Now that the holiday-party season is almost over, and many of us are vowing never to do anything like that again — and certainly not in a supply closet — here's my idea for a national New Year's resolution: How about we declare a moratorium on celebrity sex scandals?
No, I'm not a Tiger Woods fan. Golf? I'd rather watch full-contact gardening. Please spare me those e-mails about how difficult golf is. So is pushing a peanut across Nebraska with your nose. To me, golf's a waste of good pasture.
But think about it: 2010, a year without sanctimony. No preposterous alibis, stammering confessions, humiliated spouses, no heartbroken mistresses vamping on "Entertainment Tonight," no pieces titled "Why Do Politicians Cheat?" or "Can Rehab Save Tiger?" Make Larry King and Oprah talk about something else for a change.
Have you seen Newsweek's elaborate rationalization for making Tiger their pre-Christmas cover boy? It's called "The Greatest Show on Earth." According to the deep thinkers on Madison Avenue, celebrity gossip "is actually a new art form that competes with — and often supersedes — more traditional entertainments like movies, books, plays and TV shows … creating a fund of common experience around which we can form a national community. I would even argue that celebrity is the great new art form of the 21st century."
Nothing to do, then, with a moribund weekly newsmagazine's desperate attempt to boost newsstand sales. "New art form" my elbow. Do "we," i.e., Newsweek's audience for this piffle, experience a "voyeuristic frisson in knowing that this isn't simulated as it is in the movies?"
Maybe we do. If so, it's nothing to be proud of. We're becoming a "national community" of Peeping Toms, a sadistic activity. Peepers get their thrills less from seeing people undressed than by exercising a twisted form of power by spying on them. Their naughty little secrets are known to the peeper, whose own nocturnal wanderings remain classified information.
Did Tiger ask for it by marketing himself as The Perfect Family Man? Well, doesn't everybody — right up until the divorce papers are filed? OK, there are exceptions: Rival golfer John Daly, whose boozy escapades and multiple marriages has earned him a considerable following of fellow sinners.
My favorite basketball commentator, Charles Barkley, is another. Although after you've thrown an aggressor through a bar window, as Sir Charles once did, there's no point campaigning for the Disney World endorsement. "Anytime a fan touches you," Barkley observed, "you have the right to beat the hell out of him."
But most public people, most of the time, craft a facade of domestic tranquility and do their best to hide behind it. And so would you, dear reader.
In all likelihood, you do. And if you're blessed and diligent, maybe you can make it real.
Meanwhile, just behind all the clucking and headshaking, everybody's having the time of their lives talking about everybody's favorite subject: Who's sleeping with whom? It's been this way since the "Clinton Scandals" of legend and song. Thanks to the "Starr Report," gamy topics people rarely discussed outside bars and locker rooms became headlines on the evening news.
Here's how silly it gets: "Why is there no female Tiger Woods?" the Washington Post's Richard Cohen wants to know. "The first guess is that women are simply smarter than men. Say what you will about Woods, it's not his whole-some image that has suffered, it's his standing as a sentient being. A person with the wit of a mosquito knows better than to leave a voicemail message on a mistress' phone or to text women who, from the angelic looks of them, would sell their own dear mothers for a chance to appear on 'Inside Edition.' Few women are that stupid. Few men aren't."
Smarter? At last count, the number of sentient women who flung themselves under Tiger stood at something like 14. (I think we can stipulate that any married women who did so aren't holding press conferences.)
At the expense of repeating myself, I first formulated Eugene's First Law of Sexual Dynamics covering a pro bass fishing tournament in Tennessee: "If there's something one man can do better than another, there's a woman who'll sleep with him for it."
Some of those boys, see, had TV shows. At the weigh-in, the docks were lined with eager young women who definitely weren't dressed for fishing. It's the same around all male professional athletes, rock stars, actors and politicians.
You ought to see them chasing poets at the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference. Poets!
Alas, it's sinful human nature; it's the way of the world.
That said, the corrosive effect of these endless celebrity scandals only makes real trust and intimacy harder to find. And that's no good for anybody.
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette columnist Gene Lyons is a National Magazine Award winner and co-author of "The Hunting of the President" (St. Martin's Press, 2000). You can e-mail Lyons at firstname.lastname@example.org.No Tiger tales or other sex scandals in 2010, please