When I was first starting out in journalism, and I was trying to learn to become a better interviewer, I watched Charlie Rose a lot.
He was on late at night (which fit my nocturnal sportswriter hours), and I remember admiring how well he would frame questions to his subjects, how he would draw out revealing answers, and how his interviews always felt more like conversations than interviews.
I remember ordering a VHS copy of his 1999 interview with Dustin Hoffman right after the Columbine school massacre. The show was one of the most sensational things I’ve ever seen (and thank God for YouTube, that interview is right here) and actually watching it and studying it for how Rose elicited such an emotional response from the actor. I followed and watched Rose for years, and greatly admired his skills as a TV personality.
All of this is to say that clearly I looked up to Rose, and now like millions of others I’m horrified to find out what a lecherous, inappropriate man he has been to many, many women over the years. And what I’m wrestling with, and what I’m sure many others are wrestling with, is a question that really has no easy answer: Can we still admire the work of individuals who in “real life” have proven to be so loathsome and disgusting?”
Call it the “Woody Allen” problem: If the person who made the art is despicable, can we still enjoy it? Can’t I still laugh at “Annie Hall” or “The Cosby Show” or a Jeffrey Tambor show like “Transparent” even if I know that a huge part of the show is a terrible person when the cameras are off?
I don’t pretend to know the answer, but for me, it’s yes. The art is different from the person who made it.
Sports fans have dealt with this problem for decades. Baltimore Ravens fans cheered Ray Lewis, who was involved in a double murder, to sack the quarterback. San Francisco Giants fans roared for Barry Bonds, steroid cheat. The list could go on and on.
And I think the same holds for entertainment. “Annie Hall” is no less a work of genius because Woody Allen is a severely flawed, possibly criminal, person. Bill Cosby will hopefully rot in hell, but “The Cosby Show” entertained millions and is still pretty damn funny.
Charlie Rose did horrible things, and damaged women. I hope he pays a huge price for his behavior (and it seems he has, as he’s been fired from both his PBS and CBS shows).
But I am still grateful that I learned to become a better journalist thanks to watching him. And I don’t think any of us who still enjoy the work of these disgraced men need to apologize for it.
***Next up today, you all know how much I worship and adore the amazing singer Pink, who is fierce and fabulous and puts on a hell of a show (we’ve seen her live twice already and are seeing her again next April on her next tour). She was at the American Music Awards on Sunday and sang a beautiful, haunting duet of R.E.M’s classic “Everybody Hurts” with Kelly Clarkson. But her even better performance was of her new song, “Beautiful Trauma,” while hanging off the side of a hotel in Vegas. Watch this, the woman is just incredible.
**Finally today, I don’t have too many traditions on this here little piece of the Internet, but one I’m happy to continue each year is to share the “Cheers” Thanksgiving episode, one of the finest pieces of comedy ever recorded. It makes me laugh every time, and often at a different part: Today I took so much joy out of Ted Danson’s face after he’s shut down Diane’s little speech.
Happy Thanksgiving to all of you out there, and I’m as always grateful you take the time to read Wide World of Stuff.