Whether we observed a celebrity meltdown at the recent Republican Convention is anyone's guess but it could very well have been strong evidence of a late-in-life crisis for Clint Eastwood.
Eastwood, whose conversation with a chair occupied by an imaginary President Obama has attracted more than 2,180,000 viewers to a YouTube site, has now explained how the chair came to be. In an exclusive interview with the Carmel (Calif.) Pine Cone (not to be confused with the Hoboken (N.J.) Pine Cone), East wood insists the chair routine was entirely ad-libbed without any prior thought. Whatever it was, it drew 28.2 million TV viewers in its 10-11 p.m. live time on the night of dubious distinction. Fox News on Cable grabbed 9.1 million of the total, more than double that of its combined competition.
These have to be very trying days for the Hollywood icon. In addition to the pressures of directing, producing and acting in films, there is Eastwood's presumably current peripheral involvement in his wife's TV reality series. The show, "Mrs. Eastwood and Company," is decidedly hers; on the other hand, it's not easy to avoid the inevitable wifely requests for help in all those creative matters about which he knows so much. Just to confuse things further, there are the production people whose earlier triumph--"Keeping an Eye on the Kardashians"--may be a preview as they bring to life "Mrs. Eastwood."
Perhaps reference to the show's "life" is a bit excessive. As things now stand, "Mrs. Eastwood" is more on the comatose side having had but one show out of 10 exposed on the E! Channel. That exclamation mark in the channel's title is meant to call attention tosuch fare as: "True Hollywood Story" with the acid-tongued Joan Rivers; "Married to Jonas," about newly-weds living in (where else?) New Jersey; and "Keeping an Eye on the Kardashians" whose reality looks at Kim, Khloe, Kourtney and Kris simply must make us happier about ourselves. Oh, yes. Part of the original understanding of the deal was that "Mrs. Eastwood" was to be proceeded in its Sunday night time slot by the Kardashians whose average audience is 2.2 million not counting the 10 million who couldn't stay away from the wedding show whose nuptials lasted 72 days.
Poor Clint. Any even slight confrontation with the Kardashian people must be something like confronting that monumental musician Andre Previn (a master of jazz and classical) with the worst of rap.
So, you ask, how did "Mrs. Eastwood" come to be? The many ways to be counted began in Capetown, South Africa, where husband Clint and a cast including Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon had gone to film "Invicta." Along for the ride, Dina Eastwood stumbled upon Overtone, a six-member acappella band whose voices wound up on the film's sound track. Hey, whatayado on a rainy night in Capetown? Why, you sign the kids to a contract and become their manager. Before you could say "Kardashians," or "Osbournes" or "Hogan Knows Best" or "Rori and Dean," you've talked yourself (and others) into (da-da) a reality show.
Dina Ruiz and Eastwood met when she was a news anchor at KSBW where she interviewed the actor in 1993. They married in 1996; from the union came daughter Morgan who will be 16 in December. The Eastwood at-home-for-a-reality-show-clan also includes Francesca, 19, a daughter whose mother is actress Frances Fisher.
Eastwood was pretty cool about the whole thing and even agreed to do three cameos never admitting his awareness of how such roles can be so good that they refuse to go away eventually becoming major members of the cast. At his very essence, Eastwood remains first and foremost an actor/director aware of the importance of such characters as Scrooge McDuck in Disney films. Donald's uncle, Scrooge McDuck , has been around in fim since 1967 while his first use in prnt (Four Colors Comics) goes back to 1950. Film insiders believe Eastwood took his eye off the ball while not paying attention to enough of the minuses of "Mrs. Eastwood."
With the show on hold, some rather odd things have happened to members of the cast. On July 18, professional photographer Tyler Shields did something stupid while probably attempting to bring attention to the moribund series. Shields, Francesca's real-life boyfriend and 12 years her senior, decided to take a chain saw to a Hermes Birkin bag whose value was claimed to be $100,000. The crocodile skin version of the bag was first burned in the names of art and attention-getting. Hollywood publicity is heavy on photos these days; it's enough to give the paparazzi an even worse name.
Let's call it a sort of flak twofer for Shields who has a Mouthful exhibit in support of "Love is Louder" in Los Angeles. Looking at pictures of youthful celebrities is similar to seeing still pictures of filmdom's Our Gang with Shields displaying all the maturity of Carl Switzer who played Alfalfa. Shields has it all with the exception of Switzer's conspicuous cowlick.
Pictured with the thoroughly trashed bag--now bolted to a table in Shields' basement--is Francesca Eastwood whose contribution is playing tug-of-war with the purse in her mouth. Perhaps that's the connection to the Mouthful exhibit. Earlier hype for the exhibit involved sawing a pair of Christian Louboudin shoes whose value was not announced. Live features of the exhibit are giant rabbits and pandas who wander around between games of chess.
August 28 found Overtone singer Valentine (Tino) Ponsonby flipping a white Escalade into four feet of water on Pebble Beach's 17-mile drive not far from where much of the "Mrs. Eastwood" show has been shot. Ponsonby was booked on suspicion of DUI.
Reality-wise, the pilot show appears to include a high point of the series with the piercing of a belly button. It is Morgan whose navel is decidedly at risk until Mrs. Eastwood comes to the rescue by offering her belly button to a body artist thereby proving how great a mother's love can be. The once-played show was reviewed by Linda Stasi in the New York Post. Her conclusion: "Mrs. Eastwood " is "one really horrible reality show."
"Mrs. Eastwood," obviously in trouble, is going to require some strong story lines to pull this clunker out of what we once called the muck and mire. Sidebars, always willing to help fill the Hollywood maw, will spitball in William Goldman fashion and there might be a reality gem among the following:
Sondra Locke, who lived with Eastwood 14 years, is now a director and wants to do a documentary about "Mrs. Eastwood." This plot outline sets up a number of confrontations between Dina and Locke--particularly when she learns Locke has rented the home next door to stay on top of the subject at hand. The show's conclusion is climaxed by the appearance of the actor/director who enters one of the home's many green rooms and startles both women. The screen goes to black.
Let's also consider working Sarah Palin into the series. Maybe Palin and daughter Bristol run into Tino Ponsonby at a skate park. Bristol goes nuts over the Overtone member although Palin is uneasy never having met anyone from South Africa. Tino and the other Overtone members live at the Eastwood home where Mrs. Eastwood runs a household that employes five Yupik Eskimos, a remarkable coincidence in that Bristol is 1/16th Yupik. Titled "Dialectical Variations," the show's verbal concentration is on the Chaplinski variety of Central Siberian Yupik in which heavy syllables remain heavy. Key to speaking effective Chaplinski is the ability to walk funny while carrying a cane.
The concentration on Central Siberia gives Palin an opportunity to display her vast knowledge of Russia, the nation that continues to fly planes near Wasila, Alaska where the former governor of the state continues to reside while increasing her knowledge of all things Russian with time out for appearances on the "O'Reilly Factor."
Other plot lines come to mind. Tyler Shields teaches Clint Eastwood how to take pictures; Eastwood, plugging his latest film, "The Trouble with the Curve," launches an attempt to get disgraced former major leaguer Pete Rose accepted into the Hall of Fame; and Dick Cheney gives hunting lessons to an ex-cop who looks very much like Dirty Harry. The look on Cheney's face doubtless will make Clint Eastwood's day.
Of course, we may be building toward something that could be at the core of Eastwood's talking to unoccupied chairs. Once upon a time in TVland, there was a Public Television series. Titled "An American Family," it was about the Loud Family of Santa Barbara whose unscripted disintegration was the first reality show.
Five gets you seven Eastwood will be one happy guy as long as "Mrs. Eastwood" stays on the E! Channel's shelf.
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