Hollywood: Charlie Sheen, working-class hero
Now, with several states engulfed in labor strife, such a leader has arisen to stand for the working man.
Tired of not being sufficiently coddled, the star of CBS' "Two and a Half Men" fought back this week. Like the abused coal miners and longshoremen and Teamsters of years past, he just wasn't gonna take it anymore.
Now, true, as a leader, Sheen is cut more in the mold of, say, Libya's Moammar Kadafi. Witness the letter he wrote attacking the executive producer of "Two and a Half Men": (His reference to "Haim Levine" is an apparent slur against Chuck Lorre, who was born Charles Michael Levine.)
"What does this say about Haim Levine after he tried to use his words to judge and attempt to degrade me? I gracefully ignored this folly for 177 shows. I fire back once and this contaminated little maggot can't handle my power and can't handle the truth. I wish him nothing but pain in his silly travels especially if they wind up in my octagon. Clearly I have defeated this earthworm with my words -- imagine what I would have done with my fire-breathing fists. I urge all my beautiful and loyal fans who embraced this show for almost a decade to walk with me side-by-side as we march up the steps of justice to right this unconscionable wrong."
But tell me you don't hear an echo of the pugnacious Jimmy Hoffa in that? Which is not to suggest that Sheen should end up like Hoffa, buried in an end zone somewhere. (Also, don't forget that Sheen may be suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome, brought on by his role in the Vietnam War movie "Platoon.")
And, yes, Sheen's tirade did get his show canceled, which cost about 200 staffers their jobs. But hey, you can't make a revolutionary labor omelet without breaking some eggs.
Besides, it's not like Sheen isn't sacrificing: The star is giving up an estimated $2 million an episode. That's likely to put a severe crimp in his Moet & Chandon plus porn starlet lifestyle.
And I would say that this is more of a lockout than a strike, as Sheen told ABC's "Good Morning America" on Friday that he plans to show up for work.
Admittedly, it's a little odd for someone to come to work when they're not supposed to -- after they've gotten in trouble for not coming to work when they were supposed to.
But hey, in Sheen's octagon, that's pretty normal.
My hope is that Sheen will take his fire-breathing fists to Wisconsin. There, maybe he can defeat another earthworm, er, governor, Scott Walker, who -– by cutting taxes to create a budget crisis so he could bust the unions -– proved that he lives in his own octagon.
-- Paul Whitefield
Photo: Charlie Sheen in Los Angeles. Credit: Chris Pizzello / Associated Press