Fallen heroes can give you wrinkles: Cynthia Heimel is suffering from disillusionment-trauma

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Indy Lifestyle Online
The nation is reeling. We are sleepless and dazed, crashing into walls. The country's morale has never been lower. A pillar of our existence has collapsed. Our hero has destroyed himself in front of our horror-stricken eyes.

Woody, what could you have been thinking?

Maybe it was a set-up. There are two kinds of people in the world: those who think Woody Allen is the genius spokesman of our collective angst, and those who think he's a filthy Jewish liberal gay-sympathising cultural elitist Communist madman. Another name for these two groups are Democrats and Republicans.

So I'm thinking the Republicans have something on Woody or maybe put a horse's head in his bed, because the timing is just too perfect. Right in the middle of the Republican convention, during a huge orgy of family-values hysteria, suddenly this.

The Republicans figure that all Democrats will become so disheartened, so disorientated by the fall of their hero that they'll just shoot themselves. Even if they don't shoot themselves, they'll be too demoralised to vote. This theory could be true. Woody himself said that politicians are 'a notch beneath child molester'.

I personally have new lines on my face. I looked in the mirror just now and two furrows have appeared since yesterday.

Yesterday wasn't too bad. Yesterday was the day the news hit.

Everybody's first impulse was to laugh it off. 'I just want to say,' said this comedian I know, 'that Woody Allen became my hero when I was in Junior High, he's been my hero all through my life. So I'm not just jumping on the bandwagon now.'

We had your traditional fight between men and women, with the men swallowing hard and then proclaiming how cool it was, and the women sullen and snippy about yet another man turning out to be just a stupid git who cares more about youth and beauty than grace and spirit, who discards his mate for someone one-third his age. 'Come on, we'd all do it if we could,' said a waiter. 'He's an asshole. I hate him,' said a waitress.

But today the reality has sunk in. Plus there is the story of alleged child abuse, not that anyone believes he abused those tiny children, but still, the ugliness]

Then we saw Woody being ever so Woodyish during his news conference. (This has nothing to do with anything, but could men like George Bush, Warren Beatty and Woody please stop covering their grey hair with that cheap reddish- brown hair colour stuff? It's ugly and an insult to our intelligence. Guys, go to a professional.)

Seeing Woody's face and hearing that familiar voice made us realise that this wasn't just a fun showbiz scandal about people we don't give a damn about, like, oh, Roseanne's singing or Liz's drug abuse, this was about our beloved Woody. A man who shaped the way we think, a man we identify with, a man we believe we actually know. But humiliating your mate by falling in love with her daughter, a girl you've known since she was nine, is something we don't want to know.

I'm worried about my son. This is a kid who has seen Annie Hall 50 times and can quote anything in any Woody movie verbatim. A kid who after seeing When Harry Met Sally astonished me by listing the dozens of scenes that were Woody Allen rip-offs. A kid famous for not reading, who's never read a single book of mine (the little bastard) but who has read all of Woody's.

'It's his own tragic fate,' says my kid. 'Total self-destruction that great artists are prone to,' I said. 'I guess I could see the signs but didn't want to,' he said.

We had lunch with my friend Alan the director. 'I feel betrayed,' Alan said. 'He's the father, the power in the relationship. He has a moral responsibility. I keep thinking of that scene in Manhattan, where he's standing in a schoolroom with Michael Murphy and a hanging skeleton.' 'Oh, yeah,' says my kid, 'where he points to the skeleton and says, 'It's very important to have some kind of personal integrity. I'll be hanging in a classroom one day and I want to make sure that when I thin out I'm well thought of.' ' A bearded man at the next table leaned towards us and spoke. 'It's an issue of such complexity that a novelist should deal with it instead of a judge. This country has just gone into totally surreal black humour.' The woman sitting with him piped up. 'Love is blind, but Woody, hon, get yourself a seeing eye dog.'

Cynthia Heimel is a playwright and columnist for the 'Village Voice'