The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

‘What God Hath Joined Together …’

Posted on | July 21, 2011 | 26 Comments

“He’s 51. She’s 16. The same people in Hollywood who knock the marriage cannot wait to be invited to the next Hugh Hefner wedding.”
Don Surber

We were driving to the pool Thursday afternoon to pick up my 18-year-old son Bob from work (he’s a Red Cross certified lifeguard) while I chatted briefly on the phone with Krista Stodden. And after I hung up the phone, my 12-year-old son Jefferson who was riding with me asked who I’d been talking with. So I explained the story, how it was an exclusive that just “fell in my lap” and Jeff asked if there was anything in my interview with Mrs. Stodden that had been off the record. I said yes, I had chosen to redact the name of the major-league baseball team of the players who had tried to woo teenage Courtney Stodden.

Jefferson laughingly called these guys “creepers,” but I explained that there was no need to drag them into the story, because they almost certainly didn’t know when they saw Courtney online that she was so young. Indeed, one blogger I spoke to Thursday said when he’d seen Courtney’s videos he thought she looked to be in her mid-20s, at least.

So then I called Roxeanne de Luca to make sure that her numerous critical comments on the subject didn’t indicate that she was angry at me. “No, not at all,” she said, and I felt obliged to explain that I’m a journalist, not an advice columnist. But suppose I did write an advice column . . .

Dear Mister Stacy:
My daughter wants to be in show business. She has fallen in love with her acting coach and wants to marry him. She’s 16 and he’s 51. What should I do?
Perplexed in Ocean Shores

Dear Perplexed:
Are you kidding me, lady? “What should I do?” Call 911! Report this guy to the FBI for suspicion of violating the Mann Act. Then lock your daughter in her room, take away her phone and disconnect the Internet. And when you’re finished doing all that, seek psychiatric help because you’re evidently out of your cotton-picking mind.

However, the parents of nubile would-be starlets don’t consult me in advance on such matters, so vis-à-vis the Stodden-Hutchison nuptials, I’m like a reporter sent out to cover a car crash. It’s not for me to be lecturing the injured victims or telling the paramedics how to do their jobs. I’m not the judge or the cop or even the insurance claims adjuster. My job is to relate the facts and to provide readers with the clearest explanation of how the accident happened.

Also, I occasionally make jokes.

Many people have become accustomed to the blogosphere as a place where opinions are more important than facts, and where what counts most is asserting our claim to having The Correct Opinion. So when something like the Courtney Stodden story comes along, it is to be expected that everybody and his uncle is going to take their turns heaping sarcastic putdowns on the folks involved: Courtney’s a “skank,” her husband’s a creepy pervert, and her parents are irresponsible trash.

It is in just such a situation that my journalistic instinct is to ask: “What’s the other side of this story?”

Instead of jumping onto the dogpile, I look for the obverse angle that others might be missing. At this point, I’ve lost track of which commenter first directed my attention to the fact that, on her Facebook page, Courtney Stodden describes herself as both a Christian and a Republican.

You can call it The Mischief Principle, if you need a phrase to describe what significance I saw in that discordant little fact. And as I’ve elsewhere remarked, I come from a time, a place and a culture where it was not necessarily scandalous for 16-year-olds to get married — although a girl so young marrying a middle-aged man would have raised eyebrows anywhere at any time.

But this was Hollywood, wasn’t it? Hardly the place one expects to find folks being morally judgmental.

Don Surber’s point about Hugh Hefner hits the bull’s eye at dead center. Who are these people who celebrate that notorious degenerate as a “cultural icon” to be heaping scorn on a small-town Christian girl whose only wrong was to marry the man she loves?

And, of course, the thought occurred to me that the same online gossip columnist who pronounced the Stodden-Hutchison marriage “ick to the extreme” would never say such a thing about, inter alia, Elton John’s “husband” or Chaz Bono’s recent sex-change.

This is not to invite a descent into moral relativism, but rather to resist that dangerous trend. To quote Krista Stodden:

“[S]he broke no biblical standards by marrying a 51-year-old man, because she was a virgin, she has good morals.”

If it is the position of Christian conservatives that biblical standards are the ultimate arbiters of right and wrong — “Thus saith the Lord!” — then what sort of coward would stand silent while Courtney Stoddard was publicly humiliated by the same Hollywood types who can’t be bothered to condemn the wickedness that pervades the entertainment industry?

Forgive me for saying that a sense of chivalry seemed to demand that I defend rather than attack Courtney and her mother. Say what you will about Doug Hutchison and I don’t care, but the non-stop bashing of Courtney struck me as unjust, as I told her mother, and I bristled when I saw Courtney’s family smeared as “trailer trash” (an accusation that proved entirely inaccurate). So whatever hassles were involved in transcribing a 3,700-word interview seemed to me entirely worthwhile, not only as journalism, but also as a matter of faith and honor.

To the diligent few readers who have gotten this far, let me ask: Doesn’t this all seem strangely coincidental?

That is to say, isn’t it kind of odd that what began as just a bit of quick Rule 5 celebrity snark a month ago should have led to an exclusive interview? That this has so clearly illuminated a dividing line in the Culture War?

Call it an accident or call it a fluke. But I am thankful this opportunity came my way, as I gratefully recall all the readers who hit the tip jar last week when I was in the depths of the Dark Mood, and I hope some of you will celebrate this little scoop by hitting the tip jar again.

Were I asked to offer advice to Courtney Stodden, I’d tell her to lose the heavy makeup, the glam hairdo, the extreme décolletage and the pouty poses. For your next TV interview, sweetheart, pull your hair back in a ponytail, wear a button-down oxford and jeans, and show the camera a natural, friendly smile.

You’ve got such a sweet smile, and it’s prettier than a pout.

Nobody pays me to advise Hollywood starlets, of course, so in addition to hustling up tip jar hits, I make my living as a freelancer, and here are a few excerpts from my latest column at The American Spectator:

Courtney Stodden became one of Hollywood’s most scandalous celebrities without ever getting into a drunk-driving accident or checking into rehab to kick a cocaine habit. Instead, the aspiring singer/actress shocked the glitterati by . . . getting married. . . .
Despite Courtney’s self-identification as a rare Hollywood Republican, no responsible authority on “our side” was evidently eager to be seen as condoning this mismatched marriage, and the mother of the bride says she understands such reluctance. “You know, myself, if I think of a 16-year-old girl and a 51-year-old man together, I think I would start thinking, like, ‘Oh my God. I can’t even fathom that.’ . . . It’s very unusual, that’s why it’s so controversial,” said Mrs. Stodden. . . . She calls Courtney her “baby,” and notes that neither of her older two daughters pursued show-biz careers — or middle-aged movie-star husbands. “My other daughters, they all have husbands their same ages, and if people would have told me this two years ago, I would have said, ‘Oh, my God — I can’t even wrap my mind around that.’ But it happened. It’s working for them, and they look great together.” . . .
“God has given that girl some blessings beyond belief. I mean, God has been so good to her,” said Mrs. Stodden, comparing her daughter to another iconic Hollywood beauty. “I look at the story of John Derek and Bo Derek , and they had a very successful marriage, and she was actually younger than Courtney when she got together with John Derek.” Indeed, Bo Derek — who would become world-famous in the 1979 hit film 10 — was just 16 when she met her then-47-year-old future husband, a thrice-divorced actor and director to whom she remained married until his death in 1998. . . .

Please read the whole thing. My favorite part is at the very end, and also the title reference to a Little Richard classic that struck me as an apt ode to a certain young starlet.



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