07/31/2006 12:58 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Mel's Diner: Fame and Fortune over Easy

"What do you think you're looking at, sugar tits?" is what actor Mel Gibson allegedly said to a female deputy at the Malibu precinct while he was being handcuffed Friday night on charges of Driving Under the Influence. (TMZ news) Mr. Gibson now joins the illustrious company of Nick Nolte, Russell Crowe, Charlie Sheen, and others who have thrown telephones across hotel lobbies, and/or lost it. What do we do to these poor lads to make them take to the sauce. Or, is it simply just something in the water that makes for bellicose actors in Hollywood? Can it be our insatiable expectation of sanity that makes them act out? Or, is the capacity to transgress, and do so with largesse, built into the equation of fame, in the post-modern west, such that a police report is a baptism by fire, and a prerequisite to immortality?

Reportedly, those on hand, at the precinct, this weekend, say that Mr. Gibson engaged in a shmorgassboard of antisemitic slurs, blaming all wars on Jews, as a kind of postmortem to his box office hit "The Passion," as if to corroborate the contention of some that the film was little more than a cinematic hate crime. In his extended rant, and diatribe, it is said, the actor, also claimed to "own Malibu;" clearly, if he ever wants to work in Hollywood again, he'd better insist it was the juice, and not him, talking.

When we expect those who, by their artistry, entertain us to conceal their humanness, hide their psychic cleavage, and not engage in ordinary, garden variety transgressions like the rest of us mere mortals, we must ask ourselves why we expect more from our celebrities than we do from ourselves? Should we send out a search party on Mount Olympus, or merely look in the mirror at our own common frailty.

Is it something in the water, or something in the order of things that draws us back into the gladiator's ring, forcing us to cheer for our own fallibility, and destruction? Moreover, have we not all, at one time or another, said, and done, things we regret when under the influence; is it in the contract to be god-like, or merely to perform?

Really, come to think of it, we're not all that different from those Romans of Petronius' day whose Dionysiac ways earned them a star on their Hollywood walk of fame. If we're in need of a scapegoat, or someone to nail to a cross, what can be more convenient than a celebrity who positions himself on a crucifix, like a fly on a dime, in the police station of among the most affluent communities on earth, no less.

What we can maybe glean from Mel's diatribe is that fame, and fortune, aren't what they're cracked up to be, after all, and that they, too have a short, and irregular, shelf life.