Is British Prime Minister Gordon Brown ready for his Hollywood close-up?
After spending years hanging around rude, foul-mouthed, self-absorbed and volcanic tempered showbiz drama queens, I'd always assumed that Hollywood was the capital of supremely bad behavior. But according to this hilarious post from New York Times London correspondent Sarah Lyall, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown might just be as volatile as any of Hollywood's bad boys.
According to a new book devoted to detailing Brown's erratic behavior, the PM is portrayed as "paranoid, bullying, chaotic and exhausted. It says he is prone to making profanity-laced tirades, shoving his employees, stabbing the upholstery of his limousine with a pen, smashing office equipment and using unsecured objects as projectiles."
In other words, he sounds like a supremely gifted Scott Rudin impersonator. It's gotten so bad that when Brown denied being a lout, telling Channel 4 news that "any allegations that have been made about hitting people are completely untrue," a charity named the National Bullying Hotline felt compelled to disclose that it had recently had "several inquiries" from Brown's own staff members.
In Hollywood, bullies and rage-aholics are given a wide berth, especially as long as their movies make money, although the excesses of the worst offenders, like Rudin and Joel Silver, are often the fodder for snarky Internet chatter. (See this post for a penetrating look at Rudin's cellphone throwing habits.) But unlike these Hollywood bad boys, Brown has to run for reelection, so his staff is frantically trying to scrub up his image and make him seem like a softer sort of guy. Unfortunately, one of his first efforts ended in disaster, when in the course of doing a question and answer session with an influential website for U.K. mothers, Brown refused to reveal the identity of his favorite cookie.
So what should Brown do to improve his image? He could take the Harvey Weinstein approach and blame his temper tantrums on eating too many M&Ms (though presumably that would mean that Brown would have to finally give up the goods on his cookie-eating habits). I phoned up veteran Hollywood PR maven Howard Bragman, who recently wrote an entire book about PR strategies called "Where's My Fifteen Minutes?" According to Bragman, Brown should first go on an apology tour, making amends for his behavior.
"But you also have to let people know you're in on the joke," he told me. "Maybe Brown could go on the British equivalent of 'Saturday Night Live' and let himself be the butt of a few jokes. At the very least, he should hire Bruce Vilanch and have Bruce write him some good material. If you make people laugh it's hard for them to stay mad at you." Bragman also recommended that Brown put his anger in context, telling potential voters that "I only get mad when something important goes wrong. I'm trying to save the country's economy, so I only get upset because I'm trying to improve our lives."
If things don't work out, Brown can always find work in show business. As Bragman put it: "Maybe he's the right guy in the wrong job. He should come out to Hollywood, where that kind of bad behavior has a long and noble history. He'd fit in just fine."
Photo of Gordon Brown by John Giles / Associated Press.