So, I'm kind of feeling like we have not put our best humanity out there in this pandemic. People kind of suck.
But it could be worse.
And I would know.
Part of my job for a number of years was running a professional development conference for anyone working with youth and families. I would bring in speakers from all over the US, mostly experts in the field, but also and occasionally, a celebrity who had written a book or taken up a charge related to youth issues. While popular, these folks were invariably not as good as the lesser-known but more knowledgeable speakers. They also often had more demands, and weren't always pleasant.
Like the one C-list celebrity I took out to dinner and he talked on and on and on about the ONE movie he had been in, that I had never heard of. Or the A-lister who came to a group dinner but was so stand-offish that everyone was uncomfortable. Or the well-known gospel artist I tried to get who wouldn't stay more than 45 minutes, insisted on a limo from the airport and accommodations at a 5-star hotel and nothing less (I didn't book him.)
However, none of these compared to a celebrity run-in I had after I left that work.
This particular incident occurred during a major fundraising event. Someone I know played a major role in this event, and asked me to come help. Translation, I was obligated to play nice. This fact will be important in a moment.
I walked in to a breakfast event wherein said major donors were going to have eggs, bacon and listen to a speech by a certain celebrity, and then go on to other activities. Because I was helping out, I was seated at the table with the celebrity speaker, which would generally be a great idea, given that I have some experience in celebrity event management.
I also have some schooling in how to tell when a man thinks you are about enough to be an assistant or a secretary but have no real value. After all, I am the woman who tried to shake someone's hand at a networking meeting when I was introduced to him. This man then refused to shake my hand, dressed me down, told me he didn't shake hands with women because it was disrespectful to his wife, and directly implied that I was the one being disrespectful.
And this celeb, yea, same vibe when he sent me to get him water. I've gotten water for plenty of speakers, and there's a way to ask... but I went and got it anyway, because, well, "play nice."
I returned from getting the water, to find said celebrity ear-holing a high-dollar donor who was also seated at our table. I mean, I'm sure that it started out as chatting, but by the time I returned from my water run, it was like I had stepped into an alternate universe.
One in which it was acceptable to tell a total stranger that the Jews run Hollywood, making it impossible for an evangelical Christian to get ahead, and then going on to complain that said white, male, heterosexual TV star had been systematically discriminated by "those Jews" and what a victim he was. He continued on, denigrating Jewish people, and it was awful. I was internally panicking, trying to figure out how to make this stop, and what in the WORLD was I going to do about this and still play nice, because my head was exploding.
Fortunately, they were very quickly interrupted, as it was just about time to get going. I sat there, fuming, as the emcee introduced this man to the entire room, and then invited him to speak.
And oh, it did NOT get better.
This self-aggrandizing anti-Semite went on to recount his career, his transition into Christian movies, including more references to how hard he has it in Hollywood as a Christian, minus the overt Jew-blaming this time. Did I mention that he did not ONCE mention the charity he was there for? Not once, and I'm pretty sure that was the agreement. I am certain that he did not submit a script for his talk in advance, and the poor charity probably assumed that the talking points they would have likely given him (and paid him to cover) would have been, you know, included.
And then. Then he climbed the crazy train and started driving. He went on about how black people should just follow police orders, how the Black Lives Matter movement was disgraceful, and how anyone in prison was just bad person. And those were just the highlights
And my husband works in juvenile justice. And had just toured Baltimore after the riots, crossing the city with civil rights leaders and listening to stories of the community.
And I'm me.
I desperately wanted to walk out of the room, to protest the racist, anti-Semitic, misogynist speaking. However, the door was on the opposite side, I would have crossed in front of all the charity's leadership, and that could have significant consequences.
So I sat. It was not easy.
And at the end, I continued sitting. I did not clap. I did not stand. I just sat.
And then the person I was with had to follow that, who, fortunately, had been taking notes, and put together a subtle rebuttal to the drivel without being offensive, and then transitioned everyone to their next activity.
And then we both went and vomited, repeated everything offensive that was said with large hand gestures, and big facial expressions, pulled as many co-workers together to commiserate and think about damage control, and then considered drinking at 10am during a work event (we didn't.)
It blew over, and all ended being fine. The charity clearly didn’t know what this awful human was going to say, and it was clear he didn’t represent them.
But really, it wasn't fine. No one should be allowed to get away with that kind of vitriol.
And also, and more minor, lying. Because I will guarantee you that during the general chit-chat with people before the first diatribe, he was asked about costumes he wore during his tenure on television. The man denied wearing a very iconic outfit, "ever," in his words.
Unfortunately, I guess he didn't know about Google, because I found multiple photos of the man in the costume.
And while I can't tell you who this celebrity was, I don't have any compunction about sharing the iconic outfit.
I'll let you take it from there.
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