Friday, June 17, 2011

The Bulbous, Botoxed Antichrist

I was reading the news on the latest developments on the Anthony Weiner situation -- his resignation from Congress in the wake of his fundamental misreading of Twitter's purpose and basic functionality -- and my blood began to boil. Not because Weiner resigned (although I'm not quite sure how it came to this so fast -- and that his own party was even quicker to denounce him than the moral scolds across the aisle -- considering he didn't break any laws or do anything worse than tasteless), but because I saw a familiar face in the day's roundup of related stories. I beheld the face of evil, my friends. I beheld the awful visage of Gloria Allred.

What do Anthony Weiner, O.J. Simpson, Scott Peterson, Tiger Woods, and Britney have in common? (Other than having generated media circuses whose coverage quickly outgrew the public’s actual interest.) Self-described "celebrity lawyer" Gloria Allred found a way to attach herself to each of their cases, get her name in the newspaper, and get her face on CNN. She can smell publicity like a dog can smell a meatball: even buried under five pounds of trash, she’s going to find a way to get at it.

"Celebrity lawyer": does that mean she’s a lawyer who primarily counsels celebrities? Or that she’s a lawyer who happens also to be a celebrity? She’s neither. Her clients are only tangentially related to the figures that make high-profile cases high-profile, and she is not a celebrity herself (although I don’t doubt that Dancing With The Stars or Celebrity Rehab would welcome her with open arms).

What's so awful about being a publicity whore? Nothing, in and of itself. If we got rid of all the publicity whores, there would be no one left in New York or Los Angeles, and that would be sad. (Although, rents would go down, and that would be good.)

As with so many other things, it's not just what Allred does as the way she does it, and her involvement in the Weiner saga is a perfect example of that. It seems she is now representing a former adult film actress named Ginger Lee who claims that Weiner sent her a number of lewd messages, and then asked her to lie about it. I don't doubt Lee's story, given all the other things Weiner's admitted to here. But: what does she need a lawyer for? Weiner didn't do anything illegal. It's not illegal to take a picture of your schvantz, it's not illegal to make suggestive remarks, and it's not illegal to ask someone to lie. For that matter, it's not illegal to lie, if you're not under oath in court. I suppose lying to an investigator could be prosecuted as obstruction of justice, but Weiner didn't ask her to lie to an investigator because there are no investigators because he didn't do anything illegal and no one's saying he did! So, again: She's in no danger of being dragged into court, so what does Ginger Lee need a lawyer for?

She doesn't. The lawyer needs her. The lawyer needs her so she can attach herself to yet another high-profile incident (can't call it a case, because there is no case). Lee used to be in adult films and is currently just an "exotic dancer" -- which is a little like quitting drinking by restricting yourself to beer -- and doesn't appear to be a MENSA candidate (I would argue that her professional fate was sealed the moment her birth certificate was filled out with "Ginger Lee"). Allred found her, signed her up, and called the publicist, probably not in that order, and the young lady probably still doesn't know what's going on.

This is just the latest in a long line of peripheral figures in high-profile cases (and non-cases) that Allred has attached herself to, a long line that includes Scott Peterson's mistress Amber Frey; the Brown family in the O.J. Simpson case; Britney Spears' bodyguard in her child-custody battle with Kevin Federline; and not one but two of Tiger Woods' mistresses. She also represented a woman suing Dodi Fayed because he broke up with her and started seeing Princess Diana. Celebrity and deep pockets are the common thread. (Mostly celebrity.) I’m amazed she didn’t insinuate herself into the JonBenet Ramsey case. Surely there was a housekeeper or a babysitter with no knowledge of the crime that Allred could have clamped onto. No? Nobody bats 1,000, I guess.

Here's what's gross about it: Lawyers aren't free. None of these people is about to come into a big payday; they’re merely witnesses. Allred is probably making these people take out second mortgages so they can afford a "celebrity lawyer" who they know will have them booked on Larry King by sundown. But where does it get them in the end? Nowhere, fast. I think Allred client Rachel Uchitel parlayed her association with Tiger Woods into an appearance on Celebrity Rehab (despite having no apparent addiction to anything but lip gloss), but other than that, what are these people getting for their retainer that they couldn't have gotten from a lesser-known, non-publicity-whore lawyer? Probably 2,500 billable hours that Allred spent in a make-up chair or on the phone with her publicist.

So Allred is taking advantage of people's eagerness to get famous without doing anything. That's pretty shady. But does it really make her evil? I would argue that it does, but a look over some of her lesser-known cases -- her B-sides, her album cuts, as it were -- reveals an even yuckier strain of attention-seeking litigiousness.

She represented an eleven-year-old girl in suing the Boy Scouts of America for excluding girls, calling the practice "Gender Apartheid." The continued existence of the Girl Scouts of America -- would seem to be a ready rebuttal to that, but I'd also point out that eleven-year-olds are just starting to get interested in the opposite sex, and sending them out camping together would likely undermine the pursuit of teamwork, forestry, birdwatching, knot tying, etc. It's a stupid notion on its face.

She represented the plaintiff in a case against the Sav-On drugstore chain for having a Boys section and a Girls section for toys. You know: Dolls and play kitchens in one section, trucks and action figures in the other. Unless Sav-On was also employing a bouncer to work each section, I don't see any merit to this idea either. And who exactly would Sav-On be paying if found liable? Could that person prove pain and suffering? That is some testimony I would love to hear.

She represented a young lady who sued the TSA in 2008 because she claimed to have been humiliated when asked to take off her nipple rings on her way through airport security. If this young lady lived in the United States, post-9/11, and didn’t know she would have to surrender all her metal going through airport security, the only thing she’s humiliated by is being a total idiot. (Exhibit A: She hired Gloria Allred.)

But here’s my favorite case she involved herself with: a guy who attended a baseball game in San Francisco complained that Atlanta Braves pitching coach Roger McDowell had responded to heckling by calling the hecklers a gay slur, asking if they were conducting a gay sex act in the stands, and then pantomiming said act with the aid of a baseball bat. Allred appeared at a press conference with the person complaining, and in the course of arguing that the pantomime was wildly inappropriate at a baseball game with kids in attendance, she herself imitated the pantomime with some kids in attendance. Was the complainant suing anyone? No. Was he engaged in any kind of formal legal dispute? No he was not. All Gloria Allred heard was “Major League  Baseball,” knew that that means lights and cameras (if not necessarily action – sorry baseball fans) and was probably on her way to that press conference before the phone hit the cradle.

Ms. Allred probably started out with her heart in the right place. Her early (publicized) efforts, though wildly misguided in my view, were an effort to affect some kind of gender equality, or something. But once she got a look at the bright lights, she never turned back, and has become the worst kind of ambulance-chaser: the kind that doesn’t get out of her BMW 7-series unless there will be a minimum of five news cameras waiting for her. She is the personification of everything that’s going wrong in this culture. She purports to be fighting for the little guy against all these big, bad celebrities, but she’s really only got one client: herself.

The face of evil will not try to knock you down when you’ve reached a height, when you’re feeling strong; it will try to scoop you up from your lowest depth, when you’re feeling weak. It will exploit that weakness, and try to make its evil sound like good. It will position itself as your ally when it is your enemy. It will listen patiently to your woes, and after a feigned moment’s thought, it will say, "I have Nancy Grace on speed-dial." It is the duty of all good men, and all good women, to look in the face of evil, and after a genuine moment’s thought, tell it to go fuck itself.

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