Mr. Dockery just turned me on to this insane footage of a Richard Pryor interview done in 1979 on the set of Gene Wilder's Stir Crazy, at the height of Pryor's cocaine abuse.
Watching it, though, I couldn't help but think about how this video demonstrates just how far the media today has gone off into a territory formerly occupied only by tabloid rags like the National Enquirer. If any megastar of today gave a videotaped interview like this, filled with cursing, racial epithets, sexist and homophobic comments, and proud endorsements of drug use, they'd be crucified for life by the media. It would be a "celebrity meltdown", just like the contrived ones the media tries to build up around Britney Spears, Tom Cruise, etc. in their efforts to destroy them.
1979 was a much simpler time, of course. Jimmy Carter was President, the Internet as we know it didn't exist, hardly anyone owned a personal computer except for a handful of TRS-80 geeks (raising my hand), and the extent of the media's intent to ruin people's lives was pretty much found only in isolated incidents like Woodward and Bernstein, and gossip columnists like Rona Barrett (who was mostly ignored except by housewives anyhow). The concept of the "celebrity meltdown" hadn't been invented yet.
Then there was Pee-Wee Herman, who was set up, framed and destroyed by police and media, not once but twice, over total b.s. charges. Because of this, it's considered obvious that he could never, should never, be allowed to have a kid's show again. But back in the day, in that simpler, better time, no one batted an eye at the idea of Pryor hosting his own Saturday morning children's show even after making a name for himself as the black Lenny Bruce, and even after having freebase cocaine explode in his face and going to rehab when rehab wasn't cool.
Yes, those were better times, when a celebrity could say they wanted and do what they wanted, without having a swarm of moralistic media harpies blitzing you. If Pryor still lived today, I think he'd join me in saying this:
"Fuck the 21st century".