Approximately 144 consecutive hours into CNN's coverage of Paris Hilton's release from jail, my vision got a little blurry. A hot tear balled up in my left eye and I began imagining Paris Hilton with a penis. Yes, a penis. A nice, healthy man-appendage swaddled in Levi's. I even added some facial shrubbery to her cheeks.
Because while having Hilton & Co. suddenly flood the police blotters increases our chances for a show called Simple Life: Caged Heat, it also raises an unsettling question: When did the Hollywood Bad Boy become a Hollywood Bad Girl?
Renegade lovelies like Lindsay Lohan, Britney Spears, and Paris Hilton are staging their own real-life, white-girl version of Set It Off: They're doing things like sucking down spliffs while cruising L.A. boulevards, playing smash-up derby in their convertible Benzes, snorting rails at VIP clubs, and flashing their labia like an American Express Black card. Apparently, their male counterparts are too busy getting their eyebrows sculpted and perfecting their pigeon poses to join them.
"They're all a bunch of marshmallows," says James Parish, author of Hollywood Bad Boys: Loud, Fast and Out of Control, of young male celebrities. "Older men like Mel Gibson and Russell Crowe are still belligerent, but as for the new breed of actors, Elijah Wood isn't exactly Johnny Depp." Frankly, Jim, he's not even Scott Baio. And neither are any of the other Eagle Scouts pounding green tea on the back patio of the Marmont. They're either too busy prioritizing the environment over model nookie (Leo), making babies with mere mortals (Tobey), treating the 12 steps like something other than a speed bump (Joaquin), or grinning like a simpleton amid the sickening stagnation of a committed relationship (Matt, Ben, Heath).
Since as far back as the twenties, self-destructive thespians have been a fixture in Hollywood. Fatty Arbuckle allegedly raped and murdered a girland got off scot-free (though the scandal did put an end to his career). After Fatty came unapologetic embodiments of trouble like Robert Mitchum, Frank Sinatra, Marlon Brando, and, of course, Steve McQueen, a drug-devouring, chopper-straddling, womanizing, gun-toting Republican. In the eighties, Rob Lowe filmed himself having sex with two girls in an Atlanta hotel roomone of whom was 16. Not bad. But somewhere between Sean Penn's last frothing swing at a cameraman and Robert Downey Jr.'s famous Palm Springs cocaine bust, we've lost our way.
"Yeah," actor Corey Haim says with a weary exhale. "They've all gone soft. Now Robert's into yoga, meditation, and natural herbs." Haim, the cuter half of the pair of Coreys who ruled teen cinema in the late eighties, knows all about what it means to be a Hollywood Bad Boy.
"I was 17 and doing stuff crazier than anybody out there today," says Haim, who's getting a second shot at infamy with an A&E reality show costarring Corey Feldman called The Two Coreys. By his mid-twenties, Haim had been in and out of rehab several times and had filed for bankruptcy once: "When you have that sort of money and access at that age, it's kind of expected."
Kind of?! Hell, it's obligatory. When Colin Farrell, our best hope for an Errol Flynn-style return to decadence, completes a stint in rehab and then fights to keep a tape of himself having sex with a Playboy Playmate out of our hands, something isn't right. But until Shia LaBeouf starts banging the lead grinder at the Crazy Horse, or Frankie Muniz is popped with a kilo of Mexican brown up his ass, we're left with two options: Suffer through the faux tantrums of rich kids like Sean Stewart and Brody Jenner while we wait for a bona fide savior to lift us from our mama's-boy-induced malaise, or gape in awe at the Cat Pack: Blo-han, Brit-Brit, and Inmate No. 9818783 tearing through velvet ropes with a squad of cop cars in hot pursuit.
"Hey," Haim says with a growling smoker's chuckle, "at least they look good doing it."
Come back, Corey. Hollywood needs you.