was reeling from one scandal after another as the biggest stars in the biz behaved in ways that would make today’s hard-partying celebutantes blush. The showbiz honchos saw a threat to their livelihoods. As the five-column headline on page one of Variety blared, “easing out” of what were called “bad actors” was seen as the cure for those who would “slur” or “leave a stigma.”
It was the dawn of the infamous Hays Code, but if you’re thinking of a ratings board, think again. Warning that those “who may find themselves the center of a scandalous story in the press” are “writing their own ticket of farewell to the screen,” Variety reported that offenders wouldn’t be loudly or even quietly condemned or punished.
Called the “silent system,” Variety ominously noted that “no written notice is sent out to an undesirable.” However, the biz bitchslap would be heard loud and clear when “the player finds that suddenly all demand has ceased among the regular line filmmakers. Turning to the independent producers the repudiated player learns that freelancing is precarious, with a lesser salary and bare prominence.”
Hmmmm … Like going from starring in pictures for Disney and Paramount to co-starring with porn actors in Internet-distribbed films with $300k budgets?