Mel Gibson on race, hatred and women

Barry Koltnow
The Orange County Register (MCT)

It's been an interesting couple of weeks.

Two columns ago, I discussed Lindsay Lohan's 90-day jail sentence, which now appears to have been downsized to 14 days because of jail overcrowding. I suggested that most Americans were pleased with the original sentence, and a majority of readers agreed. A vocal minority, including one Lohan enabler who created an online discussion panel devoted exclusively to hating me, let me know of their displeasure.

In last week's column, I toasted the end of "The Hills," and hoped that I had seen the last of the TV show's dysfunctional cast.

Most readers sided with me, but there were a few people who took issue with my column. I enjoyed reading all the responses, but one really hit home.

It was from Kathy Conrad, mother of Lauren Conrad, one of the targets of my diatribe. She felt that I was unfair to her daughter, who is a fashion designer as well as an actress. I really hate it when I hear from mothers of people I insult. It's not fair. How can I argue with a mother?

Although her original e-mail was a stern rebuke, subsequent messages were good-natured and generous. She is a delightful woman, and I conceded that her daughter is talented.

One aspect of the Lohan column that really irked her supporters was my anecdote about meeting the actress six years ago. Apparently, these first-time readers don't know that I occasionally try to give some insight into celebrities through my own personal experiences with them.

These anecdotes might be a bit self-indulgent, but I think readers enjoy them. And they're not always negative. If I have something nice to say, I'll say it.

Which brings me to Mel Gibson.

There is no reason to re-hash his slide into chaos. You've heard his violent and hateful rantings to his girlfriend on those audio tapes. Gibson was always civil with me, so there is no anecdote that I can relate from my seven interviews with him that will contribute any understanding into his recent unforgivable behavior.

But I thought that if I offered some interesting quotes from those interviews, perhaps you might reach your own conclusion.

ON ACCUSATIONS THAT HE IS ANTI-SEMITIC: "Frankly, that hurts. I am offended by that. That's simply not true. Anti-Semitism is the deliberate abuse of Jewish people simply for being Jewish. That is not only stupid; it's morally wrong. By what I believe, it is not only boorish and bigoted, it is a sin. It is a moral crime. To be racist in any form is to be un-Christian."

ON RACIAL HATRED: "There always have been, and always will be, demented bigots amongst us. They're always there, but we can't let these morons dictate to us how we live, how we believe or how we express our art."

ON WOMEN: "I do love women. I think they're the best creation ever, in every sense. I think men can learn a lot from women, but I doubt whether I know anything special. Maybe I have learned a few things over the years because of my sisters and my wife. I do think women want you to listen to them. That's pretty standard."

ON HIS WIFE (BEFORE THEIR DIVORCE): "She's a good woman but all marriages require a lot of hard work. Everybody has to work at it. We're no different than anyone else. Our psyches are so far apart, simply because I am a man and she is a woman, but they also are so close. We both want the same thing, and that is to be happy together. I am far from the perfect husband. She would be the first to tell you that. Maybe I don't listen as much as I should. Maybe that's part of being a man. But I try to listen, and I try to be a good husband."

ON MOVIE STARDOM: "The biggest adjustment is learning how to peddle yourself. I realize that I am a product, a commodity, if you will. I have reconciled myself to that now. In the beginning, I was not aware of that and I let it get away from me. But then I became aware of it and learned how to peddle myself. I learned how to use the name to do the things I want to do in this business. Mel Gibson,, the movie star, is not something I think of as me. It's something else, over there, someplace. I almost think of it in the third person. It's a bit of an effort to climb into it, but I know I have a responsibility to do it. So I come in, do the movie star thing and go home."

ON LOSING IT ALL: "I've never been afraid of having it all go away. I love what I do but you can't let fear sneak into the picture."

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