Friday, November 02, 2007

"Fool of a luvie!

Next time, have your own house bulldozed, do us all a favour." The title, of course, is a reference to one of Ian McKellen's lines in Lord of the Rings. Mr McKellen is causing ANOTHER sensation in the Borough of Brooklyn right now, not so much for his FULL BLUNTAL SHAKESPEARISTRY (as recently exhibited in King Lear at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, as for his ILL-CHOSEN REAL ESTATE PIMPING.

Now there's nothing innately wrong with pimping. We've all got to do what we've got to do to survive, and so long as no-one gets hurt or exploited, it's fine. Hell, even the venerable James Lipton was once a pimp.

But it was rather jarring to be waltzing through the following video, which appeared first on the NY Post's homepage, and be hearing the authoritative voice of England's leading actors, extolling the virtues of all of the new condo developments.

I won't dwell for too long on Mr. McKellen's reference to the Atlantic Yards imbroglio, since it was rushed and fleeting, reminiscent of the way Jeremy Irons delivered some of his sillier lines in Die Hard With A Vengeance. He sounded, to be honest, rather subdued, although the boosters at the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership no doubt are pretty pleased with themselves. Marty Markowitz, whose very raison de'etre is to facilitate such inane audio-visual puffery, is probably still curled up and quivering in post-coital delight. Unless he neglected to get his picture taken with Gandalf during McKellen's visit, in which case he's probably weeping and cuddling the comfort blanket Bruce Ratner gave him.

There is, needless to say, among this miasma of mean-spirited attacks on the borough's ruling classes, a point about "Sir" Ian's conduct. We learned from a recent New Yorker profile, that he's an activist with a long-standing commitment to the cause of equality for gays in the United Kingdom. He wouldn't let up on it even when receiving compliments on his acting, as you can tell from his exchange a few years back with Michael Howard. For those of you unfamiliar with Michael Howard, he is the former interior minster of the United Kingdom and the world's second most evil limey Mets fan after yours truly.

It's probably safe to assume that he was blissfully unaware of some of the controversies surrounding the Brooklyn condo boom, and its resultant displacement of the Borough's natives by graceless gentrifiers such as myself. If, though, the man did check in with the community organisations such as ACORN that have rented their names to the city's developers, and got their seal of approval, then my bad. I'd like to think he checked in on where the original residents of the area were going to end up, but I suspect he didn't give it too much thought. And why not? Brooklyn's still known in the UK as a cesspit of poverty and criminal japes, and the Borough that birthed Biggie and Jay-Z. He probably assumes it's in desperate need of a state-directed scrubbing-up.

I remember the expression my grandfather had for British character actors that would crop up with some regularity in the British television dramas of the seventies and eighties. He'd always say that they "eat well," a pretty fair summation of the situation for actors trying to make ends meet between repertory theatre appearances and commercials. You'd forgive them for taking pretty much anything, except for corporate training videos, which were usually the province of fading daytime TV presenters.

So what's so surprising is not so much his ignorance of some of the social issues that underlay the computer graphics, since such is probably the lot of someone flown in to shift tickets at BAM. I can also understand his "motivation", as they sometimes say in the craft of acting. What's good for BAM, and by extension for its sponsors (which include one B. Ratner, Target and some of Brooklyn's other developers), is good for the name on the marquee.

What's got me is the cheesiness of it. Describing the Borough as a college town, not once but twice, was a weird touch. I say this not to denigrate the quality of Brooklyn's institutions of higher learning, just to observe that Brooklyn's blessings transcend such a label. We are not in, thank you very much, Cambridge, Massachusetts. For starters, our indie rock has been much better since at least 1997.

This sort of nasal boosterism puts me in mind of nothing so much as a corporate video, leaving me grateful that I am not hearing him expound upon the importance of reducing stationery-related injuries in the workplace. I'm trying to imagine what sort of favour would need to be called in by lending one's name to this bilge. It's not, according to Rich Calder's spoon-fed exclusive in the Post, money. But what else could a man with a knighthood, a place in two lucrative movie franchises, and a sweet house in London need? There were some very sensible tax bill-related reasons for Dennis Hopper to spend the eighties producing absolutely mental adverts for Japanese consumer goods. Why would McKellen want to lower his game to an even greater extent in NYC?


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