Wednesday, August 26, 2015

stacks of green paper in his red right hand

"It was made very clear to me what I'm supposed to do here. I smile, wave my little hat... I did that, so when do I get paid?"  — Tom Hanks as Jimmy Dugan in "A League of Their Own" (1992)
Once again, I am confounded by the inability of some people to follow simple rules of conduct... especially when the party making the rules is dropping a ton of money in your lap. Of course, I am referencing two recent stories to break in the news around the same time. One concerns Jared Fogle, the one-time spokesperson for the highly-successful sandwich shop chain Subway. When Jared was an average, unknown college student, he famously dropped over 200 pounds by restricting his food intake to Subway sandwiches (sans fatty condiments like mayonnaise) and walking a lot. His story was brought to the attention of Subway's marketing department and the first commercial featuring the newly-svelte Jared appeared in 2000. He went on to make over 300 commercials for the chain over a period of a decade. Subway partly credits the "Jared" campaign with tripling their growth over that period and they rewarded him accordingly. It is estimated that Jared's net worth is around 15 million dollars. Plus, he was lavished with first-class travel and stays in 5-star hotels, all on Subway's dime. Jared's instructions from Subway were pretty simple. Subway was willing pay Jared to be the smiling face of the company in exchange for exploiting Jared's incredible weight-loss story. Jared only had to show up at publicity events, smile, shake some hands and get paid. No math, no real work and instant celebrity status with no real exhibit of talent. Pretty sweet deal.

But, Jared had a secret and the money fueled his growing ego. While representing Subway, his meal ticket (pun intended), he explored his lust for underage girls, solicited sex from underage girls and expanded his collection of child pornography. Now, I understand deep-seated urges and how they can be acted upon. I also understand self-control. Jared could have easily sought professional help for dealing with a condition of which he was, no doubt, well aware. Instead, he saw what he understood to be an endless supply of money headed his way and chose to indulge his fetishes, possibly falling into the belief that money makes you smart and puts you on a level above most members of society. A plush room at The Plaza, chauffeurs, publicists and an entourage only reinforced that idea. However it all came crumbling down around Jared in August 2015, when Subway severed all ties with him over allegations and an eventual guilty plea to federal charges of possessing child pornography and traveling to pay for sex with minors. Nice work, Jared. If only you would have just done the minimum of what was expected of you.

Almost simultaneously, Josh Duggar, co-star of the wildly popular TLC Network reality show 19 Kids and Counting, got himself into some hot water. His show, 10 seasons strong, was a day-to-day chronicle of the Duggars, a family of devout Independent Baptists. They frequently discuss values of purity, modesty, and faith in God. The Duggars vehemently oppose birth control, saying they have allowed God to determine the number of children they have. Since this has been put into God's deistic hands, the title of the show has changed twice with the addition of two more children. Recently, Josh, the eldest son of baby-machines Michelle and Jim Bob Duggar, was accused of child molestation. This was a shocker for fans of the God-fearing, pious clan, however things grew worse for the 27-year-old Duggar son, when it was revealed that four of his victims were his sisters. As these allegations surfaced in the news, TLC promptly canceled the series, which contributed to Josh's estimated net worth of 200 million dollars. That's right, 200 million! Now, Josh, a proclaimed devotee of his religion, family values and all that self-righteous stuff, has been named as an active member of, a website devoted to hooking up married adults for adulterous affairs. (For those playing along at home, "Thou Shalt Not Commit Adultery" is Commandment Number 7.) Look, perhaps the religious tones of the show were not really within ol' Josh's beliefs and he was just playing along for the sake of his family and the money. But, for goodness sake, Josh, if you could have just kept your hands to yourself and sought professional help with your newly-gained funds, that cash cow would still be flowing with the milk of unlimited wealth. And cheating on your spouse? Really? Was it worth the 200 mil? Because your wife, the former Anna Keller, is gonna take a good chunk of that if she decides to seek a divorce. Or maybe she'll just let God decide that, too. But, obviously, God doesn't take too kindly to that shit either. He did burn those rules into a rock right in front of Moses' eyes. I think he made his point.

A little closer to home, I had a co-worker who was hired with specific instruction as to what his job entailed. He was to keep peace within a particular department that displayed signs of friction. That's all. The department's work output was, otherwise, pretty good. It's just that the individual team members were constantly at each other's throats, filled with contempt and mistrust for one another. This guy was just supposed to unite everyone and readjust the focus of the department to one of harmony. (Ironically, he succeeded in uniting everyone in their dislike for him.) For this task, he was grossly overpaid. Now, despite a clear explanation of his role, he proceeded to make unnecessary, overly-complicated and "un-asked-for" decisions. He also exhibited behavior that was, shall I say, unappreciated by some of the female members of the department. He was reprimanded over and over again, until the company finally had enough. If only he had just followed the concise instructions that were clearly explained to him, he would still be collecting that obscenely-large paycheck. Instead, the salary only served to feed an unwarranted ego, one that he couldn't keep in check. He is currently seeking employment elsewhere.

This behavior is nothing new. Back in the 60s, budding filmmaker Bob Rafelson came up with the idea for a sitcom about a struggling rock group. Taking inspiration from the Beatles and their wild antics in the film A Hard Day's Night, Bob joined up with Bert Schneider, whose father was the head of Columbia Pictures' Screen Gems division, to bring his idea to the small screen. The pair placed an ad in a trade paper, looking for "Folk & Roll Musicians-Singers for acting roles in new TV series. Running Parts for 4 insane boys, age 17-21." Of the nearly 500 applicants (including Stephen Stills and, allegedly, Charles Manson), three were chosen to join the already-cast Davy Jones, a proven Broadway actor who had originated the role of "The Artful Dodger" in Oliver! The three additional young men had their roles clearly explained by Bob, Bert and musical director Don Kirshner. They were actors, not musicians. They were playing the parts of musicians. The music was already figured out and they would have nothing to do with it. With that understanding and their cooperation, they would be paid a lot of money. As simple as that sounds, Mike Nesmith, a country singer-songwriter with a modicum of talent, Peter Tork, an unsuccessful guitarist who, prior to this casting, was working as a dishwasher, and Micky Dolenz, a former child actor who was hired purely on the merit of his "unusual face," understood something different. They were convinced they were chosen based on their musical chops and they were to be the next Beatles. Only Davy, the true professional, got it. He understood that he was not Paul McCartney and this was not the Beatles. This was just another acting role and he was going to hang on to it as long as possible, because he knew acting roles are tough to land on a regular basis. The trio (again, not including Davy) were shocked and insulted when they were barred from participating in a recording session. When the money started rolling in, their egos inflated, ignoring the fact that the success was due mostly to someone else's expert casting and predetermined musical choices. When Kirshner presented the "band" with a check for one million dollars (twenty-five thousand each) and a tape of what he selected as their next single,* an ungrateful Mike Nesmith offered his thanks by slamming his fist through a wall and informing the bewildered Mr. Kirshner "that could have been your face, motherfucker." The Monkees, under the tutelage of Nesmith, sabotaged their success and, in essence, orchestrated their downfall. The show lasted only two seasons. Although their fame endured, only Davy embraced the novelty and happily made it his career, right up until his untimely death in 2012. The others begrudgingly took part in reunions over the years, but then took the money as though it was owed to them. They probably still don't realize that they merely "fit the suit."

What is the moral of these stories? If you think it's "Money is the root of all evil," you weren't listening. The true moral is "Listen. Keep your goddamn mouth shut and listen."

*The song was "Sugar, Sugar," eventually recorded by a group of anonymous studio musicians and released under the name of the fictional "The Archies." Kirshner commented that he was forced to create a band that couldn't talk back to him.

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