Linday Lohan, the former title-holder, and the new champion, Michael West
Back in 2007, I awarded Lindsay Lohan the championship for most brazen and manifestly ridiculous excuse ever. She had just been arrested for driving intoxicated and possession of cocaine, which had been found in the pocket of her jeans; Lindsay’s profession of innocence was that 1) she wasn’t driving her own car and 2) the pants belonged to somebody else. I noted at the time that she hadn’t yet claimed that the body she was in at the time wasn’t hers, but absent that, the “these aren’t my pants (TAMP)” excuse might well stand for all time.
In retrospect, that was rash. For one thing, many celebrities then as now already employed the Pazuzu Excuse, just a hair less ridiculous than TAMP, in which an offensive and career jeopardizing utterance is explained by the utterer as being inexplicable, that for some presumably supernatural reason—like being possessed by the demon who used Linda Blair as his ventriloquist dummy in “The Exorcist”—the individual has said something he or she not only didn’t believe, but never had even thought. The most recent purveyor of the Pazuzu Excuse noted here was Kobe Bryant; other infamous possessed have included Mel Gibson, Helen Thomas, and Michael Richards. That’s uncomfortably close to “it wasn’t my body.” A few months ago, Newt Gingrich attributed his serial adultery and his habit of dumping his beloved wives when they got sick to his extreme patriotism; still short of TAMP, but getting close. Then, just this week, a strong contender nearly grabbed the title from Lindsay when the chicken-hearted drunk who piloted the Costa Concordia cruise ship onto the rocks claimed left the capsizing vessel before his passengers because the he “fell into a life boat.” Uh-oh. Clearly, Lindsay’s title was teetering.
And quickly it fell. The Smoking Gun reports that in Wisconsin on Sunday, police responded to a domestic abuse call to find Mrs. Michael West bleeding from her face and saying that her husband Michael beat and tried to strangle her. Confronted by the officers, Mr. West explained that he was innocent.
A ghost did it.
Well, Lindsay’s one remaining accomplishment since “Mean Girls” is history. The new champion for “All-Time Most Outrageous Excuse” is Michael West.
This time, I’m not making any predictions. It’s crazy out there.
Epilogue: As I re-read my Ethics Scoreboard post from 2007 about Lindsay Lohan’s ridiculous episode, I found myself becoming depressed. In 2007 she was just 21 years old and looked it; she had a career, she was obviously talented, and despite the arrest, had plenty of time to turn things around and get what had once looked like a charmed life back on track. She never did. In the intervening years leading up to 2012, she has had multiple stays in rehab and two stints in jail. She had to stand trial for grand theft, and is still on probation. This month she is featured posing nude in Playboy, usually the last ditch recovery vehicle for fading actresses who are too unstable or unpopular to get on “Dancing With the Stars,” have too much pride to sign on to “Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew, and are not fat enough for “Celebrity Boot Camp.” As she sheds her dignity in Hugh Hefner’s anachronistic soft-porn glossy, looking far older than her years, Lohan’s over-shadowed cast-mates from “Mean Girls,” Amanda Seyfried, Rachel McAdam and Tina Fey, have all become respected, bankable and still rising stars. Her supposed teen rival from years ago, Hillary Duff, has a singing and acting career, a husband and a baby on the way. Lohan is still only 26; many people have sunk far lower than she has with fewer assets to draw on and pulled their lives out of tailspins to be happy, successful, and productive. I hope she can too. Right now, however, her life is a cautionary tale about how a badly-parented young woman who was never taught responsibility, accountability, respect for authority or self-control can find life unmanageable despite possessing all the gifts that American society foolishly admires more—youth, beauty, riches, talent and fame.
And it makes me sad.