Pat Sajak’s insight into Hollywood

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 31, 2002

Pat Sajak, you know him as the wheel man on TV opposite Vanna White, whose bra varies with the outfits that designers pray she will wear on the show, gave a speech to the students at a small college up in Michigan, my home state. Pat has been doing his thing on TV since 1981, but started his &uot;career&uot; as a disk jockey in Vietnam on Armed Forces Radio. He is a talented, wealthy man who owns a television production company, a music publishing business, a record label, and, surprisingly, serves as guest conductor for many symphony orchestras. A very nice young man who wants people to know he is not a bit like the other celebrities he is forced to hang around with some times. Here are excerpts from my notes about his conversation with the students.

He says he comes from a community that is so big and powerful, so great and well known, it has an exaggerated view of its significance, Hollywood. Not Hollywood the town – studios are now scattered all over the world – but Hollywood the Entertainment Mecca. He doesn’t live there; he lives up in Annapolis where he can live a real life as well as the fake one. In the fake life, you get a distorted view of your importance because people treat you very well, send limos for you, tiptoe around you. They pretend that the most outlandish or inane things you might say are important and quotable. Drugs? Adultery? Alcoholism? Deviant behavior? Don’t worry. You go on Oprah …you cry…people call you heroic for being so open…and your career soars to new heights.

You’re treated importantly, so you must be important. Suddenly your views are not just your own private opinions, they become part of the public record. They quote you on &uot;Entertainment Tonight&uot; and &uot;People&uot; magazine. You can endorse a candidate, fight for a cause, call people names – it’s pretty heady stuff. The world waits breathlessly for your next pronouncement.

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Rosie O’Donnell goes public with her sexual preference and she is lauded as brave. What exactly is brave about that? First of all, who cares? She is an example of the self-importance that Show Business can bestow on you. Take Alec Baldwin, who recently compared the election of George Bush to the terrorist attack. He also said he would leave the country if Bush were elected, but reneged. He also said that Congressman Henry Hide, during the Clinton impeachment hearings, should be shot along with his family. Do remarks like those get you chastised in Hollywood? No, he’s important.

What gets filmmaker Rob Reiner upset? Reiner thinks there is too much smoking in movies and it influences kids to do the same. But it’s OK if his and other movies depict gratuitous violence, casual sex, and disrespect toward Christianity; they don’t influence kids. If you complain about what you see as excesses on the screen, you are a book-burning prude who wants to tell everyone else how to live. It’s the same nonsense that brings celebrities to &uot;Save the Earth&uot; benefits in eight-mile-per-gallon limos. Or allows them to make a public service announcement urging recycling – filmed at their 20,000-square-foot homes. The point is not to make them look silly. They’re perfectly capable of doing that themselves. The larger point is the disconnection between the realities of this nation and its people, and the perceived realities of many in the entertainment business.

These people travel in the same circles, go to the same parties, talk to the same people, compare their ideas with people with the same ideas, and develop a new standard view that is totally different than the views of the real world. They have diversity in their midst because they take pains to hire a representative mix of gender and race. But there is no diversity of thought. And this holds with other &uot;thought controlling&uot; media, such as many TV writers, magazines, etc. How can they write about people fairly when they are out of touch with everyday life? Maybe it explains why religion is rarely depicted as a natural part of life in the average sitcom or drama series, despite the fact that tens of millions of Americans say that it is important to them. The &uot;false reality&uot; is a phenomenon that permeates media circles.

Pat hit the nail on the head. But it doesn’t stop with Hollywood and the liberal print media. Look what’s happening to those in the large corporate circles where a million dollars is chicken feed. They have no clue, after becoming rich, how the majority of people live. They don’t need all the money they have but want more. For some reason they believe they are entitled to steal it, and to hell with those who weren’t in on the deals. They regard the financial victims as stupid people who should have to worry about a decent retirement. And remember when sports figures were role models and heroic? When the worst of top league baseball players is paid $2 million, something is very wrong in America.

Pocklington is a regular columnist for the News-Herald.