Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Tom Hanks makes a bestiality joke with a guy in blackface.

Last year, the actor, producer, director, writer and narrator Tom Hanks, who rose to fame dressing in drag on a situation comedy, refunded the money of a couple he met at a gas station who said his most recent directorial effort, Larry Crowne, "wasn't that good." At the time I chastised Mr. Hanks for giving the refund, and the couple who accepted it, on the grounds that art is subjective and one man's disappointment is another's !BEST!FILM!OF!THE!YEAR!.

But now. Now I want my own refund.

Yesterday, a video surfaced which showed Mr. Hanks and the singer, songwriter, and guitarist Glenn Frey, star of South of Sunset, performing at a fundraising event for the St Matthew's Parish School in Pacific Palisades. At one point during the event, these two entertainment legends were joined on stage by another parent, and hilarity ensued.
The 2004 auction’s routine included a white man in blackface, identified in the footage as investment banker James Montgomery, CEO of the Santa Monica, Calif., firm Montgomery & Co. In addition to blackface makeup and the wig, Montgomery wore a leopard-print toga and an arm band made to look like it consisted of animal teeth.

During a lull in the auction, Frey refers to Montgomery and comments, “See how boring money management and stock investment is, people? It’s not nearly as much fun as, like, professional basketball.”
The final item auctioned in the 2004 fundraiser depicted in the video was a large stuffed “trophy gorilla” that came with what Hanks described as a “dowry”: 5,000 shares of pre-IPO stock in Corus Pharmaceuticals, a company whose limited partners included Montgomery’s family trust.
Oh, wow.


Here is the video:

If you watch it, you'll see Mr. Hanks react to the presence of the blackfaced Mr. Montgomery by saying, "Wait a second. Oh, geez..." Almost as if (benefit of the doubt!) he's trying to figure out what to do in this situation that he finds appalling and offensive. We can't see what's going on his mind, but we can see that he decides to play along. With the guy in blackface. Tom Hanks, one of the most popular actors in the world, plays along with a guy in blackface, cracking a joke about "a celebrity in our midst... Who would have thought Bill O'Reilly would join us?"

I'm not sure what that's supposed to mean, exactly. Bill O'Reilly is a populist bloviator with a nightly program on the Fox News Channel, which is widely derided by liberals as a right-wing organization, so I suppose he's somehow making a joke about the insensitivity of the situation with which he's playing along. But to my knowledge, Mr. O'Reilly has never appeared in blackface, anywhere, which is more than I can say for Mr. Hanks's cohort. Also, I don't think Mr. O'Reilly has ever performed with anyone in blackface, which is more than can be said for Mr. Hanks. Then again, I'm not an expert on Bill O'Reilly; I watched part of an episode of his show once.

But Mr. Hanks is the guy who joked that the stuffed gorilla that the blackfaced Mr. Montgomery carries came with a "dowry." Which implies marriage. Remember: There is a man in blackface holding a stuffed gorilla, and Tom Hanks is making jokes about bestiality.

Ha, ha.

Tom Hanks, Hollywood superstar ladies and gentlemen!

Does Mr. Hanks have any excuse for himself? Yeah, he released a statement about the incident, and it explains everything.
"In 2004, I was blindsided when one of the parents got up on the stage in a costume that was hideously offensive then and is hideously offensive now," Hanks said in a statement to TheWrap. "What is usually a night of food and drink for a good cause was, regrettably, marred by an appalling few moments."
At the time, Mr. Hanks didn't walk off the stage. He couldn't even muster enough outrage to say something like, "You know what? This is not good. Let's not be doing this."

Instead, Mr. Hanks made a bestiality joke.

"Hideously offensive." Those are the words that Mr. Hanks used.

He was so "blindsided" that all he could do was make bestiality jokes, and crack wise about Bill O'Reilly. And all the while, Glenn Frey was shambling around like a feebogzh, making jokes about professional basketball and Idi Amin for crying out loud.

"Hideously offensive."

Okay, so Mr. Hanks didn't know that some jerk was going to get up on stage in blackface. But the bare minimum that Mr. Hanks could do in this situation is not make a bestiality joke. Seriously, is that really too much to ask?

Mr. Hanks has claimed to be concerned about racism. Two years ago, he lamented,
“I’d like to think that as our time has gone by and as Americans have found themselves in 2010, ignorance is being replaced by a certain amount of enlightenment and racism is going to be replaced eventually by an acceptance. It’s just taking an awfully long time.”

You know why it's "taking an awfully long time"? Because when people are presented with actual examples of hideously offensive racism, too many of them think it's okay to just play along. And make bestiality jokes.

Then again, maybe Mr. Hanks was talking about himself when he said "it's just taking an awfully long time."

Compare Mr. Hanks's craven playing along with the guy in blackface with Harry Connick Jr.'s reaction to a blackface act on an Australian television show.

"Hey, hey, there's no more show."

Mr. Hanks is a moral coward. He's a sleaze. He was so "blindsided" by this blatantly racist act going on not two feet away that he actively participated in it. He's had eight years to do or say something about it, and it's not until now, that the video surfaces, that he tells us how "hideously offensive" it was.

Go to hell, Tom Hanks. And, I want my money back for "Saving Private Ryan."

Full disclosure: Although the St Matthew's Parish School apparently has a "Sprague Center" somewhere on its campus, I am in no way affiliated with the organization.


Thrill Fiction said...

I've been offline for a while - well a week.

Sometimes when I talk about you Sprague - be it here on the 'Robot' or at Thrill Fiction or anywhere on the webz - I find myself toning it down 'cos i don't want to sound too effusive.

Fuck that.

Writers are fearless. I don't mean the cash grab charlatans that write about whatever their publishers prod them to. I mean the people who put their names, reputations, careers, and yes sometimes lives on the line to tell the truth. Be it fiction or fact.

You're a writer. It's my privilege.

Ricky Sprague said...

Thanks, AJaye. Very humbled by your words.

What I find most discouraging about this whole Tom Hanks/blackface incident is the way in which so-called "liberals" have downplayed it, made excuses, or even covered it up. Hanks is a famous and powerful person, and Hollywood is a town where everyone is so frightened of taking a stand that they reboot everything and make films based on board games, but still-- Tom Hanks making jokes with a guy in blackface, and there's not more outrage?

Of course, there were plenty of apologists for Roman Polanski as well.

And it keeps getting worse for Hanks. He wasn't "blindsided" at all:

"But additional footage from the 2004 event, obtained exclusively by TheDC, shows Montgomery in full view of Hanks beginning approximately ten minutes before he joined Hanks at the microphone to introduce the auction’s final item: a giant stuffed gorilla holding a “dowry” of 5,000 shares in a pharmaceutical company.

One portion of the video shows Montgomery, in full costume, slow-dancing with an unknown party guest between the dinner and the auction. Another was shot from behind Hanks as he begins the auction. It shows Montgomery, the most visible person standing amid a sea of seated guests, clearly in Hanks’ line of sight."

The only excuse I can think of: Tom Hanks is a wealthy and powerful person in Hollywood, so he gets to play by his own rules.

Thrill Fiction said...

Ever since I watched The Exorcist 3 I've been enamored with George C Scott as an actor until i read somewhere that he was a racist. Guess I'm not the only one.

I have long given up on 'heroes'. Most people I know of are cowards - like the actor Tom Hanks who loves to swim in the public's adoration (yeah I watched those Oscar speeches live). The 1% people aren't talking about are the men and women like you Sprague.

Write Hard.