Pop 20: A few more things worthy of bailout money

Aaron Sagers

I am in a bailout state of mind. Since I'm not an economist, I can't decide whether the $700 billion our MVPs, as in Most Vapid Politicians, gave to Wall Street (hopefully presented by Ed McMahon as a giant cardboard check) was a good idea or not. But when someone tells me they want to use my money to buy into an investment that will earn for another person -- with the end result supposedly helping me make money – I can't help but think of a pyramid scheme to sell acai juice or something of the like. I know the government wants me to trust them, but you know, fool me once, shame on you. Fool me 362,000 times, shame on me.

Still, I figure since I'm being so generous with my billions, why should we stop with bailing out Wall Street? There are so many establishments out there in need of our help, and if we don't create a rescue plan for them, it will affect all of us. Like a Henry Paulson of pop, I've identified three figures crucial to saving Main Street entertainment. I plead with Congress to take heed and bail out the following before the bottom drops out of our pop-culture.


Only eight years ago, the fundamentals of Kate Hudson's career were strong. I melted for the actress as her character Penny Lane from "Almost Famous." Her performance was believable and nuanced, and she was so dang lovable. I wasn't alone in thinking that had Hudson rightfully inherited the title of "America's Sweetheart" from mom Goldie Hawn. But she seemed poised for the title not just because of her curly-cue blonde locks and trippy, hippy, soulful style. Instead, there was real talent there – or so I thought.

My grandmammy taught me to say something nice, or nothing at all, so when the Kate Hudson topic comes up, the best I can muster is, "I liked her in 'Almost Famous.'" Hudson's career choices have ranged from bad ("The Four Feathers," "Skeleton Key") to worse ("You, Me and Dupree") to abysmal ("How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days," "Fool's Gold," "My Best Friend's Girl") so much so that I not only no longer think she's talentless, but she must have the worst agent half-alive.

When you're starring alongside Dane Cook and the pie-lover from "American Pie," you carry a stink of an actor only in it for the money. More so, only the money from an opening weekend since word of mouth spread and audiences get wise about a stinker. To prevent our nation from a fallout of more uninspired rom-coms starring Kate Hudson, I plead for a bailout. Congress must pass a resolution demanding that Kate sits down and reads some better scripts. Please, Kate, you were great once – and only once. If Congress throws a life saver to you, don't make a LifeSaver joke. Maybe, just maybe, the lightning can be bottled again. It's at least worth a try to save Main Street. Work with Cameron Crowe again, read a script where wacky hijinks don't ensue, try to actually act instead of turning your eyebrows and body to the "hapless yet hopeless romantic" dial.


You'd think a guy conquered China swifter than Genghis, and managed to snag eight shiny medals, wouldn't need a rescue plan. He is perhaps the most celebrated Olympian ever, but the bigger they are, the harder they fall. And Michael Phelps is falling hard. Let the hate mail come, but I'm not the first to notice the 23-year-old is starting to look like a jerkus majorus. The cocked hats, the low-rise pants, the gangsta-swimma style, this is a dude wading into the pop-culture deep end inhabited by Lauren Conrad and Spencer Pratt. The date with the girl from "Sunset Tans" was bad and the MTV VMAs didn't help, but the Internet pics of a guy who travels with a posse to the Playboy Club in Vegas – and gets gropey with a cocktail waitress there – made him look as good as the stale American apple pie in the WalMart discounted baked good section. Even Turtle from "Entourage" shows more class. Break out the medal polish, Mikey, cause the shine is wearing off and America doesn't like it.

Now, with the right bail out, Michael can safely swim back into the warm waters of our "sea to shining sea." The boy doesn't need cash since his endorsement deals are poised to earn him about $50 million, but it would be helpful to pick the right products to shill for. The Frosted Flakes over Wheaties was cute and daring. But promoting Hilton hotels and the Rosetta Stone language software? These aren't products for an Olympian. Nike and Speedo are understandable, and selling the world a Coca-Cola is downright patriotic, diabetes be damned. Primarily, however, Congress should bail the boy out and clean up his image. A superman needs to possess the personality of Clark Kent, and a rescue plan that includes a little more "Smallville," and a lot less "The Hills," would restore the luster of our hero.


Remember this guy? Before he pulled a Keyser Soze and vanished into thin air, Michael Keaton was my favorite late-'80s actor. Christian Bale is doing a bang-up job as Bats, but Keaton made the caped crusader a big-screen star again. Anytime I whisper-growl, "I'm Batman," and it happens more often than I care to admit, it's Keaton I'm channeling. In "Pacific Heights," he creeped the bejebus out of me as the cockroach-loving con man, and "Clean and Sober" has a special place in my heart as my very first addiction drama. As a funny guy, Keaton remains great in retrospect. "Johnny Dangerously," "The Squeeze," "Gung Ho," and "The Dream Team" still tickle my humerus. Other than a few choice cameos or roles in mini-series, Keaton's career began a decline into two-dimensional fluff after "Batman Returns" in 1992. "Multiplicity?" "Jack Frost?" "White Noise?" This was not the work of the Mr. Mom I knew.

Luckily, with the 20th anniversary of "Beetlejuice," one of the best flicks from the last 25 years, the time is primed for Keaton's return to glory. There's a lot of talk about the team of Johnny Depp/Tim Burton, but it was Keaton's work with Burton on "Beetlejuice" that made the director a beloved master of quirk. Therefore, Congress must create a rescue plan where Keaton and Burton team up for a sequel, using the same stop-motion special effects style from the first. That will still work for the witch doctor's shrunken heads, but CGI effects might be needed to shrink Alec Baldwin back into his original babyface. Keaton can then follow-up the "ghost with the most" sequel with a "Mr. Grandmom" family comedy, and for the hat trick, Keaton can follow the lead of fellow '80s stars Kiefer Sutherland and Christian Slater, and land the lead in an hourlong TV drama. And for those that are counting: "Beetlejuice." It's showtime.

The Cigarette: A Political History (By the Book)

Sarah Milov's The Cigarette restores politics to its rightful place in the tale of tobacco's rise and fall, illustrating America's continuing battles over corporate influence, individual responsibility, collective choice, and the scope of governmental power. Enjoy this excerpt from Chapter 5. "Inventing the Nonsmoker".

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