I’d buy that for a dollar

26Jul07

I’d gladly pay the sum of at least one dollar in exchange for a lap dance from Alaskan songbird Jewel during her ill-conceived, booty-shaking “Intuition” period. I’m on the record with this, because, presented with the prospect of a visit to the Champagne Room with Miss Kilcher (who, after recently having been dropped from her record label, could probably use the money), I shouted, “I’d buy that for a dollar!”
You may remember “I’d buy that for a dollar!” as the catchphrase of Bixby Snyder, the Benny Hill-like star of the fictional show “It’s Not My Problem” in the movie Robocop. If you do, you’re better-read on your Robocop lore than most, as neither the name of the character nor that of the show actually made it into the finished film, and are known mainly from the script. Also dropped from the final version was a news report in which Bixby Snyder was to have been arrested on charges of child molestation.

And this is how I can start off talking about a booty-shaking Jewel and end up on the topic of child molestation. What a bring-down, huh? Sorry about that. Just wanted to start you off with a happy image. Here’s the thing. Seeing the “I’d buy that for a dollar!” guy get publicly busted might have been deliciously satirical, but I’m a little bit uneasier about the public busts of child molesters on the TV show To Catch a Predator.

To Catch a Predator, to bring you up to speed, is a hidden-camera show in which Dateline NBC correspondent Chris Hansen and members of the online watchdog group Perverted Justice use fake chatroom profiles to lure potential child molesters into meetings, only to be confronted by Hansen and then arrested. I’ve always been slightly uneasy about this. On the one hand, I’m certainly not in favour of child molesting (no matter what you may have heard). But on the other, this feels a little like entrapment.

To Catch a Predator‘s recent bust of assistant district attorney and alleged sexual predator Louis “Bill” Conradt Jr. is particularly disconcerting because he committed suicide by gunshot as police attempted to serve him with his arrest warrant. On one hand, that’s one fewer pedophile, right? But on the other, he didn’t exactly get his day in court. There wasn’t due process here. On the off chance that he was somehow innocent, he would still have the stain of a terrible and very public accusation hanging over him for the rest of his life. I’m reminded of one of my former teachers who was accused of molesting a student a few years ago; although he was completely exonerated and the claim shown to be nothing more than a malicious false accusation by some evil little brat, the fact remains that he was, if not convicted in the court of public opinion, at least tainted. To Catch a Predator not only mocks the principle of the accused being innocent until proven guilty, but takes it to a national level. And now Bill Conradt is dead.

One of the reasons this bothers me is that while To Catch a Predator is ostensibly a news show, it obviously derives entertainment value from humiliating the people who appear on it. So did The Jenny Jones Show. In March 1995, Jenny Jones featured Scott Amadure as a guest in an unaired episode in which he revealed his homosexual crush on his friend Jonathan Schmitz. Schmitz laughed it off on camera. Then, three days later, the angered and embarrassed Schmitz murdered Amadure with a shotgun. So, on one level To Catch a Predator is a lot like Jenny Jones: People are humilated for our public amusement, and people end up dead as a result.

But the other reason To Catch a Predator bothers me has to do with another, seemingly unconnected story: the recent beat-down of noted jerk Andy Dick by Jon Lovitz at the Laugh Factory. Lovitz holds Dick personally responsible for the 1998 murder of Phil Hartman, as five months before Brynn Hartman shot him and herself, Dick allegedly gave her cocaine, derailing ten years of sobriety and restarting a drug addiction that directly led to the murder-suicide. Lovitz and Dick had had a couple of run-ins over the years. This one resulted in Lovitz smashing Dick’s face into the bar four or five times, bloodying his nose. This is not the first time Dick’s been connected to a death, either. In March 1999, he and Suddenly Susan actor David Strickland went on a three-day drugs and booze bender; hours later, Strickland, who had a history of bipolar disorder and substance abuse, checked into a Las Vegas hotel room and hanged himself (and the use of Fatboy Slim’s “Praise You” in the subsequent Suddenly Susan tribute episode to Strickland forever ruined the song for me).

Now, no one’s saying Andy Dick personally murdered the Hartmans and David Strickland. But in both cases, he did arguably enable a chain of events that led to death. Similarly, To Catch a Predator isn’t making child molesters go looking for their prey. But they’re helping them do it. It’s possible that some of these guys were just online getting their rocks off chatting with preteens (which is, I grant still pretty unsavory) but wouldn’t have been driven to actually go meet up with any of them if one particularly responsive bit of jailbait hadn’t laid a trap that was too enticing to ignore. Even former Dateline anchor Stone Phillips has admitted that the decoy is often the first one to bring up the topic of sex. Maybe these guys would offend anyway. But maybe they wouldn’t. Maybe Bill Conradt wouldn’t have killed himself if To Catch a Predator hadn’t baited a hook for him.

It seems like I can’t applaud Jon Lovitz for beating up Andy Dick in retribution for his enabling a chain of events that resulted in death and applaud To Catch a Predator‘s attempts to bring child molesters to justice, since they carelessly also sparked a deadly chain of events. Logically, if I support To Catch a Predator, I’ve got to be okay with Andy Dick, and that just doesn’t make sense since his history of exposing himself and groping people against their will makes him something of a sexual predator himself.

But I just can’t support Andy Dick, even if he’d be more than willing to get coked up and give me a lap dance for a dollar. Fuck that guy. He killed Phil Hartman. And I’m holding out for Jewel anyway.



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