Alec Baldwin wrote an essay called "I Give Up" for New York Magazine and it's as spectacular as you would expect.
For those that don't remember, trouble in the actor's relationship with the media and public life started in June after the funeral of the late actor James Gandolfini, when a reporter accused his wife Hilaria of live-tweeting the funeral. Baldwin responded by calling the reporter a "toxic little queen." To make matters worse, in November, following a particularly intense trial of a woman accused and later convicted of stalking Baldwin, he reportedly called a photographer a "cocksucking fag." All of that happened at a time when Baldwin was trying to build a career as a talk show host for MSNBC, a gig he was eventually fired from pretty much because of those two incidents.
Now, after a few months of stoic reflection on the upheaval in his life, Baldwin has something to say, and he's done it through what can only be described as the Finnegans Wake of flouncing.
Baldwin starts out his anti-apology "peace, I'm out!" essay—available in full via Vulture—describing the fallout from what he describes as "being labeled a homophobic bigot by Andrew Sullivan, Anderson Cooper, and others in the Gay Department of Justice." (Oh this is going to be good.) He flew to Hawaii for a film shoot, where he spoke with a gay rights group he "admired."
I met with Nick and others from two LGBT organizations. We talked for a while about the torment of the LGBT life many of them have lived while growing up in traditional Hawaiian families. Macho fathers. Religious mothers. We talked a lot about words and their power, especially in the lives of young people.
One young man, an F-to-M tranny, said, "Are you here to get dry-cleaned, like Brett Ratner?" Meaning I could do some mea culpa, write them a six-figure check, go to a dinner, sob at the table, give a heartfelt speech, beg for forgiveness. I thought to myself: Beg for forgiveness for something I didn't do?
F-TO-M TRANNY? I just don't even have words for this. Let's continue and see if anything scrubs that out of our brains.
I said, "No. I don't want to get dry-cleaned. I don't want to be decontaminated by you, Karen Silkwood–wise, scrubbed down. I want to learn about what is hurtful speech in your community. I want to participate in some programs about that. Or underwrite one. And then, like you, I just want to be left alone."
Baldwin writes of 2013, the year when things clearly took a wrong turn for the actor, that aside from getting married and having a baby "everything else was pretty awful.... And I'm trying to understand what happened, how an altercation on the street, in which I was accused—wrongly—of using a gay slur, could have cascaded like this."
He declares "I haven't changed, but public life has." And then he proceeds to make the same observations about the media that your mom did at Thanksgiving in 2007. ("Everyone has a camera in their pocket;" "You're out there in a world where if you do make a mistake, it echoes in a digital canyon forever.")
Of course, the paparazzi are ruthlessly gross when it comes to how they will harass and hound celebrities to provoke reaction, and Baldwin's description of photographers hounding his wife and their young baby is absolutely horrific. It's yet another reason why everyone should probably get on board with Kristen Bell's call to boycott paparazzi pictures of celebrity children.
First off, 2013 was especially shitty for Baldwin because he had to start the year out working on a play called "Orphans" with a person who is definitely not famous anymore, Shia LaBeouf. Sure, we can empathize here:
I'd heard from other people that he was potentially very difficult to work with, but I always ignore that because people say the same thing about me. When he showed up, he seemed like a lot of young actors today—scattered, as he was coming from making six movies in a row or whatever.
There was friction between us from the beginning. LaBeouf seems to carry with him, to put it mildly, a jailhouse mentality wherever he goes. When he came to rehearsal, he was told it was important to memorize his lines. He took that to heart and learned all his lines in advance, even emailing me videos in which he read aloud his lines from the entire play. To prove he had put in the time. (What else do you do in jail?) I, however, do not learn my lines in advance. So he began to sulk because he felt we were slowing him down. You could tell right away he loves to argue. And one day he attacked me in front of everyone. He said, "You're slowing me down, and you don't know your lines. And if you don't say your lines, I'm just going to keep saying my lines."
We all sat, frozen. I snorted a bit, and, turning to him in front of the whole cast, I asked, "If I don't say my words fast enough, you're going to just say your next line?" I said. "You realize the lines are written in a certain order?" He just glared at me.
OMG this all sounds AMAZING, you guys. We should all do a play with Baldwin and LaBeouf. In fact, every play should just be Baldwin and LaBeouf. Forever. Baldwin elaborates more on how LaBeouf got fired (not by his doing, he asserts), and notes—rather poignantly—"He had that card, that card you get when you make films that make a lot of money that gives you a certain kind of entitlement. I think he was surprised that it didn't work in the theater."
Then in June, all hell broke loose with Baldwin's public image, thanks to a Twitter-tantrum Baldwin had over a Daily Mail article. Here's what he has to say about that time he called a reporter who accused his wife of live-tweeting Gandolfini's funeral a "toxic little queen":
I ended up attacking a reporter who wrote in the Daily Mail online that my wife was tweeting from Jimmy's funeral. He was wrong—in fact, at a later time, she had retweeted items whose original time code matched the time of the funeral. In my rage, however, I called him a "toxic little queen," and, thus, Anderson Cooper, the self-appointed Jack Valenti of gay media culture, suggested I should be "vilified," in his words. I didn't feel bad about the incident.
"At the time, I didn't view 'toxic little queen' as a homophobic statement," writes Baldwin. "I didn't realize how those words could give offense, and I'm sorry for that."
And don't forget, this is all going on during the time he's trying to make a go with MSNBC and his talk show.
So I'm going to go on MSNBC, and people are speculating, "Oh, here he comes! Crazy liberal! And what's he going to do? Is he going to try to give Bill Maher a run for his money? Is he going to try to give Jon Stewart a run for his money?" And I think, Are you out of your fucking mind? Those men are stars of established, highly successful shows. That's never going to happen. My show was meant to be as harmless and inoffensive as could be. There was one theme to the 52 episodes of the WNYC podcast and only one way it worked—the show was about appreciation. I wasn't out to get anybody or make anybody look bad, because I know what that's like.
As with most things that go wrong in life, ultimately, the failure of the show was all Rob Lowe's fault:
The first name they came up with was Rob Lowe. They said, Rob Lowe's going to be in the building. Do you want to interview Rob? I said, "Not particularly." Rob's a famous star of films, TV. He's Rob Lowe. He's famous. But there's no shortage of outlets for him. And they looked at me like, You really don't get it. I think they thought, You should have just said yes, simply to play the game. I should have simply said, "Sure, bring in Rob Lowe."
Goddamn you, Rob Lowe. When will your tyranny be over?
Meanwhile, the gay media is still out to destroy him (????). As far as the gay slur that landed him in all that trouble after the stalking trial, Baldwin swears he never said it and goes on to describe what he says actually went down that day:
What happened is, a TMZ videographer ambushed me as I was putting my family in a car, and I chased him down the block and said, "Cocksucking motherfucker" or whatever (when I have some volatile interaction with these people, I don't pull out a pen and take notes on what I said). I knew that guy. This was a guy who is on a bike usually, and when we get in a car, he follows us. Very aggressive. The same guy who followed my wife on a bicycle, and when she slipped and fell trying to dodge him and hurt her leg, he laughed at her and said, "See what I made you do?" At my wife. How would that make you feel?
Shitty. We'd all feel really shitty. But we wouldn't scream "faggot." Well, Baldwin says neither would he. And he seems mostly outraged by the fact that people actually think he said it:
But—I'm sorry, I can't let go of this—do people really, really believe that, when I shouted at that guy, I called him a "faggot" on-camera? Do you honestly believe I would give someone like TMZ's Harvey Levin, of all people, another club to beat me with?
So you see, who's actually to blame for all of this (oh, it's not Rob Lowe, got it) is TMZ's reigning king of gossip mongering, Harvey Levin:
Then this other thing happens with TMZ and then it becomes a one-two punch. All this is based on the fact of them believing what I said on a video.
Harvey Levin exists in his own universe. He's this kind of cretinous barnacle on the press. Levin told the world that that muffled sound on the video—Levin wanted everyone to know he knows what it is. You don't know, and I don't know, but Levin knows, and he tells the world that it's "faggot."
I get angry, and I've said all sorts of things in anger, but I'd never use that word. Levin has so little regard for the truth, which is odd, knowing he was once a legal correspondent for the CBS affiliate in L.A. He's also the one who revealed the tape that my ex-wife's lawyers provided of me yelling at my daughter seven years ago. Knowing that none of it would have transpired if I hadn't left the message in the first place, I think he hurt my daughter more than anyone.
In the recent video, you see me completely riled up and going after this guy and you hear me saying "cocksucker" and then some bisyllabic word that sounds like "faggot"—but wasn't. Still, it doesn't matter. glaad comes after me and Anderson Cooper comes after me and Andrew Sullivan comes after me, all maintaining that I'm a hateful homophobe. All based on what Harvey Levin told them.
Baldwin was fired by MSNBC following the back-to-back incidents, and now, in case you guys were wondering, he pretty much hates the media:
Now I loathe and despise the media in a way I did not think possible. I used to engage with the media knowing that some of it would be adversarial, but now it's superfluous at best and toxic at its worst. If MSNBC went off the air tomorrow, what difference would it make? If the Huffington Post went out of business tomorrow, what difference would it make? Arianna Huffington accomplished what she wanted to accomplish. She created this wonderful thing. And what have they done with that? They want clicks, I get it. They've gotta have clicks for their advertisers, so they're going to need as much Kim Kardashian and wardrobe malfunctions as possible. The other day, they had a thing on the home page about pimples. Tripe. Liberal and conservative media are now precisely equivalent.
Baldwin asserts he's done talking about himself, too: "[T]his is the last time I'm going to talk about my personal life in an American publication ever again."
It's good-bye to public life in the way that you try to communicate with an audience playfully like we're friends, beyond the work you are actually paid for. Letterman. Saturday Night Live. That kind of thing. I want to go make a movie and be very present for that and give it everything I have, and after we're done, then the rest of the time is mine. I started out as an actor, where you seek to understand yourself using the words of great writers and collaborating with other creative people. Then I slid into show business, where you seek only an audience's approval, whether you deserve it or not. I think I want to go back to being an actor now.
And it wouldn't be a public apology from a celebrity if they didn't drop the obligatory "SORRY IF YOU WERE OFFENDED" apology:
There's a way I could have done things differently. I know that. If I offended anyone along the way, I do apologize. But the solution for me now is: I've lived this for 30 years, I'm done with it.
So that's it, I guess. Or is it? "And, admittedly, this is how I feel in February of 2014," Baldwin writes in conclusion.
I look forward to his next essay six months from now, called "I Got Bored and Missed You Guys!" Or something.
Images via Getty Images