PRINT December 1995

Andrew Hultkrans


When HUGH GRANT’s mug shots were thrust into the cold light of CNN, we were treated to a “before” photo rarely seen of a movie star. Here was an actor bereft of lighting, styling, and wardrobe, playing against character, without a script. Nevertheless, as promotional stills for the coming attraction, the mug shots were Oscar caliber. Never has an actor so effectively conveyed the inner emotional landscape of a spanked dog.

PR remains an inexact science with its share of cataclysmic disasters. One of these occurred when Fox, the studio of Nine Months, booked Grant on the Tonight Show without considering the possibility of an image-frying, zero-spin-potential sex scandal. Fox executives sat catatonic near their pumping fax machines and contemplated the shellacking ahead.

Grant honored his date with Leno. When he entered the TV studio that day, Grant dragged the unwashed masses of Oprahites with him, turning a carefully monitored PR organ into the Weekly World News. He would have to atone to a nation hopelessly obsessed with sleaze but still Puritan enough to be ashamed of it. That he was foreign seemed appropriate. Who better than an Englishman could personify sexual repression and its attendant perversities?

When he reached the sacrificial slab next to Leno’s desk, there was a pregnant pause. Here he was, a sullen schoolboy in the principal’s office after being caught having intercourse with a stolen tub of mayonnaise. Would he spontaneously erupt, like that crewman in Alien? The possibilities seemed limitless. After the initial question, it was all downhill. We forgave him. He had the gumption to wear the televisual hair shirt, if only until the commercial break.


By decrying violence and sexism in Hollywood films and gangsta rap, BOB DOLE exhumed the tired argument that dates back to the Nazi condemnation of “degenerate art.” Goebbels clandestinely enjoyed the “smut” he banned, but Iron Bob hadn’t even seen or heard the films and records he lambasted. Had he bothered to screen Natural Born Killers, for instance, Dole would have found a typically Stoned diatribe against the media’s exploitation of violence, an agenda surprisingly in tune with his own. Had he actually seen True Lies, a high-body-count Bond rip-off with the first comic nuclear explosion since Dr. Strangelove, he might have enjoyed the Stepinfetchit portrayal of Islamic terrorists and the screamingly sexist middle third.

By torching the most combustible straw man in American culture, the entertainment industry, Dole was able to singe his real opponents in Washington without partisan mudslinging. Even Clinton fell in line, welcoming Dole’s sentiments as he cued up Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours in the Oval Office.

Horrorcore rapper Bushwick Bill (unrelated to President Bill), who has criticized Dole in the press, recently upgraded his name to Dr. Wolfgang Von Bushwickin the Barbarian Mother Funky Stay High Dollar Billster. A similar move might benefit Dole, whose name only connotes canned fruit. Maybe he should be known henceforth as Dr. Roberto Dolemite the Contrarian Pander Junky Big Lie Slave to Pollster.

Andrew Hultkrans is a writer living in San Francisco. He is a frequent contributor to Artforum.