Don't mix work with pleasure - a lesson for Billy Bob Thornton and Co

Billy Bob Thornton wants to be considered a serious musician. But isn’t there a feeling that the Hollywood actor and most celebrities generally should not mix work with pleasure rather than going on a re-invention crusade?

 

Some might say stick to your day job. Others might say just do not open your mouth and allow yourself to look a fool. But it would not be the ridiculous world of celebrity and foolish entertainment “goofballs” who thrive on littering the world with their insignificant lives without people like Billy Bob Thornton.


Thornton, a 53 year old Hollywood Oscar-winning actor was criticised this week for comments on Canada’s CBC radio show, Q, where presenter Jian Ghomeshi referred to Thornton as an ‘Oscar-winning actor’ rather than as a serious musician. Thornton, perhaps rightly, then proceeded to react with disdain at the remark for Ghomeshi’s failure to recognise his Beatles, Elvis Presley or Kings Of Leon-like musical success (I am joking by the way).

 

The Armageddon, Intolerable Cruelty and Sling Blade star performs for the group The Boxmasters, a country/western rock group of modest success from Bellflower, California. Whilst at least Thornton’s background appears musical – he played in cover bands of groups including ZZ Top – his musical ‘ability’ does not seem to have been digested by even his own fans.


After his CBC debacle, Thornton’s Boxmasters – of which he provides vocals and drums – proceeded to be booed by Canadian fans at the group’s latest tour with country singer Willie Nelson at Toronto’s Massey Hall.

 

No surprise then that Thornton received jeers after he had reportedly labelled Canadians “mash potatoes without gravy”, on the Q show the previous week. And people think Chris Martin’s awkward radio silences are petty.

 

But since Thornton received heckling for his outlandish behaviour, The Boxmasters subsequently decided to pull out of their Canadian tour with flu. For genuine fans of The Boxmasters – each to their own – who may actually have wished to see the group perform this will obviously come as a meteoric impasse. Indeed cancelling a tour because of minor – and deserved criticism – is like skiving off work because the boss thinks you make sh*t tea.

 

So when will these self-absorbed fools ever learn? Not just for the sake of their fans and their reputation, but for the sake of their own credibility as “musicians”. It is not the first time though such calamities have happened to stars who feel a new niche might create some mega bucks and an alternative image with a new public.

 

The “Hoff” – David Hasselhoff – famous for his portrayal of Michael Knight in hit 1980s TV series Knight Rider and for reportedly appearing drunk and disorderly at Wimbledon and HeathrowAirport in the past, decided to re-invent himself from a perhaps seedy image to an even seedier one with his diabolically hilarious song and video, Jump In My Car. For someone who portrayed a gallant coastguard in Baywatch during the 1990s, you would think he might have had enough sense to part with a screen image which makes him appear sleaze-laden and suggestive rather than enhance the notion with a dour pop career reinvention. David, we get the attempted parodying joke.

 

Sadly for The Hoff, who once registered a #1 hit in the German pop charts – so much for German efficiency - called Looking For Freedom detailing the fall of the Berlin Wall, his music career ended more spluttering than the decrepit Pontiac he drove in his Jump In My Car video, despite the ‘Get The Hoff to number one campaign’ with the song, which could only chart at #3 in the UK in 2006 via internet downloads.

 

But at least Hasselhoff never took himself overtly seriously with his silly parodying of his Knight Rider stance in his Jump In My Car video. Thornton on the other hand represents the egotistical drivel-driven fallen A-list star he really is through his pathetic attention seeking radio promos and plugging of tours. At least The Hoff crashed out of his self-absorbed binge – not to mention his stupor-some Hamburger video incident in 2007 – in style rather than ‘sucking’.

 

This is not to say that Thornton’s behaviour hasn’t been hilarious though, but for god awful painful reasons. When requiring an injection of vigour to succeed and rebuild a reputation in the entertainment world, you perhaps need a dab-hand producer and sturdy promotion in order to reap rewards.

 

Step forward Liza Minnelli. The actress known for her performance in the hit musical film, Cabaret – which she won an Academy Award for Best Actress and for her collaboration with Dudley Moore in the 1981 comedy Arthur, is also known for her mild pop reinvention in the late 1980s.

 

Deciding to sacrifice the film route which gained her worldwide fame, the daughter of actress Judy Garland required a new audience and some profit and subsequently hired the Pet Shop Boys to produce a one-off album, Results, in 1989. Essentially a traditional uptempo Pet Shop Boys album with Minnelli on vocals - co-produced by Julian Mendelsohn - it combined her show tune vocal delivery with staple hip hop rhythms and string driven pop melodies and delivered her a successful #6 album slot in the UK charts – her best charting album in the UK - owing to the global popularity of the #6 hit single, Losing My Mind.

 

For Liza ‘with a Z’ this certainly re-tuned her stuttering 1980s film career with glory after shoddy ‘Razzie’ awards for worst actress in 1987’s Rent A Cop and ‘88’s Arthur sequel, Arthur 2: On The Rocks. By using her savvy in hiring esteemed producers rather than going it alone to produce raw and ridiculed nothings like Thornton and Hasselhoff, Minnelli – despite perhaps “selling out” – gained credibility for her comeback.

 

Minnelli had obviously used a skilful tactic accredited to Dusty Springfield, who had earlier worked with the group recently criticised by PETA for not changing their name to the Rescue Shelter Boys to promote animal welfare – this from a group who reportedly left animals in rubbish dumps in Pennsylvania in 2005 as part of their euthanasia project – who gained her a UK #2 pop hit with What Have I Done To Deserve This in 1987 and a UK Top 20 album success with Reputation - co-produced by Dan Harman - in 1990 thanks to her hit singles In Private and Nothing Has Been Proved, the latter used for the film Scandal which documents the 1963 Profumo Affair.

 

Indeed Minnelli and the late Springfield– who albeit displayed a superior musical advantage in their youth anyhow – used their tactic wisely to not stumble to a major fall in grace. But the transition from screen to studio mostly appears to haunt Hasselhoff and Thornton to the extent where any ounce of seriousness is removed because of their undying passion to be taken seriously.

 

But whilst Minnelli is a rare example of where celebrities can re-invent themselves and produce a decent product for public consumption, there are many more today which follow along Hasselhoff and Thornton’s line.

 

The self-obsessed car crash which is Paris Hilton – no pun intended – towed the line for yet more celebrity self-induced disgrace in 2006 with her album, Paris. The much ridiculed glamour model and so-called film actress – known for her cameos in House Of Wax and Zoolander and for her drink driving – decided to be considered a serious musician by releasing Paris, a cluttered array of dance-pop nothings including the mildly catchy yet inane mishaps, Stars Are Blind and Nothing In This World in 2006.

 

The album failed to batter an eyelid in the UK and yawned its way to #29 in the charts and was delayed initially from release in the UK because the singer wanted to provide a cover version of Gnarls Barkley’s #1 April 2006 UK hit, Crazy. The irony being that if she had him as a producer rather than covering his song, she may not be exhibiting her bits in public with those other loathsome creatures Britney Spears and Lindsay Lohan in champagne drenched limousines and instead be enjoying credible success as a ‘serious musician.’

 

Perhaps she should have followed the Jennifer Lopez or Hilary Duff route and hired executive producers and have a decent public relations company to provide you with attention and credible hits as a serious musician whilst making a grand transition from film star to recording artist.

 

But whilst J-Lo – famous for her Love Don’t Cost A Thing and Control Myself singles and her role in the box office hit film Monster In Law - and Duff – who propelled herself to fame through her lead role in teen TV series Lizzie McGuire - remain respected figures on the most part for the careers they have carved in the R n B and manufactured pop worlds, their dignity remains mostly intact because of their ability not to remain seriously foolish and let their agents do the ‘serious’ talking.

 

If only those blundering Billy Bobs and hilarious Hoffs could do the same without the need to produce durge-driven drivel and self-destructive neanderthal antics. The moral of the story for these characters is stick to what you're good at and if you don't stick to it, let someone else do it for you.

Comments

Wow, I never actually listened to Looking For Freedom, it really is amazingly terrible. How embarrassing that it made it to number one here, how was that even possible? And apart from the word "freedom" I don't really get the connection to the fall of the Berlin Wall?

Nice article, though :) 

By laurahartmann

To be honest it's on a par with most late 80s pop productions just in it for the money. You were probably blessed not to be immersed by the same Stock, Aitken & Waterman (SAW) ethic in your country ie, The Hit Factory which involved that idiot Jason Donovan, the washed up Kylie Minogue, the strange ferrety-looking Rick Astley and Mel & Kim, Bananarama etc. I think The Hoff probably wanted to replicate the #1s and the commercial success gained during that period. Although I don't hate the music, it represents that greedy capitalist record company ethic which has served many a big production group, ie Holland-Dozier-Holland (the Motown label production group) in the past. Pete Waterman (of Pop Idol fame) has to be one of the greediest, but most successful modern producers.

It's unspectacular music overall though and paved the way in my opinion for many silly TV stars like Jason Donovan and Kylie Minogue to both move from a soap like Neighbours to make awful attempts at becoming a pop star. But these became successful due to the old grannies liking Donovan's image (when I say old grannies I mean 45 year old's plus haha :D) and obviously most people liking Kylie's image...

To be honest the German charts present a lot of the "Euro-pop" and "Euro-dance" stuff ie Sash, Snap etc which was big in the late 80s, 90s so you probably got that instead. Not innovative, but like SAW, catchy, cheesy and effective. I agree though, how that made #1 in the pop charts, we'll never probably know. As you say there's no resemblance to the Berlin Wall and it's a cheap cop-out link as an excuse for a creditable hit...not exactly earth shattering lyricism either.

Thank you Laura :), I try :).

By stuartwilson

I'm suprised you didn't mention Joaquin Phoenix's recent claim that he's quit acting to become a rapper. I've even seen reference to BB Thornton's appearance on CBC as a "Joaquin Phoenix moment".

Some question the sinceritiy of Phoenix's new found love for hip-hop. His appearance on Letterman seems pretty faultless if it is a stunt, though.

Maybe he's just gone off the rails, though the fact that Casey Affleck (brother of Ben and Phoenix's brother-in-law) is filming the whole thing for a documentary would seem to suggest otherwise.

A lesser-known but (I think) more meritorious foray into music by an actor is Peter Stormare's band Blonde From Fargo. Perhaps best known as the blonde-haired psychopath in the Coen brothers' film Fargo (hence the name), they're definitely worth a listen.

PS: Why did you censor the swearing, Stuart? Just curious as there's been ample cursing on the site before.

By johnsaunders

the fact about Joaquin Phoenix. The Billy Bob Thornton story has gained it seems after observing the two comparatively now, the same amount of attention as Joaquin Phoenix, so I'm surprised I missed it too :S :). But thanks for pointing it out!

As for the Coen Brothers, I remember their recent decent outputs, ie No Country for Old Men known for its performance by Heath Ledger of course, which I'm sure you remember from last year and have probably seen. Burn After Reading was meant to be good too, but I didn't actually see that in the end.

Funnily enough John, it seems with Peter Stormare that he has a nice jangling melody on that acoustic and not a bad voice and perhaps he hasn't been pushy like his fellow celebs mentioned in this article and not put himself more in the public eye. As it would seem that as you say, it's less known and has been subjected to sparse attention on the link you posted...which is a shame in a lot of ways because in the public interest as a decent consumer product, I think it is worthwhile.

Good question John. I just felt like censoring it to be honest, no particular reason :). I think I wanted to save the world from my usual outbursts (this time in literary form) which are regularly served to disapproving eardrums in the newsroom :D.

By stuartwilson

Are you maybe thinking of a different film? Heath Ledger wasn't in No Country for Old Men, it had Javier Bardem, Tommy Lee Jones and Woody Harrelson in it, but no Heath.

Burn After Reading is hilarious, if you liked the Big Lebowski then you'll love it.

By johnsaunders

What am I drivelling on about? :( :(. I meant The Dark Knight, but somehow got it confused. I think the reason (when I rattle my hazelnut of a brain around) is because both won awards at last year's Oscars (Ledger best supporting actor, I think, I hope haha :S) and I somehow got them mixed up. Thank you though for reminding me and correcting me - *note to self, get my facts right!* Otherwise, waste management here I come haha :(.

PS Thanks for the recommendation, I shall have to investigate.

By stuartwilson

He works for the Environment Agency. Is it an alternative career for you?

By johnsaunders

Sorry, haha I feel like Alan Partridge here so rather than going on being a stupid armchair pundit and insulting people, I'll shut up :D.  

By stuartwilson

Don't worry about it.

Hardly anyone's blogged since Ian set the competition, so it looks like you might be in with a winner here, unless it picks up on here soon.

By johnsaunders

:D. For a minute I thought I'd unintentionally insulted you with my ignorance. However thank you.

Haha well, I reckon you should have a go too as this as you say is my idea of trying to do the blog, to a typically one trick pony fashion whilst linking the hell out of it haha :D. Tbh I think Alan may have won by default anyway as he is the only one of us who actually did it on time :S...but thanks :)...

By stuartwilson

Gutted. I was thinking of trying to do something. Oh well, it's not as if we've got the prizes from the christmas competition yet, anyway...

By johnsaunders

According to this we had till April 9th where Ian would announce the winner. However since that never happened as only one of us did a blog and because we were working on our assignments, I'm guessing that who knows...maybe the deadline is extended or as you say, Ian's completely forgot to hand out any rewards haha :D...

Oh and PS I've realised I wouldn't win at all anyway (not to say I would in the first place) because the blog's not about a journalism issue - it's more relentless ranting about entertainment haha. Ah well...

By stuartwilson

Well maybe we'll get a chance to win, then. Just have to wait and see.

By johnsaunders