Thursday, June 19, 2008

My love/hate relationship with Brad Pitt

Nothing bugs me like famous people trying to co-opt my coolness. Take Brad Pitt. He grew up in Springfield, Missouri and went to the Missouri School of Journalism at the University of Missouri–Columbia. Word has it his focus was in advertising, and he left a few classes shy of earning his degree. Since then, he has enjoyed a remarkable career in acting and even some film producing. Yet according to his Wikipedia profile, he's a "knowledgeable fan of architecture." IMDB.com quotes him as saying, "I'd like to design something like a city or a museum. I want to do something hands on rather than just play golf which is the sport of the religious right." Supposedly, he once said, "If I hadn't been an actor, I would have been an architect." Really? Is that why you majored in journalism and didn't even finish school? You wouldn't have lasted a day in architecture school, my well-cheekboned friend.


He was given a tour of Frank Gehry's office along with Angelina Jolie, displaying her first Pitt-caused baby bump, and even told Vanity Fair that he respected Frank Gehry a great deal. He even had Gehry design a wine cellar for him and then-wife Jennifer Aniston. (According to some sources, he had a small apprenticeship at Gehry's studio, but reports conflict. Besides, y'all already know how I feel about Frank Gehry.) He's a Frank Lloyd Wright fan, and celebrated his 43rd birthday at Wright's Fallingwater. The latest word is that he's now investing in a sustainable/eco-friendly five-star resort in Dubai, saying that "architecture has always been [his] passion." Evidently, so is investing in a country charging us over $100 a barrel for oil.

More evidently, if you're a famous actor, all you have to do is call up a famous architect or super-rich developer, and you can go hang out with them. And while you're hanging out, hopefully some of the mysterious brilliant/creative/highbrow cache from the starchitect or developer will rub off on you, and you'll be cooler, or smarter, or whatever adjective allows you to leave Springfield, Missouri in the dust.


Everyone thinks architects are cooler than they are. And if they can't stomach the work and tenacity and energy it takes to be one, they'll just hang out with one, and everyone will think they're cool. Shame on you, Brad Pitt, I think to myself when I see him in photos with famous starchitects like this:

And yet...

Pitt's Make It Right Project--designed to build 150 homes in NOLA's poor-and-devastated Lower 9th Ward through donations of money and architect's efforts and to use sustainable design technologies and design and construction practices--is arguably doing more for Katrina's homeless than all of FEMA in the past two years. (Denver comic and veterinarian Dr. Kevin Fitzgerald recently said, "I'm beginning to think that FEMA stands for 'Forget Everything, Move Away'.") I have to give him props for promoting green design and construction, no matter where it's happening. Remember, ten years ago, hybrid cars and solar energy were high-falutin' tree-hugging concepts. Now, an increase in demand combined with some pretty nice tax breaks (here in Colorado, anyway), these technologies are becoming rather affordable and downright attractive.

I also have to give him mad props for the story Gehry was telling about the above photo. He told Newsweek that he didn't know who took that photo, and he only met Brad for a few minutes and that Brad hasn't even called since he visited the office. So Brad loves and leaves starchitects? Nah, probably he left Gehry for the same reason he supposedly left Jennifer Aniston--they were both boring sticks-in-the-mud. While Gehry may have a sense of humor about himself enough to be on the Simpsons, I nearly chewed my leg off to get away while watching part of the documentary about him, Sketches of Frank Gehry. That shit shoulda been called Everyone Should Whack Me Off While I Show You How Brilliant I Am. I would have named it Wonder How This DVD Would Sound In a Wheat Thresher, but mercifully the Netflix DVD of it was messed up and kept hanging up and skipping, so we cut it off after about half an hour. Pitt probably realized that Gehry's joy is not in making art that people can use and enjoy, but in building stuff that speaks of his own grandiose notion of how buildings should look. Run, Brad, run!

And I do have to give Pitt some credit for his own modesty, such as this quote from the 10/13/97 issue of Time magazine after the release of Seven Years In Tibet: "You shouldn't speak until you know what you're talking about. That's why I get uncomfortable with interviews. Reporters ask me what I feel China should do about Tibet. Who cares what I think China should do? I'm a f---ing actor! They hand me a script. I act. I'm here for entertainment. Basically, when you whittle everything away, I'm a grown man who puts on makeup." So, while he's using his fame to get houses built in New Orleans, he's acknowledging that he's hardly a policy maker, and that we all need to take the words of famous people with a grain of salt and a large margarita. According to comic Brett Butler, who once showed her house (then for sale) to Pitt and Aniston, she described the scene as if Aniston was appalled by any trace of humor, and Pitt was cracking up the whole time, especially when he asked what she looked at with a telescope in her living room, and she replied, "Oh, stars, you know. Joan Collins lives across the lake and I watch her get undressed."

So, yet again, I'm left with mixed feelings about Brad Pitt. I don't appreciate him buying his way into the world that I've worked damn hard to be a part of, but I appreciate his endeavors to share that with everyone and to use his fame and interests to help those less fortunate. So, for now, I can't cast him into my mass grave with Paris Hilton and Whitney and Bobby. For now.

1 comment:

Charlotte said...

Being a resident of Springfield, MO, I've heard a lot about Brad Pitt, but I didn't know about the journalism and advertising thing; that's really interesting.