Okay, a question was asked over at the Van Halen Links forum about the latest issue of Guitar World magazine’s interview with Eddie Van Halen. The guy wanted to know why they didn’t ask about a bunch of non-guitar stuff, which is a fair question, but then others piled on demanding that “Hard Hitting “questions be asked of the legendary guitarist. Questions about his *alleged** drinking, why he had fired Michael Anthony and a bunch of other stuff. I have to ask why Eddie should have to answer these questions. They’re only going to piss off the haters anyway and the answers won’t make much sense to anybody but Eddie. The actual interview focused on the creation of his infamous red & white striped guitar , nicknamed “Frankenstein”, which Eddie had constructed himself back in 1976. It’s a good article and any guitar playing Van Halen fan will get a kick out of it. It’s understandable that since Eddie has been out of the spotlight for a few years that fans will have questions, but Eddie is usually a pretty open guy and he will get around to filling in the blanks.
But it got me thinking about something that has pissed me off for a while now.
What the hell is anybody doing asking a 50-something Eddie Van Halen, or any other celebrity for that matter, hard-hitting questions? What possible good will it do if you knew what Eddie’s been doing IN HIS PRIVATE LIFE? Some magazine writer is supposed to nail Eddie to the wall for feeling sad because his Mother died? Because he had cancer? Because he divorced Valerie Bertinelli? WHY? How do the answers to any of those questions move the human race forward? How does knowing the depths of Eddie’s suffering enhance his music? A decent person wouldn’t ask those questions because morally they’re obscene. Yet in most major celebrity rags this kind of crap is now standard. Worse, some celebrities indulge the media with their legion of personal flaws. Some celebrities have become celebrities purely because of their personal life (Anna Nicole Smith is at the top of the list) and the media and a frightening number of people go along with it. Worse, they expect other celebrities to degrade themselves too. So when an old-school guy like Eddie Van Halen doesn’t view his divorce or his mother’s death as a reason to call up VH-1 and arrange to film a reality TV show around his suffering; a disappointingly large number of Van Halen “fans” have turned the simple guitarist into a cross between Joe Stalin and Gene Simmons. It is a sign of our society’s declining civility that these angry fans are unaware just how immoral and inhuman they are.
I give points to Eddie Van Halen and his brother Alex for having the good sense and self respect to keep their personal issues out of the public domain. It means that their late mother raised them well.
My other problem is that while Matt Lauer is grilling Tom Cruise about a subject that neither one know enough about to write a freshman 1st quarter paper, no journalist are asking hard questions in interviews with important people. The people who run our banks, hospitals, health insurance, highways, schools, and the Pentagon seem to get a pass except when a situation develops. Nobody questioned the accuracy of US intelligence on Iraqi WMDs. If they had asked, oh say back in 1998, when President Clinton bombed Iraq for failure to comply with UN resolutions and deal a serious blow to Saddam’s ability to produce, store and threaten his neighbors with WMDs, what is the intelligence for these raids? You might have found out that the Intel came from satellites and Iraqi ex-patriots with questionable backgrounds and motives. We might also have found out that the United States had only ONE CIA agent inside of Iraq during the 1990s and that Iraq had been relegated to the back-burner in the US intel world, leaving thousands of Gulf War documents untranslated and literally rotting away at a Virginia CIA storage facility. Nobody asked in 1998, nobody asked in 2003. To be fair, the Iraqi Army thought that they had WMDs in 2003 too, but we might have gotten a better picture of how fucked up our intelligence agencies were (and are). We might have even headed off 9/11. Who knows?
Why is it that nobody asked hard hitting questions from the Dotcom industry before the Tech-Bubble burst? Why was Bethany McLean the only financial journalist to look at Enron’s numbers and then ask “What the fuck?” just like many of the same financial journalists failed to notice the whole S&L scandal thingie of the 1980s? The news media has been patting itself on the back since Watergate, so they’re out looking for the next big story instead of doing their jobs and reporting on the little ones. Watergate started as a little story about a break-in at the Democratic Party headquarters, today’s Washington D.C. press corps and beat reporters would never have caught on to Nixon and his crew because they … well… suck. They confuse buzz and common wisdom with facts, so they screw up almost every story that comes out of Washington. The war in Iraq cannot be won, they tell us, even though it is being won right now. You know things are bad when the National Enquirer can do a better job covering a news story than NBC or CNN can.
So, while sad little men are demanding answers from Eddie Van Halen that are nobody’s beeswax , nobody’s watching the store in Washington D.C, your state’s capitol, your city hall or your bank.