Like everyone else, I thought the Armond White foot-shooting incident (the City Arts critic allegedly calling 12 years A Slave director Steve McQueen an “embarassing doorman” and a “garbageman” at a 1.6 New York Film Critics Circle awards ceremony, and getting expelled by the NYFCC on 1.13 as a result) had been sufficiently reported. The matter was written about thoroughly and eloquently by Entertainment Weekly critic Owen Gleiberman on 1.13 and by New York critic David Edelstein on 1.14. But two days ago (Friday, 1.17) a N.Y. Times Cara Buckley story brought it up again. Buckley’s piece is not a career obit or a hand-wringing lament about boorish public behavior, but is more or less neutrally respectful of White’s position that he was booted out by a group of Hollywood-kowtowing, left-liberal commissars. Really?
There’s one thing I’ve been told by a certain NYFCC member that I completely accept, to wit: the NYFCC committee did not enjoy giving White his walking papers and were quite anguished about it, but as White had refused to explain or apologize for the incident at their 1.13 meeting, they felt they had to lay down the law. “It was lose, lose,” Edelstein tells Buckley. Giving White the boot left him feeling “devastated and dreadful,” he says, because “we need to treasure the cranks, we need to treasure the crackpots because the [film criticism] profession has gotten so cautious.”
Buckley’s piece (a) quotes White describing the NYFCC as “an incestuous clubhouse of friends” who are “not people who made their bones as journalists or critics,” (b) allows that White’s expulsion could be characterized as a conservative-minded “unpopular kid” being subjected to what critic Thelma Adams believes was a “Stalinist” purge, and (c) states that “it is unclear what precisely happened [on] the night of January 6th,” given a possibility that it wasn’t White but other guys sitting at his table who did the actual heckling.
That’s not what Vanity Fair contributor Katey Rich stated on a recent Ricky Camilleri Huffpost taping or what a British journalist who was sitting fairly close to White’s table told me last night. They both say it was White who spoke the heckling words. A NYFCC member who’s listened to the poor-quality recording of the NYFCC event has told me he immediately recognized White’s voice as the shouter. White didn’t admit anything during a recent audio interview with /FilmCast’s David Chen, but he seemed to obliquely admit to being a party to the heckling by downplaying the issue. Heckling at awards ceremonies, he said, “is no big deal.”
Given the bend-over-backwards possibility that someone else at White’s table was the offending bigmouth, why didn’t Buckley ask White, whom she interviewed for this article, for the names of White’s table-pallies and then grill them about who exactly said what? The Times is supposed to the paper of record and an ultimate arbiter so why didn’t Buckley simply do the work and get to the bottom of this? If a friend of White was the guilty party, why didn’t this person cop to this instead of letting White twist slowly in the wind? Wall Street Journal columnist Robin Kawakami apparently pursued this line of questioning but reported that White “wouldn’t discuss his friends, saying that ‘they are adults.'” In short White is protecting the guys who (let’s be liberal about this) might have been the real culprits while they’ve refused to stand up and get him off the hook? What a crock of shit.
The bottom line remains the same — White could have finessed his way out of this if he’d attended the 1.13 meeting and apologized or (and I’m not suggesting anything or saying I know anything about White’s personal situation) pleaded alcoholism and pledged to go to rehab. People are always forgiving when a person who’s gotten into trouble brings up booze.
My guess is that a year or two down the road the NYFCC will re-admit White if he pledges to never be part of a vocal disturbance incident again.