So Kathy Griffin posted a picture of herself holding up a bloody severed Trump head and I had one thought, and one thought only when I first saw it.
I wasn’t shocked, I wasn’t appalled. I work in gallows humour. You have to go a hundred times darker than that before I even notice things are getting a tad morbid. The real sin of the photo, to my mind, was that it wasn’t funny. All it seemed to say was, “I hate Trump. I wish him dead.” Well, no shit. You’ve long since made that clear. Posing for a picture that looks like a publicity still from a low-rent 1970s giallo horror film doesn’t add anything to that narrative. I might have hoped for something biting, satirical, viciously sardonic. Instead, Kathy Griffin throws out something half-assed, spur-of-the-moment, ill-conceived, and witless. That’s kind of her shtick, I know. I (used to) watch her do CNN’s trainwreck New Year’s show with Anderson Cooper every year, and wonder when she would cross a line that would get her fired. Pretending to blow Cooper on live television didn’t do it. Screaming vulgarities at Ryan Seacrest didn’t work. Swearing at hecklers over the air failed. It seemed to be an unshakable gig. She could do no wrong—or at least could do nothing wrong enough to get her ousted.
I turned the virtual page and moved on, with a vague parting notion, “Some people are really going to hate this.”
And then everything blew up. Twenty-four hours later, the CNN gig was gone, standup appearances were cancelled, endorsements were dropped. Plus the Secret Service, which is obliged to take any perceived threat to the president deadly serious, was looking into it. The family Trump, prone to announcing any fleeting notion or passing of wind, took to social media to express their displeasure. All to be expected, really. I mean, after all, what did she think was going to happen?
A video apology followed. Griffin made one of her infrequent appearances without a ton of makeup, probably judiciously trying to appear more vulnerable and sincere by doing it au naturel, without the usual war paint. It wasn’t an apology to Trump himself, but it was an apology to people who were offended. And it seemed pretty sincere. It seemed to work.
And then, like manna from heaven, Kathy Griffin was given the greatest gift a foot-in-mouth celebrity could ever hope for. Covfefe happened, and the whole world collectively decided they’d rather make jokes about that than futilely try to find the funny in Griffin’s gory photo shoot.
Give it the weekend, and it would have all blown over nicely. Sure, a lot of paying work would have dried up, but Kathy Griffin would have been in the clear. On the heels of the vitally important political covfefe event, something else would have inevitably happened in the world, and by this time next week no one would remember or care about bloody head props. Griffin could then safely slink back to the ranks of the D-list.
But, alas, no.
She made two colossal mistakes. First: Kathy Griffin employed the services of Lisa Bloom, daughter of Gloria Allred and every bit the media-circus bottomfeeder her mother is. Second: she called a press conference to dredge it all up again. And not just any press conference. The single worst clusterfuck of a press conference I’ve ever witnessed. There were tears, there was laughter (forced and performed by mouthpiece Bloom), there was indignation, there were more insults for Trump and his family, and there were cries of victimhood.
You can try to sit through it if, like me, you’re a sucker for punishment.
At this point, the real villain here is no long Kathy Griffin, or Donald Trump, or the vulture media, or the skittish sponsors, or CNN, the worst media outlet in America today. It’s Lisa Bloom. Any lawyer worth a shit would have advised her client to lay low, take the hit, let the apology sink in, let the public move on, and let Trump get distracted by something new. I mean, hell, he’s the goddamn President of the United States. He may be petty and vindictive, but he’s got other stuff on his plate.
But that’s not what happened. Because Lisa Bloom is a terrible terrible hack lawyer who wanted to get her face front and centre and ride this celebrity shitstorm into the next stratosphere of her gruesome parasitical poisonous career. Rather than do her job properly, she let her client summon the media for an announcement and a Q&A. She may have even suggested it. And in the process, she let Kathy Griffin keep digging that grave for her career.
Give Griffin a lean year, and I thought she might have been able to bounce back from this unscathed. The story would have flared up briefly on New Year’s Eve as those few who still watch CNN asked, “Where’s Kathy?” There would be a reminder of what went down last spring, and then they’d cut away to a drunken Don Lemon talking about getting a Trump tattoo on his dick—again. Same old, same old. Before you knew it, she’d crop up in some supporting role on a sitcom, or a bit part in a movie. You’d hear she was doing standup in casinos and dive bars once more, and by the time Trump was running for re-election, she’d be back doing her ginger Joan Rivers act, and would even be getting away with a new round of jabs at The Donald’s expense.
But after this? It’s going to be a long hard road back. Michael Richards hard. And for what? She shot off her own foot and it did no damage to Trump. It gave him a boost.
Some people have come out trying to defend that decapitation photo as art. Provocative art, but art. And maybe is it. But it’s bad art. The difference between good art and bad art is that good art stays on message and accomplishes a goal. Bad art gets tossed off, lets the chips fall where they may, and has no clear message or intent. Like a grenade tossed into a room with the pin out. That’ll sure provoke a reaction, but mostly it will make a mess.
Try not to be standing in the blast radius when it goes off.
NB: If you’re a B, C, or D-list celebrity who has just committed career suicide, DO NOT call Gloria Allred or Lisa Bloom to help salvage something from the ruins of your life. Call someone who knows a thing or two about scandal damage control. Call me. I might even know what I’m talking about, and I work cheap.