- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 9, 2006

Very old Hollywood joke: Starving beggar with tin cup: “I haven’t eaten for three days.”

Zsa Zsa Gabor: “Dahlink, I wish I had your will power.”

Up-to-the-minute Hollywood joke, from Agence-France Presse:

“U.S. stars align in anti-Iraq war hunger strike.

“Star Hollywood actor-activists including Sean Penn and Susan Sarandon and antiwar campaigners led by bereaved mother Cindy Sheehan plan to launch a hunger strike, demanding the immediate return of U.S. troops from Iraq.

“As Americans get set to fire up barbecues in patriotic celebration of U.S. Independence Day on July Fourth, antiwar protesters planned to savor a last meal outside the White House, before embarking on a ‘Troops Home Fast’ at midnight.

“Penn, Sarandon, novelist Alice Walker and actor Danny Glover will join a ‘rolling’ fast, a relay in which 2,700 activists pledge to refuse food for at least 24 hours, and then hand over to a comrade.”

So Sean Penn is starving himself to death, but just for a day? Brilliant. If Gandhi had been that smart, he would still have a movie career. Willie Nelson and Michael Moore are also participating in the “rolling fast,” which in Mr. Michael’s case will involve going without the roll. Greater love hath no man than to lay down his lunch for his friends.

“We have been continually sheltered from the actual cost of war from the beginning,” says human-rights activist Meredith Dearborn. “Now it is time to bring the pain and suffering of war home. We are putting our bodies on the line for peace.” And nothing brings home the pain and suffering of war like a Hollywood celebrity forgoing the soup du jour. All over the country, horrified Americans will be staring at Susan Sarandon and going, “Darling, you look fabulous. Did you lose 5 pounds?” Already, fans are said to be shocked at discovering Billy Crystal lunching at Spago with a whimpering moaning Meg Ryan: “Aaaaooouuueurrrrggh, no, oh, no, oh, aaaeauugheepheuneugaaaoooo, no, no.”

When Harry Met Sally 2?”

“No, she skipped the second endive.”

At adjoining tables, other celebrities rushed to show their support for the antiwar movement: “I’ll not have what she’s not having.” Winona Ryder is telling waiters, “Hold the haunch of venison.” Keira Knightley is saying, “Hey, I’ll just go with the short stack this morning. And the lo-fat simulated-maple syrup substitute.” Ice T has given up iced tea. Disgusted by the callousness of the Bush war machine, William Powell and Myrna Loy have decided to go without the olive in their fourth martini. Willie Nelson is said to be gaunt and sounding croaky. Michael Moore, hovering dangerously at 300 pounds, has told friends, “You can never be too rich but you can be too thin.” Molly Ringwald’s press agent has announced his client is starving for publicity. Tom Cruise was reported looking physically shrunken, but then put his elevator shoes back on.

Demonstrating yet again his strong personal commitment to political activism, George Clooney has delegated his rolling fast to his stunt double for insurance reasons. Yoko Ono has released a new all-star charity single of “Give Peas a Chance.” In the forthcoming Bond movie, 007 is tossed into a tank of ravenous sharks, but they refuse to eat him and, in a savage indictment of Bush foreign policy, sip their mineral water in a desultory fashion for 20 minutes before calling for the check. America’s greatest living war hero and simultaneous antiwar hero, John Kerry, pledged his own passionate support for the crusade of his celebrity friends: “I ordered the banana cream pie before I sent it back.”

Personally, if celebrities have to “put their bodies on the line for peace,” I would much rather see them bulk up. How about if Cameron Diaz and Gwyneth Paltrow promise to put on 20 pounds for every month President Bush refuses to end his illegal war? Absent that, it’s hard to see what a “rolling fast” does except confirm the vague suspicion one or two Americans may harbor that politically active celebrities are a lot of vain dilettantes unwilling to discombobulate their pampered lifestyles. It’s unclear whether any of these celebrities will be “starving” long enough even to feel hungry. Bobby Sands and the Irish Republican Army hunger strikers of the 1980s were never going to force Margaret Thatcher to back down, but at least they did actually starve themselves to death.

How about if the celebs did that? Wouldn’t that, after all, get right to the heart of the matter? Wouldn’t that bring piercing clarity to the issue by forcing the American people to choose between tedious geopolitical responsibilities and Jennifer Aniston? Imagine if the flailing neocon warmongers had to explain to the American people why we were now down to one Dixie Chick. Mr. Bush would be cowering in the Oval Office while his spinmeisters attempted futile damage control on one horror story after another:

• “Superman” tanked at the box office after audiences recoiled in horror when Brandon Routh’s distended belly fell out of his saggy tights in midflight.

• Shooting was halted today on “Basic Instinct 3” when an emaciated Sharon Stone proved too weak to cross her legs.

• The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences warned that, with 3 out of 5 Best Actor nominees dead of starvation, they may be forced to give the Oscar to Steven Seagal.

• In a first for the music industry, two feuding gangsta rappers died this morning before they could shoot each other. 2Frail 2Fire was felled by a massive heart attack as he attempted to lift his LadySmith 60LS. Ol’ Cadaverous Bastard expired from malnutrition a few seconds later while enjoying a derogatory gloat about the ever bonier butts of 2Frail 2Fire’s hos and bitches … .

• Meanwhile, Brad Pitt said filming would go ahead as planned on “Ocean’s Three.” Er, “Ocean’s Two.” …

The problem for the “activists” is that the entire antiwar movement is undernourished. Indeed, in all their contempt for America as an effete narcissistic ninny too soft and self-absorbed to stand any pain, even al Qaeda couldn’t have come up with as withering a parody of the Great Satan’s decadence as a celebrity pseudo-fast. As the great Shakespearean actor Edmund Kean said on his deathbed: “Dying is easy. Comedy is hard.” Not for Sean Penn and Susan Sarandon.

Mark Steyn is the senior contributing editor for Hollinger Inc. Publications, senior North American columnist for Britain’s Telegraph Group, North American editor for the Spectator, and a nationally syndicated columnist.

© Mark Steyn, 2005

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