Of the artifacts brought back from my husband’s recent trip to D.C., the thing that delights me the most is the Veterans Day National Ceremony program (the same one that lists, ironically, “the honorable George W. Bush”), that reads:
I volunteered to help at the will call for the 19th Annual Art Show preview gala last night. We get some rich folks who are annoyed by waiting in line, no matter how short, for anything. Spending thousands for a pair of tickets buys you some privileges, no doubt, but it does not raise you above the laws of physics or supply and demand. Happily, most people are willing to understand that quick and simple procedures for ticket pick-up are meant to prevent chaos and that everyone needs a ticket, whether they buy it or it is given to them.
One gentleman last night with two tickets needed a third. He was dressed rather well, and he spoke perfectly good English, but he was hard to understand because his voice was raspy, like a harsh whisper. (I’m guessing he spent many of the last 60 years smoking prodigious amounts of tobacco.) So we were having a hard time understanding what exactly he wanted to do. His last name starts with C, so he went to my line, “A-L,” first. I explained that if he bought two tickets, and if he had both of them in his possession, he would need to buy the third. I directed him to another line where he could do so.
This isn’t what he wanted to hear, but he was disinclined to explain further. He stepped away and came back moments later, this time to another will call agent, saying evidently that a gallery owner had left a ticket for him. She had nothing under his name and directed him to the event organizers, also seated at the will call table, who had a record of every ticket.
Minutes later he was back, complaining to my companion that the organizers had been no help to him. Evidently he had visited the coat check, as well, because he had in his hands a dog-eared letter, which he unfolded and placed on the table in front of us.
“Maybe this will give you some insight into my character,” he said, proudly but not arrogantly.
The letter, printed on White House stationery and comprising two, maybe three very short paragraphs, was nearly falling apart. He had used it before.
“Sir, I’m sorry,” she said. “I don’t have any tickets for you.”
“Do you know whose name is on that letter? See?”
“Look: Who signed that letter?”
I sneaked a glance and saw a squiggle that I can see might have signified “George W. Bush.” Mr. C was getting indignant. Whatever anger he could muster came out as a stage whisper. Was he insulted that we weren’t bending to his will?
“Sir, I see that it’s the president,” she calmly explained. “But this has nothing to do with this event. I don’t have any tickets for you.”
“Well, I— What’s your name. I want your name,” he demanded.
“My name is printed on the card pinned to my chest,” she said, unperturbed. Was he going to report her? Have her fired from a volunteer job? You’re not allowed to volunteer here — ever again! Oh the shame of it! Be my guest.
She directed him back to the event organizers, and he angrily shoved off.
Who knows what that letter even said. I didn’t read it. I didn’t care. All it really proves is that he knows who the president of the United States is. I do too. And that’s not going to get you a ticket, no matter how rich you are.
I won’t call it hypocrisy. I’ll be generous and call it a paradox.
It almost qualifies as irony. But we English majors know better.
What I’m talking about is Madonna’s insistence that she not only monitors the TV intake of her kids (good idea in my opinion), but she also neither watches TV nor reads newspapers nor magazines herself. Ever.
She, our like great nation’s source of illumination, George W. Bush, is intentionally media deprived. She says sometimes she listens to the BBC with husband Guy. She hears about the news of the world from conversations with friends.
Madonna, the queen of mass media, star of magazine cover and MTV, chooses to disregard the news. Sure, she ignores press about herself. This is just and good and fair. Besides, how tedious, boring and infuriating, right? But she also ignores news about the world? She does TRL. She does The View. She does Good Housekeeping. She does Ladies’ friggin Home Journal. She depends on the media. She is the media.
Yet, she holds herself above the very media her career depends on.
Don’t get me wrong, I loves me some Madge. But does this seem weird to anyone else?
It’s an interesting idea: What if Oprah grilled Bush like she did James Frey, the published liar. (By the way, if you publish a memoir and change — even embellish — a few things, I have no problem considering it non-fiction if you follow the example of such confessors as Augusten Burroughs, author of Dry and Running with Scissors, and at least tell us so at the beginning. Frey did not do this, ergo, “liar.”)
I always find these “what if” columns to be a bit silly and unhelpful in the end. Mind you, I’d rather Oprah grill Bush on his criminally irresponsible tax-cut schemes or his unrealistic expectations of the future of the American health care system. But that’s just me.
Nevermind what you think of her. I love the way Oprah wins no matter what she does. At first, she declines to slam Frey, instead taking that bizarre middle ground: The book is good and important and meaningful whether it’s non-fiction or not. And people coo and sigh and say, “She has such personal integrity.” (However, it must be noted, some of her biggest critics were fans of her show.)
Then she changes her mind and rips Frey a new one on her couch, on TV, in front of millions of housewives and unemployed gay waiters, and people coo and sigh and say, “She has such personal integrity.”
Her couch is truly a hot seat. What a crazy world that she is among the most powerful and feared in media and the American press corps is continually disrespected and emasculated by our government. Let’s send Oprah after Scott McClellan. I’d love to have seen her go after Ari Fleischer, too.