No one wants to watch a plane crash, but if it's happening in front of us, it's hard turning away.
It's the same reason we go to a bullfight, watch auto racing, or attend the circus. On one level, we delight in the show, eat popcorn, and enjoy a day out. Most of us wish the performers well, yet on the off chance something does go terribly wrong, we can lay claim to witnessing history firsthand, and if lucky, we might get a picture, too.
We don't often see people flaming out of control, spinning horrifically toward an imminent crash, yet this is exactly why we are so riveted by Charlie Sheen's embarrassing and torturous descent.
Speculating on Mr. Sheen's sanity, criticizing Mr. Sheen's behavior, or passing judgments on his living arrangements with his two live-in girlfriends -- his "goddesses" -- or whether $2 or $3 million per episode of Two and a Half Men is a fair number for an actor, is irrelevant, much like commenting on the number of rivets in a Roman gladiator's armor, moments before he's brutally eaten by the lion.
Although mentioned briefly by the media, the resignation of Hollywood's über publicist, Stan Rosenfield, from Sheen's camp is a huge deal. Show business public relations professionals can bend the truth to the almost plausible, yet when they step away citing, as did Rosenfield in a statement, "I worked with Charlie Sheen for a long time... however, at this time, I'm unable to work effectively as his publicist and have respectfully resigned," you can be sure bad things are on the horizon.
Although excessive, the Sheen media coverage has been both appropriate and needed. Few times in history has a rich and famous person so manically and frantically argued for his sobriety and sanity, while millions of viewers, with no professional addiction or mental health training, watch intuitively knowing something is terribly misaligned, questioning when the guillotine will fall.
Watching the current Charlie Sheen interviews remind me of what my cousin and famous poker expert, John Vorhaus, says: "Within half an hour of joining a poker game, if you can't figure out who the sucker is, it's you."
Pleading is the overwhelming theme playing out behind closed doors in Mr. Sheen's world. Anyone who loves or cares for Mr. Sheen is certainly pleading with him to stop talking, get help, and come clean from whatever his influence of choice is at this moment. Mr. Sheen's almost $750-an-hour lawyers are pleading with him to stop pushing CBS and Warner Bros. beyond a point of no return, and even some close friends are pleading for Mr. Sheen to just take a breather and calm his so called "tigerblood."
If you listen very carefully to Mr. Sheen you will hear the voice of an anonymous self-help guru, a new-age coach, probably making close to $10,000 a day, providing both the script and the focus for his outrageous comments like, "Can't is the cancer of happening," or "The only thing I'm addicted to right now is winning," or "You can't process me with a normal brain," or "I am on a drug, it's called Charlie Sheen. It's not available because if you try it you will die. Your face will melt off and your children will weep over your exploded body."
Mr. Sheen is being directed externally to stay laser focused in the moment, and to follow instructions exactly as he's being told, resulting in his becoming victorious. The problem is, as all great soldiers know, as explained in the U.S. Marine's handbook, Warfighting, the definition of winning a war is the total imposition of one's will on the opponent, and right now, Mr. Sheen is not clear on either the enemy or the nature of his will.
Christian Dior had no choice but to fire lead designer, John Galliano, after his on-camera anti-Semitic tirade. We knew Tiger Wood's marriage couldn't endure his countless philandering, and Mel Gibson could very well face jail time for domestic abuse against Oksana Grigorieva.
And now, we watch a frantic, frenetic, pale and sweating Charlie Sheen ranting, "Bring me Dr. Clown shoes," from his trapeze high above the center ring with no net, and with our cameras focused, poised, and ready, we just can't bring ourselves to turn away.
Follow Robbie Vorhaus on Twitter: www.twitter.com/vorhaus