WBEZ | Tony Scott http://www.wbez.org/tags/tony-scott Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Celebrity death: Assessing the legacy of Tony Scott, Helen Gurley Brown and Phyllis Diller http://www.wbez.org/blogs/alison-cuddy/2012-08/celebrity-death-assessing-legacy-tony-scott-helen-gurley-brown-and <p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/photo_3.JPG" style="height: 374px; width: 620px;" title="(AP)" /></div><p><strong>The act&nbsp;</strong>The media reaction to the death of the film director and producer Tony Scott has been a bit puzzling. Some of it no doubt is because Scott apparently took his own life. Suicide is literally a tough act to follow - how do you respond to something that&#39;s both heartbreakingly definitive and maddeningly hard to define? It makes sense that family and friends would want to figure out how to contain a final act that really is a never-ending story.</p><p>By contrast the media feeds on an open-ended story. What better way to keep the 24-hour news cycle going (our modern version of eternity)? So <a href="http://www.businessinsider.com/oops-abc-news-3-big-reporting-errors-this-month-2012-8">ABC raced ahead with a possible motive</a>, reporting the director had inoperable brain cancer. Some suggested that&#39;s becoming a bit of a habit for the network. But <a href="https://www.google.com/search?q=cnn+jumps+the+gun+on+supreme+court&amp;sugexp=chrome,mod=1&amp;sourceid=chrome&amp;ie=UTF-8">CNN, Fox</a> and <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/23/business/media/tv-news-corrects-itself-just-not-on-the-air.html?pagewanted=all">NBC</a> have all been there too. And who among us (including yours truly) hasn&#39;t rushed to share the news of a celebrity death on a social media site? We might rue the results but we can certainly understand the impulse to share early, and often.</p><p>So into the abyss of meaning we boldly go, without doubt. It&#39;s where we land that&#39;s weird. Scott&#39;s death has been described as <a href="http://www.cnn.com/2012/08/21/showbiz/tony-scott-probe/index.html">&quot;high-adrenaline&quot; </a>or &quot;dramatic&quot; or one that &quot;suited his dramatic style.&quot; This article suggests<a href="http://movies.yahoo.com/blogs/movie-talk/bridge-tony-scott-leaped-off-used-film-172350088.html"> that the bridge</a> Scott plunged from is significant, because he&#39;d talked about using it in a movie. A <a href="http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/movies/moviesnow/la-et-mn-0821-scott-death-20120821,0,4205494,full.story">Los Angeles Times headline </a>blares &quot;Scott lived like his alpha-male action heroes.&quot; But the obit also belies that claim - what kind of action hero has time to sit down and write thank you notes, or act as a mentor?!&nbsp;</p><p><strong>I like action films - a lot.</strong>&nbsp; They&#39;re not easy to make well, the way Scott did, over and over again. I don&#39;t know much about him. He only did a handful of interviews, like&nbsp;<a href="http://moviecitynews.com/2012/08/dp30-director-tony-scott-unstoppable/">this extended </a>discussion of <em>Unstoppable </em>and <a href="http://www.ariel-leve.com/st_interviews/tonyscott.html">this richly detailed profile.</a>&nbsp;In both he comes across less a man of action and more someone who knew his limits but didn&#39;t deny his strengths. Scott says, citing his more critically lauded brother, Ridley Scott: &quot;Ridley makes films for posterity. I think my films are more rock &#39;n&#39; roll. I experiment more.&quot; Of course his experiments were conducted within the confines of&nbsp;mainstream, commercial media. Can someone so smitten with runaway trains and Val Kilmer really be an auteur?&nbsp;</p><p><strong>Tony Scott, Helen Gurley Brown, Phyllis Diller. </strong>I saw the&nbsp;same hesitant reactions when&nbsp;Helen Gurley Brown and Phyllis Diller died. Sure, each got their share of love.&nbsp;But critics also stumbled over the more troubling parts of their product. Why did Brown, who many claim as a feminist icon, promote content for women that was so &quot;slutty&quot; or trivial? Why&#39;d a comic genius like Diller dress up in fright wigs and party dresses, and traffic in female stereotypes?&nbsp;</p><p>It takes&nbsp;<a href="http://artsbeat.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/08/22/phyllis-diller-and-her-comic-craft/">Joan Rivers</a>&nbsp;to remind us that their successes are also&nbsp;<em>acts</em>,&nbsp;saying of Diller &quot;the only tragedy is that she was the last from an era that insisted a woman had to look funny in order to be funny.&quot;&nbsp;Maybe we&#39;ve gotten so comfortable with celebrities and are so convinced that each of us is just a famous person waiting to happen, that we actually mistake the successful among us for their images. But Tony Scott isn&#39;t really an action figure. And even hip hop star Rick Ross, whose brand is built on just being himself,&nbsp;<a href="http://www.rollingstone.com/music/news/on-the-cover-rick-ross-gangster-of-love-20120815">tried to cover up his past as a corrections officer</a>.&nbsp;</p><p><strong>The price of success, the power of pop</strong>. There&#39;s something about sucess in popular culture that makes us a little nervous. Scott,&nbsp;Brown and Diller made stuff we actually like, and achieved the American dream on a global scale. Does their enormous popularity diminish their merits? Can&#39;t they have both?<strong>&nbsp;</strong>Because that&#39;s the nature of pop culture. Not one or the other, but all of the above: sexist and empowering, low and high brow, Phyllis Diller excelling at mother-in-law jokes <em>and</em>&nbsp;classical piano.&nbsp;One doesn&#39;t necessarily detract from the other, though it takes a bit of genius to figure out how to sell both.&nbsp;</p><p>We can try to airbrush away the contradictions in our celebrity culture and our pop products, but we can&#39;t easily escape them. And why should we? The coroner&#39;s report on Tony Scott&#39;s death is weeks away, and it may or may not answer questions around his death. As for his legacy? Next time you find yourself saying &quot;I feel the need...the need for speed&quot; or <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gSV35A1cQDM">pondering the real nature of a &quot;wingman&quot;</a> remember: a decent, smart and wickedly funny human being had the power to make you do that. And like it or not, ya gotta love it.</p></p> Wed, 22 Aug 2012 12:08:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/alison-cuddy/2012-08/celebrity-death-assessing-legacy-tony-scott-helen-gurley-brown-and