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Posted at 10:43 AM ET, 09/ 5/2007

Celebritology 101: When Stars Step in It

By Liz Kelly

It's not often that Jerry Lewis and Whoopi Goldberg enter the same orbit, but this week both aligned on a parallel course headed straight to the planet of misguided notions.

I'm not a fan of schlocky slapstick humor, which is pretty much the limit of Lewis's "talent." I'm convinced the "he's loved in France" line is just propaganda designed to malign the French. And, despite his continued commitment to raising money for the Muscular Dystrophy Association, it's time for Jerry to follow his old pal Dean Martin to the great soundstage in the sky retire.*

Aside from an early nuanced, heart-breaking performance as Celie in "The Color Purple," Goldberg has never done much for me, either. The fact that she rarely does stand-up these days is a comic relief. And, thank you, nameless Hollywood producers, for releasing us long ago from Whoopi's fabulously hackneyed movies ("Sister Act," "Jumpin' Jack Flash," "Made in America." Shudder.) Now all I need do to avoid Whoopi is keep my TV set far away from ABC on weekday mornings.

This week, though, both managed to raise eyebrows and draw criticism for making some pretty bone-headed statements.

Lewis, while hosting his ninth annual Labor Day MDA telethon, was "jokingly" introducing a camera man's family when he said:

"Oh, your family has come to see you. You remember Bart, your oldest son, Jesse, the illiterate fag."

Lewis immediately caught himself and moved on. And, after an outraged statement from GLAAD, apologized saying "I obviously made a bad choice of words. Everyone who knows me understands that I hold no prejudices in this regard."

Goldberg, for her part, celebrated her first day as the latest "View" co-host by defending admitted dog torturer Michael Vick. When discussing his charges, Goldberg said:

"He's from the South, from the Deep South ... This is part of his cultural upbringing. For a lot of people, dogs are sport. Instead of just saying (Vick) is a beast and he's a monster, this is a kid who comes from a culture where this is not questioned."

Goldberg, too, drew an immediate outraged response -- hers from the Humane Society of the United States -- and probably should, also, from millions of Southerners who don't see dogfighting as part of their "cultural upbringing."

But, Lewis and Goldberg are only the latest in a recent string of celebs who have inserted their feet firmly into their mouths. Isaiah Washington lost his berth on ABC's hit show "Grey's Anatomy" after news that he had called co-star T.R. Knight a "faggot" emerged. Former "Seinfeld" co-star Michael Richards was consigned to the trash heap of obscurity after loosing a tirade of racial epithets on stage at a comedy club. And Mel Gibson, once one of Hollywood's most bankable stars, will likely never fully recover from last summer's DUI arrest when he unleashed a string of anti-Semitic comments at his arresting officer and referred to one female cop as "Sugartits."

It's too soon to tell whether or not Lewis and Goldberg will suffer for their remarks. But I'm left with some questions. Maybe you can answer them. Vote in today's poll, then share your thoughts below in the comments area.

* Okay. As late as it is to be appending this, I just can't sit on my hands any longer. I do not wish Jerry Lewis dead. The sentiment I intended to express was that "If all Jerry Lewis can offer in the way of humor is homophobic blather, maybe it's time he retired from the mike." That's it. Poor choice of words first time around. Mea culpa. Ain't irony a son of a gun?

By Liz Kelly  | September 5, 2007; 10:43 AM ET
Categories:  Celebritology 101  
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