Whatever happened to being a class act?

Conan O'Brien: I like him and expected better from him.

Lately I have been hard put to understand the behaviour of some of our more privileged citizens, or perhaps I should say, over-privileged citizens.
 
As I watched the snarking and swiping match between Conan O’Brien and Jay Leno over their respective TV shows and contracts I had to wonder whether they were blind to world events. There was a time anyone would have been embarrassed to fight over that amount of money in public, never mind during a major world tragedy such as the situation in Haiti. In the not too distant past, a decent and classy person would not have engaged in mudslinging over what most would consider an obscene amount of cash during one of the worst recessions in history.
 
Let me be clear darlings, I don’t begrudge them their money. I am not a regular viewer of either show. Truth be told, I haven’t watched much late-night TV talk since Johnny Carson ruled the night. At one time I was way too young to be watching him, but I couldn’t resist the glamour. I used to sneak into the living room as a child to see real stars on Johnny’s show – glamorous glitzy celebrities such as the Gabor sisters, Elizabeth Taylor, and Sophia Loren. Heavens! Those women were fabulous! Johnny was a clever and elegant host. I watched him until Bette Midler sang him off into the night. It was a classy a goodbye for a classy guy. Johnny Carson negotiated legendary contracts while at NBC. They made him very rich, but he did it without brawling. Cool Mr. Carson had a few famous feuds, but none of the nastiness that today’s comics seem to find de riguere. I know comedy is about one-liners, but these days things have become a little too nasty to be amusing.
 
Leno and O’Brien have been not only classless, but graceless. I am sure it is disappointing, if not insulting, to lose The Tonight Show after less than a year. It can be argued that the failure is not Conan’s alone, as Jay’s 10 o’clock disaster set off a chain reaction of bad ratings that killed the entire NBC late night lineup. Perhaps, but does that excuse two self-indulgent grown-ups behaving as if the world revolved around the two of them alone?
 
Conan O’Brien’s letter about his situation was classy; I liked where he said no one should feel sorry for him as he had spent 17 years getting paid to do what he loves. I also liked it when he said didn’t want to devalue a great show or hurt his friend Jimmy Fallon. Conan’s farewell show was also a smash. He made a touching speech about hating cynicism. I thought it was nice, but it would have been nicer without the nastiness that led up to it. I confess I like Conan, but I thought it wasn’t worthy of him. I wanted better from him.
 
I think is a shame he didn’t let the lawyers fight for his $30-odd million settlement and stuck to classic Conan humour. That would have been classy. Granted the ratings have been never been higher. But to be fair, Conan and Jay had plenty of company when it came to behaving badly.
 
John and Elizabeth Edwards: Please just stop -- both of you.Just when I thought John and Elizabeth Edwards couldn’t get any tackier, they topped themselves. John Edwards has come out and “claimed paternity” of his two year-old child. What kind of a man takes two years to take responsibility for his own child? He has cheated, lied, and lied some more. Does anyone believe he would have come forward even now, if not for a book by his former aide, Andrew Young, due out later this month?
 
Edwards’s former aide has written a tell-all book about an elaborate cover-up. He claims Edwards, his then boss, asked him to participate in a bizarre scheme to claim paternity of Edward’s mistress Rielle Hunter’s daughter. To think this man was actually a serious contender for the office of president!
 
Elizabeth Edwards, who claims to be a Southern lady, wrote a book to tell her side of this scandal, thus stirring up more unsavoury publicity. That is far from ladylike or maternal. In the book and a subsequent interview with Oprah, she confessed she considered the child of “no significance to her life”. Her coldness was frightening. She also confessed that she had felt no obligation to make her husband step down from his campaign even after learning about his affair. She maintained this stance even when Oprah asked her if she had not felt a responsibility to the Democratic Party.
 
I have no use for those who break up marriages or any desire to comment on how the Edwards’s or anyone else conduct theirs. But, is there no limit to the things that people will make public, and is no end to our appetite for them?
 
Sure, the media is complicit. I know I am not the only one who is bored out of my mind with tales of Tiger’s infidelities and subsequent rehab. Yet I must say, I find his wife Elin‘s behaviour admirable. She has been refreshingly discreet and private. Couples and individuals who endeavour to remain private are subjected to ruthless and pointless scrutiny.
 
Classless behaviour runs rampant through our society. People speak before they think and often share too much information. From sore losers to braggarts, classless behaviour has too often become the norm. In a sticky or difficult situation, the classy thing is usually to say very little.
 
 
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