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Jewish World Review Feb. 21, 2001 / 28 Shevat, 5761

Paul Campos

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Consumer Reports

There is a certain irony in all the foaming at the mouth Bubba's latest Excellent Adventure -- LOS ANGELES | Some years ago, as I leaned against a rail at the Del Mar racetrack, the railbird at my side informed me in a reverential whisper than no less an eminence than Douglas Fairbanks Jr. was sitting in the grandstand directly behind us. Sure enough, the great man himself was scanning the track with binoculars, waiting for the same race upon which we had both placed a bet.

My $10 was riding on a 13-1 shot with the unforgettable name of Hailthefoxybabe. Moments later, after she had come home the winner (a triumph which, sadly, would mark the high point of my horseplaying career), I looked back again and saw that Doug, too, would also be cashing a winning ticket.

At that moment, I felt myself become one with the spirit of that special bubble of social space that goes by the name of "Hollywood." Doug and I now shared a special connection -- a relationship, one might even say -- and as a consequence I felt a tiny bit of the magic that surrounds a Really Big Star rub off on me.

Hollywood, of course, is not so much a place as a state of mind. Wherever the stars are, there Hollywood goes as well. For example, recently Hollywood traveled to the quaint Scottish village that Madonna deemed sufficiently picturesque to serve as the backdrop for yet another plighting of her troth.

And Hollywood has just now invaded whatever lucky town has won the right to host Brad and Julia's latest project -- their first together, as the nonstop celebrity public relations office which passes for local news here breathlessly reports.

And Hollywood is very much to be found in whatever neighborhood Bill has chosen for the continuation of his own celluloid saga, whether in Harlem or midtown Manhattan or Washington, D.C. By pardoning Marc Rich, Bill has managed to keep playing his favorite game, which might be called "Let's All Act as if I'm the Most Important Person in the World."

This game is, needless to say, the one true passion of the Really Big Star, and one that proves very hard to give up once a player gets used to indulging in its pleasures. For the narcissistic borderline personality, nothing is worse than ceasing to be the center of attention. Such a person would much rather be infamous than anonymous, since he considers negative attention to be infinitely preferable to being ignored.

Given this, there is a certain irony in all the foaming at the mouth Bill's latest excellent adventure has occasioned. Many establishment Democrats have joined the usual suspects in expressing their outrage and indignation at Bill, now that Bill is no longer in a position to help or harm them.

All this outrage continues to play right into Bill's hands. What Bill wants is for us to care about him -- no, to be obsessed with him -- to the point of literal distraction. So what if he ends up being indicted by a U.S. attorney he himself appointed? He'll never go to jail: Like many a charming sociopath, he's too clever to ever really get caught.

As for legal bills, they are certainly an annoyance, but Bill still has a very long list of fans who long to have just a tiny bit of his magic rub off on them, and who are willing to pay $100,000 (Bill's current speaking fee) for that privilege.

Like Fitzgerald's Gatsby, Bill is a classic American figure: a young man from the middle of nowhere, born without wealth or connections, who by a combination of sheer determination and enormous personal charm remakes himself (Gatsby, too, was determined to become an "Oxford man") into someone both entirely new and deeply fascinating.

And if that's not a story Hollywood will always love, I don't know what is.

Paul Campos is a professor of law at the University of Colorado. Comment by clicking here.


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02/08/01: War on drugs worse than drugs
01/31/01: Racial imbalance not always racist

© 2001, Paul Campos