Last night, two of the more remarkable broadcast interviews I’ve watched in a long time aired almost back-to-back on major news outlets.
One was Piers Morgan’s interview with Charlie Sheen on CNN. The other was Alicia Jacobs’ sit-down with Vince Neil on KSNV Channel 3, Las Vegas’ NBC affiliate.
All you need to know about Sheen’s session with Morgan is, a little more than 15 minutes in, Morgan asked him, “Are you under the influence of any substances right now?”
Hmmm. It’s hard to know if Morgan planned in advance to ask that question, or it came to him after observing the science project sitting across the desk, a man with a loose spine and dancing eyes who wore to the live interview a John Lennon-styled New York City T-shirt and opened-necked dress shirt. (Catch the interview clips on the CNN Web site).
Whichever, it made for this energetic response from the always-entertaining Sheen: “I’m under the influence of … you! Of you!”
Sheen is a great comic actor, and Morgan seemed alternately saddened and bemused at the act the now-former star of “Two and A Half Men” cut loose during the hourlong session. But where Sheen traipsed into absurdity was attacking 12-step programs, saying he’d been held “hostage” by Alcoholics Anonymous, and that the people who seek help in such forums. “You gotta sit in a room and be all lame. I’m a winner, and they look like losers. … They hate their lives and want mine.”
Talk about sitting on a steaming pile of denial. Let’s just say it this way: Alcoholics Anonymous, as an organization, doesn’t give two spits about what (or even, if) Charlie Sheen thinks about anything. He’s an entertainer, flush with fame and free of guilt. He offers that the cancellation of one of the most popular shows on network TV is the fault of CBS officials, and he is gallantly fighting to salvage the salaries that his cast and crew are owed for an eight-show schedule. That his own actions created this catastrophe seems lost on him.
Nope, instead, Sheen claims to have the blood of a tiger and the DNA of Adonis, which is probably why he’s such a great circus act. But all he knows about recovery is he has, thus far, failed spectacularly in his attempts to stay clean and sober. Morgan asked how many days he’d strung together; Sheen refused to answer, proudly saying he didn’t adhere to the counting of days that members of 12-step programs find sort of, you know, important. When Morgan asked when the last time Sheen took cocaine, the actor responded, “I didn’t take it -- I had to pay for it.”
Good luck to the poor bastard, honestly, because he doesn’t look at all like a guy who is finished yet. Not by a long shot.
The Jacobs-Neil interview, the first of two parts (the second airs today at 4 p.m. and again at 11) was remarkable for the roles played by the two subjects. Jacobs disclosed at the top that she is Neil’s girlfriend, so you couldn’t help but stay with the subdued conversation as she questioned her romantic partner about what it was like to spend 10 days in jail for a DUI charge stemming from his arrest in June after a party at the Las Vegas Hilton.
Neil is a neat freak, so he volunteered for cell block cleanup duties, which helped lead to his early release (the original sentence was 15 days, followed by another 15 days of house arrest). Jacobs told Neil that many journalists wanted to do this interview, but she pushed for it herself, accepting all the complications. Neil smiled slightly and said, “Of course you were going to do it. I’d rather have you do it than anyone else.”
Neil was thus given safe haven to talk about the details of his incarceration. What I found most interesting was his description of arriving at Clark County Detention Center and being photographed by officers-turned-paparazzi before he was booked. Some rock star life, eh?
Tonight, Jacobs promises to talk of the incident in 1984, when Neil was charged with felony DUI in an accident in Redondo Beach, Calif., that killed Hanoi Rocks drummer Razzle Dingley and injured two others.
After watching the first installment, I expect Neil to take responsibility for his own actions, a concept that Sheen, who also lives that rock star life -- “On a Mercury rocket to the moon!” as he says -- can’t quite grasp.