Hands of Fate: Steve Guttenberg
posted by Paul on 10/15/01
The 80's as we all know was a wonderful era, an era when poor taste and dismal pop culture were the order.I squirm when I watch these talking head TV shows, where ubiquitous and fourth rate celebrities sit around debating the merits and quirks of the bygone days. Watching some no-talent laugh and make some insightful comment like "OMG, we used to wear flare trousers!!1" is not my idea of quality entertainment.
We're in that postmodern era now where everyone is in on the joke. Movies and TV shows have to be self-referential and any movie which tries to stray from the formula is labelled hackneyed or manipulative. Some movies will stoop low, sell well and escape such criticism. But I truly believe we'll never see shows with the overblown entertainment content of "The A Team", "Knight Rider" or "Charlie's Angels" again. Similarly, can anything of recent times even come close to the simple comic genius of a "Ghostbusters"? Will we ever get another national treasure like Mr T?
Yes I really want to hurt ya! Stop ya jibba jabba!
In other words, most entertainment output these days is non-escapist and very grounded. That isn't necessarily a bad thing, since in twenty years when lagging TV executives are struggling for solid programming, they'll once again come up with the genius idea of paying desperate Z-Listers to talk about the "Quirky 90's"- and you'd imagine that they'd have less to talk about then. Don't count on it, though. No, you can rest assured that with the 20/20 benefits of hindsight, current embarrassments such as
"Sabrina:The Teenage Witch", Mandy Moore (and her ilk) and the current crop of talentless teen thesps will be given the deserved treatment. What did we see in them indeed?
Luckily, our times dictate that we must be self-knowledgable, and we seem to have avoided the more garish fads of the eighties - Culture Club, mock rebellion and all those hideous clothing ranges seem more centred now (centred in some bars I have frequented, but centred nonetheless). Nostalgia is a great and blinding thing, and I take it as a great offence when something I enjoyed way back doesn't survive the passage of time or is ridiculed by some ditzy celeb whose opinion I'll never rate. There are shows that I enjoyed in the eighties that I'm afraid to watch now, despite the endless re-runs. Afraid because I know my memory has made them seen better and realization is a sucky thing. Convincing yourself that a show or a movie was great only to discover how unrealistic the sets looked, or how laughable the dialogue really is, definitely isn't cool.
What's more disturbing is that in twenty years Britney Spears might be the queen of pop, or, at least, have made a valuable contribution to the genre. After all, few so-called experts gave Madonna much of a shot at longevity, and who would have thought then that actors like Don Johnson, Tom Selleck and Christopher Reeve would drop off the radar screen so dramatically (the latter dropped off a horse so dramatically, but I do digress)?
And the Oscar goes to...Hilary Swank!
Indeed, who in their right minds would have been ballsy enough to predict that the nerd-faced star of "The Burbs" and the smirking lead of "Cocktail" would be two of Hollywood's biggest players in a decade's time? Who would have guessed that Micheal Jackson would turn into a goblin and rape defenseless boys?
The point (in case you're a little slow off the mark) is that success is hit or miss. Today, slapasses like Freddie Prinze Jr might make movies in which their character must balance beanbags and not let it drop.Tomorrow he could be talking about "She's All That" like it was his "Risky Business" or "Bachelor Party". Chris Klein talks to cows, Rocky Dennis's girlfriend talked to horses. When I look into the most crystal of my balls, I see a very bleak future for Chris Klein. Ok, I don't think we need a psychic gift OR a surgically enhanced testicle to see that Chris Klein has a very bleak future. But, obviousness aside, I'd like to take a look at an actor of whom many great things were predicted:
At my signal, unleash Hell.
That name is either sure to chill anyone who reads it, or will produce nothing but confusion. Some will know him and perhaps remember him fondly, but most will look back at him as a quintessential product of the eighties - bright, nice and lacking in substance. Yes, Steve Guttenberg is a washed up actor now and the constant butt of smartass jokes about Bob Saget-like performers. The goofy sort who look like they're acting in a vacuum with all the range of Christopher Reeve's vocal chords. Yet just fifteen years ago Guttenberg was in the same breakout league as such luminaries as Tom Hanks and ,erm, Andrew McCarthy. To be honest, many critics couldn't distinguish between the trio of Michael Keaton, Tom Hanks and Guttenberg and knew that one of them would have to distinguish themselves in order to nail the "nice guy"/ "everyman" type casting. That was the glass ceiling that was predicted, but no-one would have predicted that Tom Hanks, who once acted as a big kid AND an ugly woman would become one of the most respected actors in Hollywood, nor that Keaton would take the edgier roles and be one of the most underrated actors plying his trade. Few would have predicted that Guttenberg would have sunk without trace.
His career began brightly enough, nailing the nice guy nuances in movies like "Short Circuit" and "Three Men and a Baby".Those movies were very big hits - one focused on a robot that becomes intelligent, the other was about three campy men living in a New York apartment who raise up a baby girl. It sounds like one long orgy of homosexual jokes and off the knuckle humor, and there's no way they could make the movie today, but it did make alot of money and gave the impression that Guttenberg had a good career in store.
Before "Three Men and homosexual undertones, Guttenberg had a good role in the "Police Academy" movies, rattling off tired and ridiculously contrived jokes with a mixture of wooden and perplexed tone. Later, he played the nice guy in Ron Howard's movie about old folk getting abducted by aliens - something that, for years, I've been wishing aliens would do to Warren Beatty and Burt Reynolds. "Cocoon" was a good movie and Guttenberg showed that he could play dependable and bland. Nevertheless, he had what I call "Chris Tucker syndrome." Executives were too busy drooling over the hit movies he was in to notice that he wasn't at all responsible for any of them.
Here's an autograph for your brother...I wrote it on the Starter...uh...brain...
Guttenberg was never a great actor and probably never could be, but onscreen he had that Judge Reinhold gawkiness about him and you could tell he was trying - as opposed to the current crop of young wannabees plucked from obscurity and with zero respect for movies. His acting ability was really shown up in "The Bedroom Window", his first proper dramatic role. I always liked this movie, not least because it features the scariest looking rapist in the history of cinema. I swear, ladies, one look at this guy would turn you lesbian. Of course, he did need to force himself on girls and spends most of his time hanging out in bars staring desperately and hopelessly at every female that enters the room. That's never a good way to live. Just ask Whatever-Dude's own Dave Macchia.
In a movie where he was supposed to be serious and angst ridden, Guttenberg had all the cutting edge of jello. He floundered and was in way over his head. He had a few more title roles in such intellect-provoking gems as "Three Men and a Little Lady", which sounds like some bizarre porn movie and comes off with as much wooden acting and fake climaxing. This is an era when Whoopi Goldberg was getting honored by the Academy, so it might be nice to put Guttenberg in his proper context. He is, I suppose, the eighties answer to Dean Cain - someone who showed glimpses of promise but was ultimately found out.
Or maybe he's the Michael Jackson of the cinematic world (that would actually be Rocky Dennis, but play along). For in his notable career decline after the "Three Men..", Guttenberg resigned himself (read:they were the only parts he could shuffle from Jon Ritter) to playing ridiculous characters in ridiculous kids movies like "Home Team". Sometimes it's better to bow out with a sense of dignity, but Guttenberg is clawing at his last promise of success and it actually obliterates the good body of work he had chalked up in the last era. But, like Jacko, he claims to be doing it for the kids.
His interest in the welfare of youngsters reflected in his work as a producer and director. He executive produced Gangs, a CBS School Break Special which earned an Emmy nomination, and he debuted as a director with another critically-acclaimed CBS School Break Special, Love Off Limits.
A likely story. I think it's more to do with being given the proverbial Hollywood heave-ho that Steve has resorted to such lowly fare.
Guttenberg’s crowded spare time includes his charitable activities for such kids-oriented agencies as Friends of the Children/Bridges
Guttenberg's "crowded spare time" includes crying and trying to poison himself. Send him an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org and tell him he was fantastic in "Punchline."
It's a fickle business, and it's strange to think that fate could have been much kinder to Guttenberg and many other actors who've also vanished from public consciousness.
Who knows, maybe if he'd chosen his roles more wisely he could have been collecting Oscars for playing characters in love with Antonio Banderas and with disgusting skincare (and I'm not talking about the Melanie Griffith biopic. This time). Today's Paul Walker/Ryan Philippe or (god help us) Scott Caan could be tomorrow's Tom Cruise. It only takes one good or bad career decision and there is ample proof in the past that this is critical. It's true that the cream usually rises to the top, but are Hanks and Cruise the same calibre as they were ten years ago? Of course not. In Hollywood, you need a break, and either Guttenberg was too nice or too dispensible to reap the rewards.
I'll leave you with some words from one of the greatest thinkers of our time. I think he says it better than I ever could.
I wonder how old you are? You can't be very old or else I would have noticed that you have a brain. Reading what you wrote, I see no proof that you actually do have a brain!!! You're very immature, so crawl back to whatever hole you came from....Go back to the grade school, you're probably got left back so many times, you can' t even finish, you FAGGOT!!!
Translation: fame is fleeting.
AOL IM: paulwdfans