Like it or not, this is the Celebrity Gossip Era, and unless our journalistic tastes swing away from meagerly credentialed blowhards opining about pop culture in favor of scholarly treatises about global trade policy, this state of affairs isn't going to change anytime soon.
But if you ask me, our displeasure is unfocused and inaccurate. We claim to be unhappy with the media's obsession with celebrity, but that's not really the case. The core problem is that most of the entries on TMZ or PerezHilton.com or the like are some variation of [famous because she's famous starlet] showing off her newly enhanced chest/"revenge body"/child born to prolong the loving attention of the spotlight, or the latest A-lister caught cheating on his/her spouse or popped for DWI. That's just boring.
Then again, we don't want to go back to the bad old days, when the only time a celebrity made the news was because they'd murdered someone under sordid circumstances or died in a mysterious car crash. That's just depressing.
What we as..."occasional" dabblers in entertainment voyeurism need is someone to serve as a happy medium, a famous figure who straddles the gossip line between soporific celebrity puff pieces and horrific mayhem.
Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Kiefer Sutherland.
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Sure, he's done the DWI thing, and the high-profile break-up thing, but where 24 star Sutherland really excels is getting thoroughly and utterly Boris Yeltsined and causing a ruckus -- like he did in 2005 when he tackled a Christmas tree, or last year when he head-butted fashion designer Jack McCollough, or...last week at Stringfellows in London:
At 2 a.m., the actor was driven to a nearby strip club, Stringfellow's Gentlemen's Club, where a source said "he went bananas, shouting nonsense and dancing."
After photos showed the actor being escorted out by bouncers, the club's owner, Peter Stringfellow, took to the company's blog to further explain what happened.
"Around about 3:15 a.m. [Sutherland] decided it would be very funny to take his shirt off. When it was explained to him very gently that that was the job of the girls and not the customers he burst out laughing," he wrote. "His friend thought that this would be a good time for them to go home."
Stringfellow says the shirtless actor was taken out of the club's back door to avoid paparazzi who had been waiting outside the club.
Stringfellow has downplayed the extent of Sutherland's behavior, insisting he was polite with staff and that photos appearing to show club security putting Sutherland in a headlock were in actuality the result of their attempting to prevent him from falling while putting him in his car. It reminded me of Bill Hicks' commentary on the Rodney King trial.
But by all appearances, Sutherland is the "just right" bowl of porridge we've been looking for: embarrassing enough that most of us can't claim to have done something similar, but harmless enough that nobody (so far) has actually been injured (not counting some strippers' hurt feelings, possibly). He's a breath of old school fresh air in an era of Lindsay Lohan upskirt shots and the umpteenth story about how great Jen is doing without Brad. We should be (rightfully) ashamed for out obsession with this crap, but at least Sutherland gives us a few laughs in the meantime.