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Laura Kessel is managing editor of The News-Herald in Willoughby. She writes a weekly column and shares her thoughts here.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Losing sympathy after Sheen’s media blitz

It’s a small moment near the end of a movie that defined a generation.

“Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” taught teenagers the value of sitting back and taking a look at life, because if you don’t, you might miss something.

If you picked the wrong time to go to the bathroom during the movie, you might have missed Charlie Sheen.

Seated on a couch in the police station where Bueller’s sister, Jeanie, is taken, he quickly finds her faults.

“You wear too much eye makeup.”

The conversation quickly turns to Jeanie’s brother, Ferris, who has ditched school. He’s a senior who wants to take advantage of a beautiful day. He fakes an illness, convinces his parents to let him stay home and somehow manages to gain the town’s sympathy, which sparks a community drive to “save Ferris.”

It makes you wonder what would have happened if Twitter was around in the 1980s.

But, Sheen’s character, officially named “Boy in Police Station,” tries to point out the folly in Jean’s desire to expose Ferris’ shenanigans.

Boy, as I’ll refer to him, asks her why she cares so much about what her brother does. She said it’s not fair that he gets to ditch school when everyone else is forced to attend.

“You ought to spend a little more time dealing with yourself and a little less time worrying about what your brother does,” Boy says. “That’s just an opinion.”

Oh, Boy — and Charlie Sheen — you said a mouthful there.

(Check out the scene at

Twenty-five years later, those words come back to mind as we sit back and take a look at what’s become of Sheen’s life.

His most recent performances — rambling televised interviews — don’t look much different than that movie scene. Deep black circles under his eyes, significant weight loss and a voice that crackles from smoking and his other admitted abuses, Sheen shows the signs of a life in crisis.

At least in the “Bueller” scene, you get the sense he’s in control. Sure, he’s at the police station after an arrest for drugs, but he manages to dispense sage advice to a contemporary.

Sheen’s advice these days is to leave him and what he describes as his massive brain alone.

“My brain ... fires in a way that is — I don’t know — maybe not from this particular terrestrial realm,” he told ABC News.

Uhhhh, OK.

For those who don’t know, Sheen’s on the attack because, after a series of arrests and hospitalizations that those in his inner circle have described as drug related, CBS has pulled the plug on the actor’s long-running sitcom “Two and a Half Men.”

News of the break that the network blamed on Sheen’s erratic behavior sent the actor into a rage, and he has appeared in televised interviews that have left viewers and mental health experts questioning how long Sheen will survive on his current path.

I look at Sheen in a number of ways now. I’m no longer a fan. If he survives what he’s doing to himself and comes out the other side clean and as talented as he was in his stronger days, I might be one again. But right now, he’s on his own. He doesn’t want me worrying about him anyway.

But, Charlie, that’s too bad, because, as a fellow human being, I am concerned.

I worry that you’ll kill yourself with rampant drug use or other actions brought on by your belief that you’re somehow superhuman. None of that, Sheen says.

“Don’t be worried. Celebrate this movement,” he said Monday on NBC. “And I love and I’m so grateful that you have supported me and the show for so long. I will not let you down. Trust me.”
Not on your life.

The beauty of “Two and a Half Men” was that it got away with so much. Sheen and co-stars Jon Cryer, Angus T. Jones and Conchata Ferrell let the one-liners fly and landed verbal punches that made viewers wonder how they escaped censors.

But, now that Sheen’s life has so clearly disintegrated, it won’t be possible to watch the show in syndication without focusing solely on whether you can see the signs of his deterioration.

I can hear me now: “Are those circles under his eyes?” “Look how skinny he is!” “Boy, did he age in the past year.”

It’s sad that Sheen, in his clearly diminished state, focuses only on what CBS did to try to force him into medical care.

“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.”

It’s too bad he’s not concerned about those he let down — co-stars, the show’s crew, his network. Sure, he’s celebrated the news from the network that they’ll be paid for the last episodes that won’t be completed.

But he contributed nothing to bring about the solution. He merely added more heat to a pot already about to boil over.

Talk of lawsuits and demands for raises to fulfill the contract in place for his portrayal of Charlie, his character on the show, have left the series in limbo and himself a laughingstock.

“I am on a drug. It’s called Charlie Sheen. It’s not available, because if you try it once, you will die and your children will weep over your exploded body,” he told ABC.

Perhaps it’s time for Sheen to take a Boy’s advice and just relax.

He ought to spend a little more time dealing with himself and a little less time worrying about what (CBS) does.

But, that’s just an opinion.


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