We all like to say it (with varying levels of profanity). We all like to believe that we’re independent people who don’t care what others think. And to some extent, I’m sure most of us are. But to a similar extent, I’m sure most of us aren’t. These five honorees are different. They really don’t give a f***. This is not to say that they are not admirable people. Some of them are very admirable, others not so much. Nonetheless, they are all largely indifferent to others’ opinions of them.
A quick note: Originally, this list had seven people. But after thinking about it, I chose to omit Jim Brown and Gaetan Dugas, the Canadian flight attendant often referred to as Patient Zero for AIDS in America. In Brown’s case, it was too complicated to justify his inclusion on the list. While he didn’t care what society thought of him, he cared deeply about a lot of things. So rather than writing a long explaination as to why this person who devoted much of his life to helping others still belonged on this list, I left Brown off completely. Dugas lived it up in bathhouses across America long after discovering that he had AIDS. Reportedly, he would even show sexual partners his sores and joke about how they might now have “gay cancer.” Yeah, I know, really funny. But on the other hand, the guy was dying. It’s difficult to say whether this was his natural personality or some misguided coping mechanism. So I decided that “Never Gave A F***” was a little harsh and left him off too.
- A person. This eliminates the honey badger.
- The person did not care about society’s opinions of him/her or his/her own safety. All of the listees had their passions. It’s just that a good reputation was not one of them.
- The person is not simply crazy. This is a judgment call. None of the listees are exactly normal. But in my judgment, they don’t cross the line into crazy. Serial killers, homicidal dictators and people like Mike Tyson or Brittney Spears do cross that line.
With no further explanation needed, here are the five people who never gave a f***:
Bernie Goetz, New York City Subway Vigilante
In 1980s New York, crime broke through the levees, pouring over the streets and past neighborhood borders, until it soaked the entire city. People were getting mugged on Park Avenue, beaten in Central Park, shot in front of their homes and set on fire just about everywhere. Still, no place exemplified the city’s lawlessness like the subway. The Geneva Conventions didn’t even apply on the subway. Packs of thugs beat old ladies for fun on the subway. Yuppies got stabbed during rush hour on the subway – by other yuppies. It was anarchy. And then, amid the chaos, a hero emerged: a geeky electronics salesman named Bernard Goetz. Goetz was shaped like a lamppost, with the narrow, bespectacled face and irritated demeanor of the loner in everyone’s building who always complains that tenants are violating the by-laws. In 1981, fed up with an entire city that was violating the by-laws, Goetz bought a .38 Smith & Wesson. This gun was with him on a late December afternoon three years later, when Goetz boarded a subway train at Manhattan’s 14th Street Station. After taking a seat in a sparsely-populated section of the car, Goetz caught the eye of four young, African-American males. All had criminal records and admitted later that they were on their way to steal coins out of video game machines (I’m serious). Obviously, Goetz knew all of this the moment he saw them. The four toughs blocked Goetz off from the rest of the car. Then one of them “asked” him for $5. In the years that followed, the young man would claim that he was only panhandling, which I guess is not as hard to believe as, say, that he was Scuba diving. Over the next few minutes, the teens’ behavior got too aggressive for Bernie Goetz. So he pulled his .38 and planted one bullet in each of them. As the young men lay incapacitated on the floor, Goetz escaped the train and then the city, eventually landing in rural New Hampshire. He would turn himself in three days later. From that point forward, candor overcame him. It began with Goetz’ decision to waive his right to counsel and offload a two hour monologue that must rank among the ten most honest statements in the history of American criminal justice. The highlights: “The problem was that I ran out of bullets.” “My intention, you know, and I know this sounds horrible, but my intention was to murder them, to hurt them, to make them suffer as much as possible.” “I was gonna gouge one of their eyes out with my keys afterward.” “I ran back to the first two, to make sure…that they’d been taken care of, and they had…” At trial, Goetz’s lawyer kept him far away from the witness stand (though the jury did hear Goetz’s taped confession). The deck was already stacked in Goetz’s favor. In a city riddled with crime, eight of the twelve jurors had been victims themselves. None of the four toughs testified. So after a 6 week trial, the jury acquitted its beloved subway vigilante of attempted murder and assault, while reluctantly convicting him of gun possession. Goetz served nine months in Rikers, where he really took to prison life. Apparently, he made a friend that he only referred to as “Joe.” Joe had nearly 100 documented assaults in New York jails alone. According to Goetz, Joe was “quite intelligent,” and the two of them discussed astronomy and played chess. Joe also protected Goetz. It’s pretty clear that Goetz was Joe’s bitch. A civil suit by Darrell Cabey, one of the injured teens, awaited Goetz on the outside. This time Goetz had to testify. He did not disappoint, answering all the basic questions with his trademark honesty. Was he “being vicious” in the subway that day? “Uh, yes.” Now why did he think the victim (who was in court in a wheelchair) deserved to die? “Because he was acting like an a*****e.” But wait, Goetz didn’t actually think people deserved to die just for being a*****es, did he? “Well, in many cases it would make the world a better place.” The courtroom broke out in laughter, which didn’t affect Goetz one way or another. He barely shrugged when the jury awarded Cabey $43 million. Why not $100 million? Goetz wasn’t going to pay any of it, and to this day, he hasn’t. Today, the subway vigilante still lives in the same Manhattan neighborhood that spawned his midday shootout over 25 years ago. He doesn’t go by an assumed name, and he doesn’t hide his address. A few years ago, TMZ caught him walking to get something to eat, probably with a gun. But the fact remains that no one, whether it’s TMZ, CMT or Seal Team 6, should go near Bernie Goetz. We’re talking about a guy who will shoot four teenagers in the middle of Manhattan, tell the whole world every detail, call a guy in a wheelchair an a*****e in open court, shrug off a $43 million judgment and happily accept jail as an opportunity to play board games. Get on the subway and go somewhere far away from him.
Robert Bork, U.S. Supreme Court Nominee
In 1987, moments after President Ronald Reagan nominated Robert Bork to the United States Supreme Court, Senator Ted Kennedy marched to the podium on the Senate floor and offered this even-tempered assessment:
Robert Bork’s America is a land in which women would be forced into back-alley abortions, blacks would sit at segregated lunch counters, rogue police could break down citizens’ doors in midnight raids, schoolchildren could not be taught about evolution, writers and artists could be censored at the whim of the Government, and the doors of the Federal courts would be shut on the fingers of millions of citizens.
I certainly wouldn’t want someone like this on the Supreme Court, and I doubt Robert Bork would either. And of course, that was the point of Kennedy’s speech. For the next three months, Democrats and liberal interest groups unleashed a public relations onslaught that painted Bork as Mussolini with less charisma. While in its day, such a campaign was unprecedented, it has now become standard practice for Supreme Court nominations. What has not become standard practice is Bork’s response. Armed with his scraggly beard and demonic stare, Bork used his confirmation hearings to expose the senators’ intellectual shortcomings. And of course, that was not the point of the hearings. When a senator couldn’t understand an issue that Bork had clearly explained, Bork groaned and tried to correct him. When a senator asked a dumb question, Bork sighed into the microphone. Most of the questions were dumb, so there were a lot of sighs. Sometimes, Bork laughed at the Senators or talked over them. Other times, he belittled them. In the following example, then-Senator Joe Biden cuts Bork off as Bork explains that a law banning advice about contraceptives would never be enforced:
BIDEN: [The police could get a warrant] if they had evidence a crime that a crime was being committed –
BORK: How are they going to get evidence that a couple is using contraceptives?
BORK: You mean to say that a magistrate is going to authorize a wiretap to find out if a couple is going to use contraceptives?
BIDEN: They could, could they not, under the law?
BORK: [Laughs] Unbelievable, unbelievable, unbelievable…
This would not qualify as an attempt to win Biden’s confirmation vote. It looks more like Bork trying to convince Biden that he has a dim mind, something the now-Vice President’s mind is still too dim to grasp. The Senate rejected Bork’s nomination. In fact, the real fight was over whether there would be a vote at all (never a good sign). But defeat did not send the judge into hiding. Three years later, Bork wrote a book outlining his conservative views on Constitutional law. It concluded with three chapters where he took more shots at the senators who torpedoed his nomination. In 1996, he wrote another book, delicately titled Slouching Toward Gomorrah, about the degradation of American culture. The book begins with William Butler Yeats’ 1919 poem “The Second Coming,” about the approaching darkness of the next 2000 years and includes lines like this: “bored, affluent people in a society that no longer possesses the disciplinary tools of shame and stigma will indulge the most primitive human emotions.” All of Bork’s books feature his infamous Lucifer-chic image, with the beard and the evil glare. Bork has continued to criticize the Supreme Court and the nomination process. Whenever a Republican president nominates someone to fill a Supreme Court vacancy, most of the television and print media turns to Bork for a comment. His advice, which the nominees have followed for the most part, is to smile, tell some good-natured jokes and reveal as little about substantive legal issues as possible. Inevitably, the reporter or commentator will ask why he thinks the nominee should depart so radically from the way Bork himself treated his hearings. As if drunk on truth serum, Bork usually responds with something like, “Yes. But the point now is just to get conservative judges confirmed.”
R Kelly, Rapper
We pick up the R Kelly story in 2002, when he was 35 years old. In February of that year, a home video surfaced showing Kelly having sex with and then urinating on a 14 year old girl. The Cook County State’s Attorney was not aroused and charged Kelly with 21 crimes, including sex with a minor and child pornography. While…Awaiting…Trial…the R wrote, produced and sang the following songs:
· Playa’s Only
· Girls Go Crazy
· Hit it Til Mornin’
· Sex Weed
· (Sex) Love is What We Makin’
· Get Dirty
· Sex Planet
· Crazy Night
· Bangin’ the Headboard
· Sex in the Kitchen (3 Versions)
So to recap, during this time, R Kelly devoted his professional life to bragging about acts that were ambiguously close to the ones that left him facing 15 years in prison. It’s equivalent to O.J. Simpson doing infomercials for Jinsu Knives during his murder trial. Of course the R got acquitted. The jury had to think guilt was too obvious. Most people would probably have trouble believing that a singer whose genre is best described as pornographic gospel would make a sex tape, in his own sauna, in his own house, with a 14 year old girl, and then consistently remind the public of it for the next six years. Most defendants wouldn’t do that. But then again, most defendants wouldn’t make this list.
Christopher Hitchens, English-American Writer/Political Commentator
Admittedly, Hitchens is an obscure choice. But he is a deserved one. As a writer, Hitchens’ style was biting, confrontational and drunk. In addition to writing, his typical day consisted of a glass of Johnny Walker black in the late morning, at least half a bottle of red wine at lunch, and a mixture of the same at dinner. Sometimes there was a “nightcap.” Other times, Hitchens would return to his office and complete a piece of writing far beyond the talents of most sober people. When asked why he drank so much, Hitchens replied, “People are too boring otherwise.” “Boring” was an epithet no one ever heaved in Hitchens’ direction. In print, he took swings at everybody. Ronald Reagan was a “vile and stupid lizard.” Howard Dean was a “raving lunatic.” Hitchens’ own brother Peter, himself a noted writer, was “an idiot.” Mother Teresa (Mother Teresa!) was a “fanatical, thieving Albanian dwarf.” Politically, Hitchens’ views didn’t fit into standard categories, though he was fiercely loyal to his biases. He hated religion, and he hated authoritarian governments. Or as he might’ve described it, he hated religion because he hated authoritarian governments, going so far as to call God (God!) a “celestial North Korea.” In fact, this distaste for the Almighty filled an entire one of Hitchens’ books, god is not Great. The British royal family was another target. When a BBC reporter covering Princess Diana’s PR tour of landmines commented “[Landmines] are easy to lay, but difficult and expensive to get rid of,” Hitchens quipped, “I can’t think of a better description of Prince Charles’ first wife.” He opposed the Vietnam War but supported the Iraq War. He cut down popular figures like Reagan and Bill Clinton, but praised unpopular ones like John Edwards and George W. Bush. In 2007, Hitchens took on the entire female gender with his article “Why Aren’t Women Funny?” While admitting that there were some decent female comedians, the article concluded that “most of them…when you come to review the situation, are hefty or dykey or Jewish or some combo of the three.” This reckless spirit extended beyond the pages of Hitchens’ articles. In the late 1980s, he hid author Salmon Rushdie in his apartment after the Ayatollah Khomeini ordered Rushdie’s death for his book The Satanic Verses. Hitchens toured hell-holes like Saddam Hussein’s Iraq and North Korea. He even volunteered to be waterboarded. It was a life lived without regard to the pitfalls. But unfortunately, the pitfalls did come. In June 2010, while giving a talk to promote his latest book, Hitchens excused himself, went behind the stage and began coughing up mounds of blood. Later that day, doctors diagnosed him with Stage 4 esophageal cancer. As Hitchens would later point out, “There is no Stage 5.” Cancer ended his book tour (“I have been advised by my physician that I must undergo a course of chemotherapy on my esophagus. This advice seems persuasive to me.”). But it did not end his writing. During chemotherapy, he wrote a moving article on the experience called “The Topic of Cancer.” Then after losing his voice, he added an article about the influence talking has on writing. It should be required reading for every wannabe writer (and as a proud wannabe, I made sure to read it). The ordeal lasted 18 months, until December 2011, when Hitchens finally got to stand before God and call him all those bad names to his face.
Zsa Zsa Gabor, Actress and Socialite
This woman is terrible. And I don’t even need much to show it. I don’t need to mention that she slapped a police officer, or that she drove away from him because, as she claimed, the officer’s invitation for her to “fuck off” meant she was free to leave. I can also ignore the time she had to be removed from a Delta Airlines flight because she insisted that her shih tsu’s be allowed to roam free in the first class cabin. In the same vein, I can ignore the $10 Million lawsuit that followed. Gabor alleged that Delta did not treat her in a “first class manner.” All they did was remove her from a plane. I can disregard Gabor’s eight marriages too. I can also disregard the one that had to be annulled because she was still technically in another one at the time. Her longest and most substantive marriage is her current one, to German-born goofball Prinz Von Anhalt, who bragged that he fathered Anna Nicole Smith’s child while married to Gabor (this was false). Gabor’s serial adultery is an unnecessary subject. So I don’t need to bring up the time a reporter asked her how many husbands she’d had and Gabor replied, “You mean other than my own?” All of the above incidents are superfluous, window dressing, piling on. To show how much Zsa Zsa Gabor really sucks, I only need this: In 1983, while doing a show recreating a character from one of her old Broadway plays, Gabor told the theater staff she would stop performing unless they moved a group of 16 handicapped people from the seats near the stage. The “parapletics,” as Gabor later called them, were wheeled out of the theater, with some crying, and Gabor returned to the stage. Gabor herself is now in a wheelchair. And I can think of a few former fans who’d love the chance to wheel her out of life.