Dear Mr. Baldwin:
We are strangers, and in a more just world, we would remain so.
Your recent farewell to public life has, I hope, cauterized the exposure of your personal life to the public eye, and I thank you for making this change.
Since this is farewell, allow me the monumental hubris to speak for the public.
Let me open with this disclaimer: I am a fan of your work. You are eloquent, audacious, and strong. I know that when you enter a scene, I will be utterly captivated by your performance.
Much of what makes you so compelling on the big screen – your forceful personality, your immediate connection to the heart of the matter, your incisive volume that cuts through the inconsequential – these same qualities, I recognize, could make you a difficult person to work with, or to live with.
Thanks to the paparazzi culture, I have been privy to some of the more lurid details of your work and home life.
I do not work with you, and I do not live with you.
It is wholly unnecessary for me to be acquainted with this side of you.
It has always felt…dirty, when I read a smear story about your family. I remember being so shocked when I read about the voicemail you left to your daughter. I was not shocked by the content – I have been called much worse by my own parents. My shock, humiliation, and distress came from the public exposure of your private quarrel.
I want to acknowledge, on behalf of all the decent people who shun the tabloid press, that you have been treated unfairly.
Your personal failings have nothing to do with my actual relationship to you.
I am a fan.
I watch you in movies.
I watch you on television.
You memorize your lines, you inhabit a character, and you perform for all the world to see.
You offer that performance for me to watch, and I gladly accept your gift.
The implicit offer that has ridden like a parasite upon this exchange, that being sleazed by the press is just ‘part of showbiz,’ it’s bullshit.
My joy at watching your stellar performance – or my disheartened disdain at watching you perform in a crap movie – is completely, totally, and wholly separate from the vilified character that has been created in the press.
This ‘evil Alec Baldwin’ that has been crafted, to expose and magnify your personal flaws, it is a symptom of the unhealthy cancer in the modern media.
(If demonizing a star sells papers, then I would posit that we should not be selling papers.)
I am not surprised that you ‘loathe and despise the media in a way [you] did not think possible.’ You have been treated very badly. Despite your aggressive, foul-mouthed demeanor in confrontations, nobody could seriously consider such a titan of Hollywood to be a homophobe.
You have been smeared.
But I must say, with all respect and humility, you asked for it.
We are very different gentlemen, you and I. I have no wealth, a limited amount of influence, and very modest success. But there is one area of my life that I have mastered, and it is in this area that I dare to offer you advice:
I know how to control my mindset.
When you see someone approach you with a camera, on the streets of your home city, I cannot blame you for putting up your guard.
Preparing for battle.
Readying yourself for the worst, and even expecting it.
It is this expectation, Mr. Baldwin, which I believe has been your undoing.
Again, I must reiterate that I do not know you, and I presume much in making the assumption that it is my place to advise you. However, since this is the moment of our farewell, I offer this last piece of parting advice in the hope that it could improve at least one future interaction with a boorish and impolite cretin that has a camera and a bone to pick with you.
The way you enter the interaction sets the stage. You are used to being the most powerful person in the room, I am sure, so I urge you to take on the responsibility to set the stage with the paparazzi.
Bring a portable mindset with you.
Decide, in advance, how you will respond, feel, and even think.
As you said in your farewell letter, “It’s good-bye to public life in the way that you try to communicate with an audience playfully like we’re friends, beyond the work you are actually paid for. Letterman. Saturday Night Live. That kind of thing.”
Now, your audience communicates with you through the lens of a paparazzi.
So, control that communication.
I can only imagine how annoying and aggravating it must be, when you have your hands full of parcels and a dozen thoughts on your mind, to be accosted by a stranger who baits you with a loaded question and a recording device.
If you bring anger, aggression, and confrontation into play, they will be all too willing to meet you on that playing field.
If you bring calm, boring, and placid energy into the interaction, they do not have the very fuel that they need to burn you.
If I may be permitted a linguistically accurate, thematically relevant, and potentially hurtful pun, the faggots for the bonfire are of your own making, Mr. Baldwin.
Thankfully, there is a fully controllable lodestone that can guide your behavior, and by proxy the entire interaction with the paparazzi, and that is your mindset.
How you think the interaction will go…it is quite often how it turns out, isn’t it?
In the past, when you have seen someone approaching with a question and a camera, and you expect the worst, how often does it turn sour?
In those times when you have been jovial, and distant, and unconcerned, how often does it turn into nothing?
Decide on the one-sentence standard verbal response, practice the smile you will fake, and do not let them break your character.
You have the power and the will to deny them what they need to keep the story going.
Should you sequester yourself among the estates of Los Angeles, “a place where you live behind a gate, you get in a car, your interaction with the public is minimal,” I will applaud your decision, and look forward with anticipation to your next entrance onto the big screen.
I will not miss reading about your personal life in the papers, or seeing your name in the headlines of morally questionable websites. I don’t need to know about that side of you.
I am a fan.
I am completely willing to reduce my knowledge of you to the gifts and performances that you choose to bestow on the public, because as a fan, that is my rightful place.
My favorite moment of Comedians in Cars getting Coffee was with you and Jerry Seinfeld, when you asked him, “If I produced the Oscars, would you host it?”
I don’t know if you were blowing smoke, or if you actually do wield that much power.
And I don’t care.
My enjoyment came from watching two masters of the craft of performance, having lunch, and deciding whether or not to pursue an epic-sized project.
You were playing the character of yourself, and you were in complete control of the character.
I hope you can maintain that level of control, in the improvisational performances you do not agree to participate in, with an unknown jerk that has a camera as your sudden performance partner.
In closing, I am sorry, Mr. Baldwin.
I apologize for the indiscretion of the public, and our examination into your private life.
I hope that over the next few years, whether it is due to the walls of your Los Angeles estate, or to your new positive mindset, that the news I read about you is limited to your performances, and nothing more.
In a world where the media is hungry for your personal failings, there is only one way to thwart their hunger – starve it.