We've Got Hollywood Covered

Six Ways to Fix Mel Gibson

The trick to effective redemption is to work with the hand you’re dealt

Lindsay Lohan, Shannon Price, LeBron James, Melissa Etheridge, Jeremy London, Al Gore and the entire tabloid media industry should be thanking God right now for Mel Gibson.

On Friday, Gibson was dumped by his talent agency, less than a week after the death of his agent of more than 30 years.  The he said/she said allegations of domestic abuse, child endangerment and extortion being lobbed by Gibson and his ex-mistress are now headed to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office. Transcripts and, more recently, audio from confrontations between the couple have revealed new Gibsonisms that put “Sugar Tits” to shame.

The PR advice usually doled out to salvage a career gone astray – like a surprise appearance at the MTV Awards – won’t work this time around. That’s because Gibson has proven himself to be in real life a fairly unrepentant racist, homophobe, anti-Semite and misogynist with nuclear-level anger issues.

Between the comments made during his 2006 drunk-driving meltdown and these new ones, he’s alienated much of the Hollywood entertainment industry as well as the majority of moviegoers. So the standard formula of choreographed public contrition that we’ve all come to demand of stars who’ve taken a tumble would have all the effectiveness of pouring Elmer’s Glue into Deepwater Horizon. Because we just don’t believe him anymore.

Reversing such personality issues falls far beyond the capabilities of the cleverest flack. The trick to effective redemption is to work with the hand you’re dealt. So as a public service to Gibson, we offer the following advice:

Go away. Maybe not for good, but at least for a few good years. And that doesn’t mean retreating to your Malibu estate, since Mel sightings and the consequent paparazzi flareups will inevitably happen at the Country Mart or a friendly PCH bar.

Move back to Australia (it was, after all, first settled as a penal colony). Or Canada (they’re genetically much nicer than we are).  Stay below the radar. Raise sheep.

Don’t date.  At the risk of betraying the sisterhood, I gotta admit that when I first laid eyes on your most recent paramour, I immediately thought, “Trouble ahead.”  After nearly 30 years of marriage, you weren’t exactly prepared for modern-day relationships and especially the ambitious young women whose career goals are to land rich middle-aged Hollywood celebrities.

So start thinking with your head rather than those other body parts. In fact, for the foreseeable future, stay away from all women except maybe those in that Texas polygamist cult who dress like extras from “Little House on the Prairie.”

Smile. I know how you feel about us Jews, but it’s worth learning our perfect Yiddish word for the miserable face you inevitably put on whenever you’re confronted by almost anyone in public: ungabluzum. You’re an actor; you should be able to fake pleasant in the most uncomfortable of situations. Have lots of gently self-deprecating lines memorized for the predictable questions and comments you’ll get. And if you’re standing in line at Starbucks when someone accosts you, buy him a venti latte. I guarantee that’ll make it into TMZ, too.

Be brilliantly charitable. The one thing people probably don’t know about you is the depth of your philanthropy. With no fanfare, you’ve donated millions of dollars to the most diverse charities – many with beneficiaries who are in the same ethnic groups you’ve slammed. You’ve quietly done one-on-one support for a number of other talent with nasty substance abuse problems, such as Courtney Love and Robert Downey Jr.

Now’s the time to make some amazing out-of-the-box transformative commitment: in the Gulf, in Haiti, for children or those desperately needing healthcare. And you’ll do it not for some staged contrition process or self-aggrandizement, but to show you’ve got a heart and it’s in the right place.

Wrest control of your media relations. Now. You’re a director; go direct your life. Your baby mamma’s been out making provocative comments and hinting at even worse further allegations, her camp clearly is leaking transcripts and audio and, in the paparazzis’ line of sight, she’s pouted her way to her Century City lawyers. In response? Your rep issued a squishy statement about your innocence being ultimately proven.

It’s way past time to issue a straightforward statement that’s in your name and in your tone.  No need to over-explain or over-promise. And then decline all media requests, including the seemingly friendliest ones. Not even Jay Leno or Barbara Walters can help you say anything that’ll sway the public. 

And if all else fails, join the Tea Party. Perhaps not literally. But for almost your entire career, you've divided yourself between the intensely secular, primarily liberal mainstream entertainment industry and a smaller, more private community that reflected your highly traditional religious and social beliefs. Over the past decade, particularly with some of your films, you've had difficulty juggling these two disparate worlds.

I suggest it’s time to give one up.

A number of creative talent have left the mainstream industry to find success in evangelical entertainment or to become stars in activist movements. Probably more than at any other time in our recent history, there are groups that would accept – or even embrace – your opinions of African Americans, Latinos, Jews and nontraditional women.

Of course, it would mean giving up the huge studio paychecks, the world-class fame and the Hollywood clout. But it’s pretty fair to assume that with the leaks of these new audiotapes adding to our long, sad acquaintance of Mel Gibson, you've pretty much lost them already.

Flackback will explore the art and artifice of entertainment PR.  The author has 25 years' corporate experience and has finessed everything from a celebrity's drunken surprise marriage to his best friend's 16-year-old daughter to a 20-minute advance warning that her company's president was being fired. And she sees little difference between these scenarios.  She's chosen candor over a byline.