Charlie Sheen finds a new enabler: Mark Cuban
The most depressing part of the sordid Charlie Sheen saga is how little we've heard from his supposed friends, who by now should have rounded up an intervention posse to help the out- of-control actor get some help for his addictions. But Sheen, like all too many TV and movie stars, is surrounded by a flock of enablers.
Actually, that starts with the broadcast media, who, despite Sheen's long history of drug abuse and violence toward women, continue to give him every platform available to protest his innocence, as well as the online media, who continue to milk his story for every last hit and page view possible. But of course there are also the weaselly showbiz handlers, as the New York Times pointed out today, who seem happy to keep the Sheen Money Machine humming along as long as it churns out paydays for everyone involved.
People in Hollywood are buzzing over the latest news that CBS has officially dumped Sheen from "Two and a Half Men." But everyone has also has been quietly expressing amazement over the brutally candid quote in the Times from Tom Arnold, who's been a leading force for good in recent years in movieland's recovery community. Arnold said that he recently approached one of Sheen's coterie of support personnel, saying, "This guy is in serious trouble with serious drugs. We've got to help him." He was told to butt out, with the handler saying, "We can make a lot of money from him. I can't be part of [any intervention]."
As if that wasn't bad enough, Dallas Mavericks and Landmark Theatres owner Mark Cuban has now jumped into the fray, telling ESPN that he's been talking with the troubled actor about developing a show for Cuban's HDNet cable network. "I reached out and we've had some conversations, and we're going to work on some things," said Cuban, who added that he's discussed with Sheen the possibility of the actor hosting a talk show or starring in a reality program on HDNet. "It comes down to what he wants to do and what his situation is.... But it's a unique opportunity, I'll say that."
I think the money quote there is "unique opportunity." What Cuban seems to be implying is that with CBS having washed its hands of Sheen, the actor is now an available piece of free-agent talent for HDNet, a network that is in desperate need of the kind of star power that would to put it on the map and attract a bigger viewing audience. The fact that most people would be watching a Sheen reality program or talk show to satisfy their prurient interest -- i.e., will Charlie be incoherent or drugged out or engaging in inappropriate behavior with his goddesses in residence? -- doesn't seem to bother Cuban in the least.
It would be one thing if Cuban had made Sheen a serious offer but said that the star would have to go into rehab and clean up his act first. But Cuban apparently hasn't given Sheen any incentive to change his behavior in return for making some quick money for all concerned, which would be close to the textbook definition of being an enabler.
It's hard to imagine that Cuban would take the same stance if one of his NBA stars was running around on the loose, abusing drugs and attacking women. But that's because the NBA has a strict drug-testing policy and a strong-willed commissioner with the power to punish anyone whose behavior strays beyond the bounds of polite society. Cuban knows this all too well --he's been fined more than $1.6 million for a variety of incidents during his tenure as Mavericks owner, including organizing booing contests directed at rival players and rushing on to the court to berate the referees.
But in show business, as is all too clear from the Sheen soap opera, there is no higher authority. Hollywood is the ultimate free market for situational ethics and morality. If someone is rich and famous enough, they can fly as high as they want before their self-destructive tailspin sends them plummeting to the ground.
Photo: Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban arguing a call during a 2009 game against the New Orleans Hornets. Credit: Derick E. Hingle / US Presswire