Hollywood’s most talked-about performance this year belonged to Mel Gibson. Unfortunately for the Oscar-winning actor-filmmaker, it took place off-screen. Pulled over on the Pacific Coast Highway on July 28 on suspicion of drunk driving, he launched into an antisemitic tirade against the arresting officer. The incident may have turned Gibson, director of “The Passion of the Christ,” into a permanent outcast in Tinseltown. The fallout demanded a special category for four key players.
“F*****g Jews.… The Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world,” Gibson declared after being handcuffed and put inside a police car. He then asked the arresting officer, “Are you a Jew?”
In a neat bit of casting, it turned out that Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Deputy James Mee was indeed a member of the tribe. According to TMZ.com, the gossip Web site that first broke the story of Gibson’s arrest, authorities have investigated whether Mee, a 17-year veteran of the force, was the one who leaked the police report. But most signs suggest that Mee did his fellow Jewish cops proud, keeping his composure that night and during the ensuing media frenzy. “What I had hoped out of this is that he would think twice before he gets behind the wheel of a car and was drinking,” Mee told The Associated Press. “I don’t want to defame him in any way or hurt him.” As for Gibson’s comments about Jews, Mee added, “That stuff is booze talking.”
Hollywood agent Ari Emanuel was less forgiving. Just days after the incident, he set the tone for the film colony arguing on his blog that Gibson should be blackballed. “Now we know the truth. And no amount of publicist-approved contrition can paper it over,” wrote Emanuel, kid brother of Rep. Rahm Emanuel (see above) and inspiration for super-agent Ari Gold on the HBO show “Entourage” (see Jeremy Piven). “People in the entertainment community, whether Jew or gentile, need to demonstrate that they understand how much is at stake in this by professionally shunning Mel Gibson and refusing to work with him, even if it means a sacrifice.”
As it turned out, the publicist approving (or writing, skeptics said) Gibson’s apologies was Alan Nierob, a Jewish son of Holocaust survivors. Nierob — who has represented the likes of Jennifer Lopez and Denzel Washington at top PR firm Rogers & Cowan — first guided Gibson through the furor over “The Passion.” Now he’s again been Gibson’s conduit to the world, issuing contrite statements and speaking to the press as the filmmaker headed to rehab.
The final word belonged to comedian Dennis Leary, who launched into an on-air anti-Mel tirade while appearing as a guest commentator at an August 15 Boston Red Sox game. His muse: Kevin Youkilis, Boston’s Jewish first baseman. Leary cracked the jokes — “You happy Braveheart, huh? You see that grab, Mel? I hope in rehab they’re showing replays of that” — but Youkilis, 27, supplied the setup and inspiration with three great plays in a row, each sending Leary into a greater frenzy. In the end, Youkilis’s performance was the perfect answer to the Gibsons of the world, doing more than any press release or angry blog post to boost Jewish pride.