Plenty Of Bartenders

We need more good men like you, sir. 

The Departed is one of my all-time favorite movies for a myriad of reasons. I love the soundtrack, the hard-hitting editing, the standout performances from every member of the cast, and the masterfully convoluted story – but what really makes the movie for me is how many infinitely quotable lines it has, most of which can’t be repeated in polite company.

There’s one particular line from The Departed that I come back to on an almost daily basis. Late in the film’s second act, an abrasive, angry detective clashes violently with his fellow officers and, when rebuked by his captain, threatens to quit the police department.

Calling his bluff, the captain shrugs and exclaims, “World needs plenty of bartenders!” Except because the movie is awesomely set in Boston, it sounds like, “World needs plentya bahtendahs!

I love the line because it’s a really simple and eloquent way to tell somebody to quit bitching and get back to work. It pops into my head every time a Congressman starts whining about how hard his job is, or some rapper dedicates a big chunk of time to calling out his haters. Hell, I even mutter the line out loud when I feel myself getting kind of huffy about a freelance writing assignment:

Oh, what’s that? You don’t want to make the changes the client wants you to make? Well, world needs plenty of bartenders, asshole! Nobody’s forcing you to keep pursuing this career path that you’re incredibly lucky to be on. No, I’m serious; go be a bartender. See how much you like a job where you have to stand up and deal with the general public for up to eight hours at a stretch. I’m sure you’ll find that far more rewarding and enjoyable than making those revisions on page three, you feckin’ pissah.*

*The part of my brain that belittles me into action is from South Boston.

It’s worth noting that the character who actually says, “World needs plenty of bartenders!” is played by Alec Baldwin. It’s worth noting that because when I read that Alec Baldwin has declared that he’s leaving public life forever, all I wanted to do was throw that line right the hell back in his face.

Let’s get the obvious thing out of the way: Alec Baldwin is extremely talented. I think his face should be on postage stamps in honor of the incredible work he did on 30 Rock, and even when he’s in movies that I hate – holla back It’s Complicated and To Rome With Love! – he’s one of the highlights.

But with that said, Alec Baldwin is also an insufferable asshole.

Case in point: He’s the only person I’ve ever had to stop following on Twitter. When I signed up for my old account a couple years ago, he was one of the first people I followed, but within two weeks I’d unfollowed him because it seemed like every damn day he was getting into a new, angry flame war with some troll account that had eight followers and no profile photo.

I mean, what does cussing out some 15 year old on Twitter accomplish for you, Alec Baldwin? At the end of the day, he’s just some guy trolling celebrities on Twitter, whereas you remain Alec fucking Baldwin. You have everything to lose and nothing to gain from launching these countless personal crusades against strangers, and yet you keep doing it, to the point that a person who is one of your fans who specifically followed you on Twitter so he could hear what you have to say was forced to stop following you.

This is why I didn’t buy it for one second when Alec Baldwin, in a 5000 word New York Magazine cover story, blamed everybody except himself for his problems and announced that he is officially “retiring” from public life. Oh, don’t worry – he’ll still act; he’s just not going to be a celebrity anymore.

I’m sure that’s what Alec Baldwin genuinely wants right now. Right now I genuinely want to quit drinking Diet Coke. But 20 minutes from now, when I have a mouthful of Sriracha and rice, the only thing I’m going to want is a Diet Coke – and after a few months to a year of “retirement” from public life, the only thing Alec Baldwin is going to want is to turn on the news and see journalists, politicians, and celebrities buzzing about something that he said.

Being famous in and of itself does not make you a public figure. The first tabloid article I ever saw about Philip Seymour Hoffman was reporting his death; Daniel Day-Lewis does not pen opinionated political screeds for the Huffington Post. It’s not like the nation’s attention was foisted on Alec Baldwin post-Red October against his will – he earned that attention by being outspoken and opinionated for 20 years.

To be fair, Baldwin argues that he’s no longer seeking the spotlight because today’s media environment is more predatory and negative than it used to be. That’s not untrue. But let’s not forget that he’s making that argument in a lengthy magazine article in which he calls out numerous other public figures by name – Rachel Maddow is “a phony who doesn’t have the same passion for truth off-camera that she does on air,” Joe Scarborough is “neither eloquent nor funny.”* These are not the actions of a man who seeks a quiet retirement from public life.

*I mean, he’s right about Scarborough, but still.

Not being a public figure anymore is as simple as shutting the fuck up and keeping a low profile. Alec Baldwin knows that. And instead, he chose to announce that he no longer wants the public’s attention or the media’s criticism by taking to a public forum to personally criticize several members of the media.

Listen to me, Alec Baldwin: The world genuinely does need a large quantity of bartenders. In fact, there’s a sticky little dive bar tucked into the strip mall around the corner from my apartment that’s so poorly lit nobody would even see your face. They open at 7:00 every morning, and I’m sure if you had a couple of references you could pick up some daytime shifts there pouring drinks for the alcoholics and refilling the condom machine in the bathroom in total anonymity.  
Does that sound like something you’d be interested in?

Truman Capps would not put it past Alec Baldwin to read this update and get extremely upset about it.