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Charlie Sheen: Broke, bigoted or just begging for help?

by Danielle Berrin

March 1, 2011 | 2:53 pm

You know it’s a sad day when you start feeling bad for an alleged anti-Semite. I’m talking about Charlie Sheen. I think he might need a hug.

Why?

Well, for one, the man might be broke. HollywoodJew has learned from longtime friends of Sheen’s that the troubled star has had a gambling addiction since his teens. They believe he has little money left – or none at all. And as anyone who’s ever had any debt can attest (full disclosure: my first credit card with a $1,000 limit was a bad idea for a college gal with no job), owing money can drive you mad.

In other words, Charlie Sheen needs to keep working—and the powers that be at CBS know that.

“Two and Half Men” is not only one of the most successful TV shows in the United States, it is one of the top-rated shows around the world. According to the Nielsen ratings [http://www.nielsen.com/us/en/insights/top10s/television.html], “Two and Half Men” ranked the 6th most popular show in the nation last week (Feb. 14), drawing approximately 14.5 million viewers. (TV by the Numbers has slightly different figures, which further boost its popularity.)

For Sheen, who currently makes about $2 million per episode, the stakes are very high. But his alleged financial desperation is not the only reason to keep “Men” on the air. The studio and the network that produce the show also have a lot at stake. According to The New York Times’ Bill Carter, Sheen’s latest antics “may leave CBS and Warner Brothers with a quarter-billion-dollar headache.”

Last week, when the news of Sheen’s verbal assault on producer Chuck Lorre first broke, Carter wrote:

Based on what the program was expected to take in from syndication sales of future episodes, Warner Brothers could fall short by about $100 million in revenue if the show never tapes another episode. And CBS, which charged about $200,000 for each 30-second commercial, may have to make up close to $160 million — the amount it could have made during the next season.

That kind of money usually leads to compromises in Hollywood, even in the most distasteful of circumstances.

“Distasteful” may be code for “anti-Semitic.” Why is it that you can abuse women, terrorize hotels, openly do drugs, get busted and all is forgiven until you utter a little anti-Semitic slur? Then comes the punishment. 

As I argued in a video blog last week, it’s a sure sign of Hollywood ‘crazy’ when people start going after Jews because it’s such a Jewish environment. Playing the anti-Semite card is like pushing the red button that detonates the entire ship, or in movie terms, the eject button in the James Bond car.

Charlie Sheen’s fate will be decided by Sumner Redstone, Les Moonves and Chuck Lorre—three strongly identified Jews.  So how could it not be an act of suicide to take the anti-Semitic route?

To add insult to injury, Sheen’s longtime publicist Stan Rosenfield, who also calls George Clooney and Robert DeNiro clients, resigned yesterday from representing him. Was this because of the perceived anti-Semitic slur? Because Sheen couldn’t pay him? Or because Rosenfield was beginning to look like the least effective PR rep in the world?

But even though Hollywood is a town full of Jews, it’s also filled with people who don’t like them. Writing for The Washington Post’s On Faith column, Rabbi David Wolpe argued that Hollywood doesn’t protest anti-Semitism enough:

Why was Mel Gibson successful despite ugly, vicious anti-Semitic diatribes and suddenly anathematized when he was recorded speaking abusively to Oksana Grigorieva? For those of you still mulling, here is the answer: sexism is officially verboten. Anti-Semitism is tolerated.

On this point, I’m going to have strongly disagree. Mel Gibson’s career never recovered after his Jew-hating diatribe. And the whole mishigas with Oksana Grigorieva only solidified that Gibson is certifiable. It proved, once and for all, he wasn’t ruined by a Jewish power cabal but because he became a sad caricature of himself.

Wolpe, does however, make an important and valid point about Hollywood’s not-always-so-principled past. As an industry, from the Hollywood Blacklist to its some time treatment of minorities, Hollywood is not incorruptible.

“Everyone knows that Hollywood has an unsavory side; ‘Day of the Locust’ and ‘See Sammy Run’ have long since entered our national literature,” Wolpe wrote. “There is a combustible fuel of hatred, racism, sexism and anti-Semitism, from which this liberal, politically correct community likes to think itself exempt.

“It is not.”

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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Danielle Berrin writes the Hollywood Jew blog, a cutting edge, values-based take on the entertainment industry for jewishjournal.com. A Los Angeles Times profile dubbed her...

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