News Article

Rush Limbaugh vs. Lindsay Lohan

Stephen King on the radio host and the imprisoned starlet

I sort of dig on Glenn Beck. He reminds me of certain people you encounter in big cities. You know, the ones wearing robes, sandals, and signs proclaiming that the world is going to end because American men are eating too much red meat and American women are wearing their pants too tight. He's crazy, but — like those urban nutcakes — he actually seems to believe what he's saying. I can get behind that.

Rush Limbaugh, on the other hand, gives me the creeps. He sounds saner than Beck (well...marginally), but there's absolutely no conviction in that sonorous, slightly flabby voice. There's a hollowness there, and a patronizing undertone when he interacts with his callers (who are dubbed Dittoheads for a reason). He says what his listeners want to hear, but when it comes to actual convictions, I'm always reminded of what Gertrude Stein said about her hometown of Oakland: ''There isn't any there there.'' So when my radio, set to scan, one day blipped across El Rushbo speaking in tones of actual rather than feigned outrage, I hastened back to that particular frequency to listen in.

Turns out that Rush was PO'd about Lindsay Lohan. Totally went off on her. Ms. Lohan was getting too darn much coverage. Rush just couldn't understand why people were talking about her instead of the Gulf oil spill, and how Barack Obama caused the spill by donning a wet suit, swimming a few miles down, and planting a plastic-explosive satchel charge at the wellhead (he didn't actually say that, only sorta implied it). I thought, ''That's crazy. These two should be BFFs.'' Rush, after all, got himself in a spot of trouble on charges of doctor shopping back in 2006. Lindsay got in trouble for missing alcohol-education classes in the wake of a DUI conviction. They both made the news, and both were ordered into treatment. Only Lindsay had to go to jail, but still, shouldn't they have a lot to talk about?

Apparently not. Rush seems to feel that coverage of Ms. Lohan's case indicates a failure of the press to cover important stuff and an unhealthy fixation on trivial entertainment stories. The truth, I think, is less sinister and more upbeat: Most people care, because most people know someone with the problems Ms. Lohan is trying to cope with. Rush, with his well-demonstrated Dr. Strangelove bunker mentality, may not believe it, but most people want only the best for this troubled young woman. They understand that she is young: only 24. When Rush admitted his pain-med problems, he was 52. Old enough to know better, some would say.

Rush Limbaugh isn't the only media talking head who makes a business of throwing stones from the patio of a glass house. Most cable-news gabbers condemn celebrity gossip, but can't wait to pass on the latest bit of political rotten meat: who's cheating on his wife, who's been arrested for trying to score sex in an airport bathroom, on and on ad nauseam.

But I really believe that the majority of ordinary people — i.e., the ones without talk shows — are pulling for Lindsay Lohan, just as they did for Robert Downey Jr. No one wants to read another Heath Ledger/River Phoenix/John Belushi story. Or about Rush Limbaugh OD'ing, for that matter. Some of us may not like the guy's opinions (or trust his sincerity), but very few of us want to see him hauled out of a hotel room on a stretcher, covered by a sheet.

There's a perception that people buy the Enquirer or go to TMZ on the Web because they want to see the rich humbled (or jailed), the famous humiliated (or jailed), the beautiful turned fat and ugly by excess (or jailed). It's crap. The cynics may believe ordinary folks are spiteful and envious, but that's probably because they are judging others by themselves.

Rush, you need to revisit the Lindsay Lohan affair. Now that you're clean, maybe you even ought to reach out to her and give her the benefit of your own experience. We're all in this little boat of life together, and none of us are getting out of it alive. Is Lindsay Lohan's substance problem as serious as the spill in the Gulf? No. Is she a bit of a twit? Yes, but so was I at 24. So were most of us, probably including you.

Do yourself a favor, big guy. Man up and pass on what you've learned. Maybe you and Ms. Lohan can be BFFs after all.

Originally posted Aug 02, 2010 Published in issue #1114 Aug 06, 2010 Order article reprints
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