Maybe I’m just nearing my snug harbor and rationalizing a lifetime of obscurity. But despite being inclined to view fame favorably, to wistfully suspect that a little larger portion of attention would have been nice, when I see what kind of jerk those served a few portions of smoking hot success tend to become, I realize that I’m better off having nursed my little cup of tepid local awareness and been fairly satisfied.
I’ve known men — no names, please! — who no sooner got that Pulitzer Prize, or National Magazine Award, or whatever, than they became world-class asshats, unfit to be around. Not that they have much interest in hanging with a nobody like myself, not after the spotlight touches them. And the ironic thing is, while notoriety hurries off, the jerkishness it brings seems to stick around.
I was reminded of this watching James Corden, comic actor and TV host, bathed in public purgatory last week over his don’t-you-know-who-I-am? arrogance at Balthazar, a French bistro in New York City.
The public relations fiasco proceeded in orderly stages. Last Monday, restaurateur Keith McNally went on Instagram to dub Corden “the most abusive customer to my Balthazar servers since the restaurant opened 25 years ago.” He cited two incidents where Corden berated staff over supposed lapses. McNally banned “this tiny Cretin of a man” from his restaurant.
Next, the star “apologized profusely” and was duly forgiven. Then over the weekend, the third act: Corden, in a tone-deaf interview with The New York Times, firmly reestablished that he is, was, and no doubt always will be, an entitled bully, so insulated by fame and wealth that he just doesn’t realize he’s running the risk of being forever known as That Brit Who’s Mean to Waiters.
“I haven’t done anything wrong on any level,” Corden whined, clawing back his apology, before lecturing to the Times about what is and isn’t worthy of its attention. “It’s beneath you,” he said of what has been dubbed “the messiest feud of the year” by BuzzFeed. “It’s certainly beneath your publication.”
I had only affection for Corden before this. Enjoyed his little automobile sing-alongs with stars, springing Paul McCartney on a gathering of barflies in Liverpool. He seemed a nice enough guy. Then again, I never watched his late night show. “Why am I not surprised that he’s a bigger jerk off-screen than he is on it?” wrote one of my blog readers. “Being a jerky boy on-camera is his lucrative shtick. Being one in Real Life just makes him another entitled jerk. He’s 44 and behaves like a tantrum-throwing teen-ager of 14.”
James Corden is a man thoroughly convinced of his importance in the cosmos, which is funny to someone like myself, who only recently figured out that Corden and Ricky Gervais are different people.
You should give the Times piece a read. Dave Itzkoff filets Corden like a flounder, reprising the extensive literature on Corden’s rudeness, including “being called out by one of his sisters for his boorishness.” It’s a delicious vivisection.
Funny. I’ve eaten at Balthazar, a sprawling establishment in Soho. My central memory is that it offered a $24 basket of rolls that I stupidly felt compelled to order, lost in grandiosity, eager to see exactly what that expenditure gets you, breadwise. And there was a moment when the basket was presented, I looked at it — ordinary pastries and croissants and what have you — then gazed over at the next table and the quite appealing if simple bread basket they got just for ordering, and thought to myself, “Dumb.” I preferred theirs, had cheated myself by reaching above my humble station, and would have done better to leave the big bucks bread basket forever a mystery.
I should point out that I did not fling the basket across the room, nor stand up and scream, nor browbeat any cringing server. I nibbled my pricey bread in silence and regret, sadder but wiser.
That’s the problem with the famous and well-to-do. They are denied the chance to learn life’s important little lessons. Or so much time passes since they experienced anything like regular existence that they forget what being human means. Not everybody, of course. One hears stories of decent, polite stars. Then there are the James Cordens of the world: big honking deals in their own eyes, laughingstock losers in everybody else’s.