Every once in a while I’ll see or hear something about someone’s drinking that makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up, a phenomenon interesting to me because while it could easily be mere physiological speculation on my part (i.e. neck hair stimulation it isn’t scientifically quantifiable, and therefore doesn’t mean jack squat), there’s also a deep level of knowing which hovers beyond my control somewhere around the pit of my stomach (i.e. my gut) that I can’t ignore.
Whatever you might think about that, please try to believe me when I tell you that I don’t suffer from some twisted sense of schadenfreude where I hope people are alcoholics or addicts because I’m a little Sober Sally who thinks she knows everything, including what is best and right for everyone else, and enjoys lording her superior self over all she surveys – I don’t. I wouldn’t wish addiction on my worst enemy – and I really, really disdain some people, OK? – much less on someone I either don’t know or do know and actually like.
Every once in a while, though, as an observer with personal recall of certain experiences, I can sometimes discern the handwriting on someone else’s wall, and shiver at what I find there.
Such has been the case with Jimmy Fallon, the newest, most popular host of NBC’s “The Tonight Show”, a fellow I’ve adored since his days on “Saturday Night Live” (you can see some of his “Best of” sketches here if you can hack the stinkin’ T Mobile ads. My apologies). Not only is he warm, accessible, incredibly versatile, and genuinely hysterical, not to mention cute as a button, to me he’s the best reflection of everything I loved about growing up in the 80’s, from the comic sensibilities and musical influences to the explosion of popular culture we were exposed to through such mass mediums as Mtv, from then on through to the internet in the 90’s and beyond.
But as links in this recent EW article attest, he seems to have become somewhat…accident prone in recent months. Accidents that have had explanations attached to them that seem a little, well, I don’t know… kinda sorta like explanations abuse victims give when someone inquires about the visible bruises, cuts, bandages, scratches and/or other injuries on their bodies. “Oh, can you believe it? I tripped over our cat and fell down the stairs” scenarios are certainly plausible enough to buy once or twice, but after a while, when there are no stairs anywhere in this person’s general vicinity and they don’t have a cat, these tales more practically serve as A). reminders of further need for the victim to cover their injuries up much more carefully in the future and 2). cues to the inquirers to shut up and mind their own damned business.
This is especially true when it applies to people who don’t fit our ideas or expectations of what someone with a “real” problem looks or acts like. Someone too smart, talented, and successful, who looks too well and is too much of a family/people person with way too many friends in high places and far too powerful to have these sorts of…issues.
No, those people with the black eyes are easy to spot a mile away, and isn’t it too bad for them? Such a shame they can’t pull themselves together… These people are too likable and way too great for their peers and superiors not to back them 100%, even if the things they say seem a tad misconstrued. And hey, Jimmy hasn’t hidden anything about his little gravitational scrapes. If anything, he’s been most upfront about them and shared them for all the world to see.
So, he tripped over a rug and nearly severed a finger. So, what? You’ve never tripped over anything and ended up in the hospital before?
So, he tripped again at a Harvard Lampoon event and injured his other hand. What do you expect – it’s the fucking Harvard Lampoon!
So – to recap, in a slightly redundant way – he nearly cuts off a finger on one hand, injures the other hand, and then he chips a tooth while trying to open a bottle of pain medication, but you think the guy’s got a drinking problem?! Get outta here…
Even though a large percentage of the internet fancies itself way too perceptive for its own good (and no one else’s), apparently I wasn’t the only one having a Maalox moment over all of this, so NBC executive Bill Greenblatt felt he had to go out of his way to assure everyone that Jimmy doesn’t have a problem, OK? He just likes to party a little, that’s all. He’s fine. (Except saying someone’s “fine” is usually the best indicator of their un-fineness.)
Most interesting to me, and the point of this random rumination, is the fact that the same scenario plays out day after day, year after year because believing somebody who appears to be worthy of all the reasons we like/love/respect/admire them is an alcoholic is just way, way too awful a thing to contemplate. If it was true, not only would it mean they and their lives are screwed up in a way we’ll never understand forever, it would force us to have to think differently of them in a way that simply wouldn’t be right. It would be almost like trying to convince yourself they’re a murderer or something equally horrifying – I mean, you have to be a really, really bad, fucked up, amoral idiot of a person not to be able to handle your shit, or to continue drinking if you can’t handle it. We know this. So how in the hell could you allow yourself believe that about someone like Jimmy? (Or your Mom, Dad, spouse, sibling, kid, friend, beloved co-worker/employee/employer/superstar. Yourself?) No one with a heart or a brain would do that to somebody, would besmirch them in such an egregious way.
So, is Jimmy one of us? I have no idea – before now I didn’t even know he drank much. But even if he isn’t, and truly, I hope not, I’m still left with a simple question: If someone doesn’t have a problem, then beyond all the obvious reasons (he’s NBC’s better-than-Jay Leno, 21st-Century-Johnny Carson, late night gravy train they’ll want to be riding ’til doomsday – oh, and Johnny drank and smoked, y’all!), um…why go to the trouble of publicly announcing it?
Oh, and what’s up with this “Dry January” crap?