Sunday, July 02, 2006

A non-Star loses her sparkle time

Star Jones had an interesting run of it. A plus-size woman, she gained fame on ABC's The View early on with her 'catch phrase': "I'm a lawyer" (equally popular -- in her own mind -- was "As a lawyer"). Watching her weight balloon and balloon, watching her co-hosts have to help her onstage (didn't Payless make any sensible shoes?), Star Jones wanted so badly to be America's next diva.

(America's Next Diva? Fox, get right on it! It's your next reality hit!)

But Jones never understood what makes a diva. It takes more than screaming hissy fits (in front of too many audiences). It takes more than being opinated.

Diva like behavior has to be grounded with the audience's understanding that you're genuinely a nice person. The cackle didn't help. Nor when it was utilized. The obvious tension with Debbie Matenopoulos didn't help. The outright hostility to any opinion Lisa Ling voiced only made it worse.

But she might have managed to pull off plus-size diva if December 1999 had never happened.

That's what Star Jones could never live down.

Who loves a diva? A lot of straight women, a lot of gay men. Most of the straight women are comfortable with gay men.

So imagine everyone's shock, having embraced the weight struggles of Star Jones, having laughed as she couldn't keep her hands off male guests (Michael Douglas was all but raped on air by Star Jones), when suddenly Star needs to prove that, hey, she's got deep thoughts too.

She votes God when she squeezes into a voting box. That's what she explained in December of 1999. That's why she can't support same-sex marriage (did she really make the "Adam and Eve and not Adam and Steve" joke?), why she won't support candidates who support it.

It didn't go over well with the studio audience, it didn't go over well with ABC's poor switchboard operators having to address the call ins. It didn't go over well on the show's message boards (which crashed during the show due to being overwhelmed with users).

Star Jones was encouraged to pen a statement that could be snail mailed and e-mailed to all the viewers complaining. (The View never received as much mail, e-mail or calls, up to that point, as they did when Star outed her inner homophobe.)

The laughable statement became the most circulated item in entertainment circles. For those who missed it . . . Not everyone watches The View and not everyone gets the laugh of the week forwarded to them by others in the entertainment industry, C.I. offered to dust it off last weekend but there was no need. On Monday, as rumors began spreading about something happening with People magazine, the 'response' was e-mailed and faxed like it was 1999 all over again. It's dated December 21, 1999, FYI.

Some say to prohibiting same-sex marriages is a violation of the right to privacy. I disagree: In my opinion, who you have a right to love is private, who you have a right to marry is a matter of public policy.

Translation, second-class citizens is all you same-sex peoples deserve in the Tubby World of Star. While the world was expansive in girth, it was small in mind. Translation, hop back into the closests, losers. Jones (and others) worked harder on this response than on her "book" which is why it surprised many to see "Some say to prohibiting same-sex marriages is . . ." as opposed to "Some say prohibiting same-sex marriages is . . ." so early on in the letter. She was a lawyer, right?

I see marriage as a sacred union between a man and a woman that is blessed by God.

The 'response' goes up in full if the rumors (we didn't start them) about her own husband end up being true. (If they're true, he'll be bailing shortly.)

In all honesty, this is not an issue that will make me go out and campaign against it, but if I'm asked my opinion...I'm going to tell the truth.

Some might respond, "Tell the truth about the weight loss." Considering that Jones stated on the air (what prompted the response) was that she votes 'her God' and that she couldn't support those who supported same-sex marriage, that was campaigning against it. (What? She thinks we really believe she could have survived even two houses on a block walk?)

My only goal in this regard is to go to bed every night, wake up every morning and look at myself in the face, knowing that I have not betrayed what I believe in.

Well she certainly has more than enough time now to stare at herself in the mirror. Maybe she'll be able to grasp how freakish she looks to so many?

There was a huge fallout over this. There was a fallout from guests, who didn't take to making cheery talk with the homophobe, and from the audience. There was a huge drop in her positives (which were never all that) because her core, such as it was, was made up of those who bought into the "Diva" myth.

A diva can be a real bitch to her assistants, but she's expected to have love for the world as a whole. She can rip apart room service, but when it comes to the people who are scapegoated, she's supposed to be welcoming. She rolled over and squashed any personal hopes of being a diva then and there.

Over ten years, she struck many viewers as getting nastier and nastier -- which made little sense to them because didn't she now have it all? She'd finally found a husband ("finally found" because she repeatedly and publicly made it her chief goal, year after year). There was a book out with her name on it, right? According to her, she had so much strength and determination that she was able to shed the pounds practically overnight. (Maybe she should have put her name to a book for the body as opposed to the soul?) Why was she still so nasty and unhappy?

And what was her problem with Joy Behar? Viewers couldn't stop wondering that?

They'd seen her dimiss Debbie (while Debbie was still speaking) and figured it was just an annoyance at a young blond. Then came Lisa and she was even more condescending and hostile to Lisa. For all the rumors of Rosie O'Donnell joining the show and the tension that would emerge on the first day, the truth was, there was already tension on the show. (Do you think Bill appreciated all the tantrums she threw? He didn't.)

You can get away with that behavior if you're popular. She wasn't. Beginning in 1999, she lost support and only continued to lose it. (Hold-out viewers, determined to see the best, were shocked to see her gimmie-gimmie attitude when she was to be married. Again, she's talked of nothing but a huband for years and years. Now it was all about the freebies and gifts?)

Mad TV and SNL's parodies of her (written by people who knew how vile she was) didn't help. SNL was seen by more but Mad TV hit harder spoofing her Payless commercials, portraying her as someone who needed food breaks to put on a pair of shoes, someone who couldn't see her own feets, and a slob who threw the remains wherever (leading to the hilarious moment where she finally steps into a shoe and on a sizeable roach inside it).

People thought it was funny. And it, and the tacky commercials they were based on, further hurt her.

Ava and C.I. are no fans of Barbara Walters (as they've established in features here before). They don't care for her. But they were the ones suggesting this feature because, though they don't like Walters, they couldn't believe the way Jones was attempting to Eve Harrington her. (All About Eve, a film starring Bette Davis, is about a backbiting, self-serving Eve trying to steal the spotlight from Davis' Margo Channing.)

They say, Walters didn't just carry her for the last eight months, she carried her for years. Walters was fully aware of how viewers had turned off to Star Jones. She was aware that it was unlikely Jones could or would recover from December 1999. But Walters was committed to keeping the group intact and giving Jones a chance to find her footing. ABC wanted Jones gone long before last year. When her negatives grew so high, only then did Walters agree. It had been six years of negatives at that point and Star Jones was no longer just harming Star Jones, she was now harming the show.

Walters didn't kick her to the curb. She carried her though several months (and Jones knew the end was near months ago). She did that out of a sense of loyalty and fairness. It wasn't a "business decision" (that would have required ejecting her immediately).

Walters' payback for months of kindess (and lots of easy money for Jones who was paid to attract an audience, not repel one)?

Jones initiated her own counter-plan. She'd go out this week. She did a hush-hush interview with People. One that, hush-hush or not, still made the rounds and one that Walters was aware of (but chose to believe Jones was taking the high road in it). Then, to promote the upcoming article and herself, Jones broke from the planned topics to announce on air that she was leaving. No dummy, People immediately published their story online to get credit for their scoop. (They'd planned to publish it in print on Friday.)

Jones didn't arrange the interviews that followed after she'd made her announcement. ABC and Walters began hearing rumblings immediately after the show airing her "I've decided to leave" announcement was off the air. (Jones never learned that the ones who kiss your ass the most are usually the first to rat you out). Within hours, those interviews were confirmed.

The response of Walters to being stabbed in the back by someone she'd given a job to (when no one else was lining up to make the woman a regular on a TV show) was perfectly natural. We honestly wish she'd be a little more vocal. (Ava and C.I. say she won't this year. They say it will come out in bits over the next few years.)

Now the homophobe who didn't burn up the publishing industry, who has no shot at Jenny Craig or Weight Watchers commercials because too many doubt her official story on the weight loss, the woman who had the worst TVQ some at ABC have ever seen, is out on the street. Is it really true that she's offered her services to Fox Friends or whatever that daytime talk show is? Is it really true that she offered one interviewer, off air, that she'd be happy to fill in for him? A bit of advice, take the Court TV offer. No, they aren't meeting her "demands," but it's only the concrete offer currently. She's also rumored to be attempting to interest the publishing industry in "My Side" (her potential tell all).

She's under the impression that she has an audience among viewers (the lack of "We're with you, Star!" response should have corrected that impression) and among the entertainment industry (her shameless self-promotion and back stabbing ensured that was not the case).

We'll close this by correcting some impressions. Rosie O'Donnell is not "replacing" Star. She's been brought in to fill Meredith's spot. Who will "replace" Star?

ABC hoped it would be Patricia Heaton. They signed a generous contract with Heaton and have had to face the fact that there's no sitcom that can be shaped around her limited talents (short of starring her in My Wife, The Shrew). As reality sunk in that nagging isn't what most look to in a lead character, they hoped to save the contract by sliding her over to The View. But she's doesn't test well with women.

As a reader once pointed out, Heaton took to the airwaves to slam Michael Schiavo and repeat lies about Terry Schiavo's health status. That doesn't help her test results. It also doesn't help that women didn't love Raymond as much as men did. Heaton played the male idea of the wife from hell (never wants sex, always battles with your mother openly, nags you, go down the list -- while Ray was Peter Pan and 'loveable').

Star Jones never understood The View audience. Her homphobia would have played well on Pat Robertson's show. It didn't play well on The View where the audience was a little less rabid and a great deal more educated. Some at ABC have realized that putting Heaton on the show is asking women to embrace self-hatred (for her positions and for the character that made her semi-famous) and be back in the Star Jones trap. They're also starting to get concerned about how potential guests would respond to the addition. (Not well. Her remarks to Jay Leno were the kind of self-immolation that helped kill Sean Young's career.) They thought they had a "common sense" type (a la Meredith -- that's how they saw her) and now they're starting to grasp all the baggage Heaton brings with her.

It's an interesting time for The View. Changes will occur this fall. If Star Jones had shown even the basic sense of decency (if not appreciation), it could be an interesting time for Jones too. Instead, most people think it's "sad" -- when they're not busy laughing that she got what she'd long deserved.
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