Yeah, you knew this was coming

I lost interest in "Himmmm" after the internet pretty much proved to me that it was a random obsessive nutter, rather than a famous obsessive actor nutter. The famous obsessive actor nutter is way the hell more awesome to watch, so for the last few days I've been prodding YouTube and Google to cough up what they have on Robert Downey, Jr.

First things first: Dude is weird. And I say this in a completely value-neutral way. It is completely independent of the drugs and the acting and the living in Hollywood, and has apparently been a lifelong thing. Everyone who personally knows him agrees that he's weird, without otherwise appearing to care. His wife will say it directly into a microphone, to his face, in front of an audience, with a grin. Downey just smiles back. I'm guessing this is a Thing with them. Watching them together makes it pretty obvious to me that he adores her. Downey credits falling for her with being one of his biggest reasons for cleaning up; I believe him.

The first thing my roommate asked when I started out on this was whether Downey, who is minorly famous for being "conservative" among other things, is a 'typical right-wing douchebag'. Considering that a defining characteristic of political douchebags everywhere is a total inability to shut the fuck up about it, and that I've been at this for three days and still don't actually know what his politics are, I think he gets a pass here. If you Google him with "politics" as a search term, everyone comes up with the same quote, in which he characterizes his political views as "interesting", not "conservative". There is dead silence on the topic otherwise, which I think is kind of telling, considering all the other things he will talk about. I suspect that he's actually a moderate with some conservative political views, and, depending on exactly which ones they are, either doesn't talk about it because he knows it won't fly well in Hollywood, or doesn't talk about it because he doesn't feel like getting blowback from people who assume he has much more conservative social views than he does.

For what it's worth, Downey doesn't identify as a Christian -- he describes his religious views as "Jewish-Buddhist"; his wife is Jewish, and they were married in a Jewish ceremony -- and if he's trying to be a judgmental prude, he's really, really bad at it. For one thing, Downey has played quite a number of overtly-gay characters over the course of his career, most of them sympathetic, including years ago when many actors wouldn't take those roles for fear of the rumor mill exploding. He's still quite happy to do things like Sherlock Holmes 2, the entirety of which was intentionally homoerotic as all get-out, and in fact made a lot of executives wince because he played it up incessantly when he did press for the film. Not to mention he's done at least one film I know of that would be full-on porn if anyone actually managed to take any of their clothes off. (Linked instead of embedded because this is emphatically NSFW.)

Downey is very candid about his life, to put it politely. You ask him a question, you either get the answer you want, or you are told outright that he isn't going to talk about it. It unnerves people from time to time. Leonard Maltin on Inside the Actor's Studio once asked him what made making a particular film such a "relaxed experience", and was promptly told, "black tar heroin," which was so blunt and undiplomatic that it startled him into silence for a second or two. Downey has a well-known proclivity for four-letter words in interviews, but "tact" is not among them. He's been in the news most of his adult life, and he says he's okay with that -- although I suspect he might not be, were he not just as famous for getting his shit together as he was for losing it in the first place -- and likes to inform people rather gleefully that he's decided to enjoy being notorious. He's also not much for false humility. Downey is absolutely confident in his abilities as an actor, to the point of coming across as arrogant. It does have to do with being self-analytical, and isn't just overall hubris; he also does music from time to time, and whenever he's asked about the CD he put out (The Futurist  [2004], of which large chunks can be found on YouTube), he gets noticeably self-conscious.

Watching interviews with RDJ and reading interviews with RDJ are two very different kettles of fish. Like a lot of fellow SNL alums, he does not necessarily come off very well in print. (A couple of his sketches are up on Hulu, for US readers and readers using a US proxy. I didn't think they were especially funny, but I don't think anything on SNL is especially funny. Joan Cusack is in one of them, and if she's falling flat, it's probably the fault of the script.) Writers tend to quote him in these monster block paragraphs, as he does indeed talk quite a lot once you give him a chance. Unfortunately, since they chop up the stream of words with punctuation but no line breaks, it tends to look as if Downey is blithely monologuing without ever bothering to look over at the reporter. He's not; he just doesn't need to stop talking in order to judge audience response. Between that and the appalling lack of orthographical conventions for indicating both sarcasm and facetiousness in formal written English, a lot of the stuff that gets people cracking up when he does it in person can look really obnoxious on the page. I'm sorta surprised he isn't regularly called to the carpet and presented with a demand for an apology on a regular basis. Perhaps after John Lennon and the infamous Jesus comment, the PR machine has learned some sort of lesson about not going after people who are both notoriously sarcastic and extremely well-liked.

And Downey is very well-liked. I have yet to run across any comment from anyone stating that he is unpleasant to deal with, either as an actor or as a person. Every scandal that has ever attached to him involves recreational chemicals and his misuse thereof -- no cheating, no punching, no embezzling, no making inappropriate passes at inappropriate people, no acting like a primadonna on the set. The guy was completely loaded for the better part of twenty years, and people gave him work the entire time. He worked even after he went to prison for it. The work only dried up when someone who'd probably never met him face to face refused to pay his insurance rider for a film, and then someone who did know him well stepped up to back him personally. Even when one of his binges ended with him wandering into someone else's house and crawling into bed to fall asleep, the neighbors in question declined to press trespassing charges. Hollywood has written off equally great talents for a hell of a lot less. Anyone who gets that many chances to pull it together over that long a period of time from the people in his life, the press, and the public has to be doing something to earn them.

Let's go on to the rumor mill, shall we?

Lately there's been a Gawker-led campaign to encourage the world to think that RDJ was the gossipy commenter "Himmmm" by using their headlines to ask leading questions. My take: I don't think so.  The clincher, I think, is that "Himmmm" gave out a phone number purportedly belonging to Natalie Wood's daughter. I'm pretty sure at this point that, were it really RDJ, and he were trying that hard to get the attention of the forum, he would have just given out his own. The issue of authorship was complicated, at least prior to that, by the fact that I have no known sample of Downey's writing to compare to. RDJ admits to writing memoirs, but chickened out and returned the publisher's advance at the last minute. Pity; now I really want to see them.

Then there are the obligatory gay rumors that hit everyone in Hollywood sooner or later. My take: No. I cannot speak to past experience, but I've seen him with his wife. He occasionally turns into a sort of friendly octopus on her when they're together at an event and he's bored of hanging out on the red carpet. He digs girls, and he digs that girl in particular. I would also generally doubt that he's bi and closeted; Downey is perfectly comfortable sharing personal space with guys he knows, which is usually one of the first things people consciously put a stop to if they're paranoid about someone finding out.

Someone decided to spout off about a bipolar diagnosis once upon a time. My take: No again. Out of all the bajillions of people who have surely been called in to evaluate him over the years, only one doctor ever wrote anything remotely like that down, and, as Downey quite reasonably points out, the guy didn't know he was trying to phase out oxygen in favor of a steady stream of speedballs at the time. Erratic behavior is one of those persistent symptoms of drug addiction, but since he's cleaned up, his public persona is consistent throughout all the press junkets he's done for Iron Man and Sherlock Holmes and so forth. I see no signs of anything even remotely like bipolar disorder, and I'm infamous for spotting shit like that in people who are trying to hide it.

As always, if there's something one of you lot particularly want me to take a look at, send it over and I'll poke it to see if it's interesting.

Comments

  1. Any thoughts on why Himmmm would give some in-depth details on RDJ in a sympathetic way, then pretend to be him, even though it could get RDJ in trouble?

    Also wondering, do you think Himmmmjacker and Herrrr were different writers to Himmmm? I think Himmmmjacker is, and I think the fact they needed us to know it was a different person indicates Himmmm is usually one person.
    But there is at least one time I think Herrrr is Himmmm trying to disguise his voice. It's weird that Herrrr claimed not to know the answer to one of the blinds, but gave some very specific, very leading clues.

    The 'Who Is Himmmm?' Tumblr is interesting. There are some cryptic submissions from people hinting at knowing something about Himmmm. I'd love to hear your take on these.

    There also briefly existed a Himmmm facebook page, with someone claiming Himmmm is still around. Maybe some of your eagle-eyed readers could let you know if any commenters seems suspicious ;).

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  2. Pssst... I am side-eyeing new commenter 'eljaybee'. Check out their comments on this blind item. Without me saying, I'm wondering if you can see what it is about the comments that has aroused my suspicions ;). Maybe I'm way off base though.

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    Replies
    1. They contain logic, sentence structure, and largely-correct orthography. The same person likely wrote both; the paragraphs are broken similarly shortly, and the abbreviation TV is uncapitalized in both of them. There are otherwise correct caps and punctuation throughout, including a semi-colon in one -- this suggests it was written by someone at a keyboard, because I don't know how you get a semi-colon out of an iPhone but I bet it's not pretty. A single en dash, bracketed by spaces, appears in both where there should rightly be an em dash connected to the text on both sides. This suggests the comment was written by someone who learned to type online in an informal context where variable-width fonts are used, as the more usual substitution in formal academic work is a pair of en dashes with a space on either side. Judging from the sentence structure, the writer is someone well-educated, although not necessarily formally educated, and likely but not absolutely certainly older than their teens.

      If you're thinking it's me, it isn't. I'm not a long-time lurker; I didn't even know CDAN existed until I caught the "Himmmm" story on Gawker. I think Enty's style is generally incoherent and that he, she, it or they desperately need to learn how to write a short essay before I'll slog through that long-term. I also don't know enough about the Hollywood rumor mill to guess any of the blind items myself. I specializing in zeroing in on specific people I think are interesting, not inhaling the whole of the tabloid-sphere. Most of my entertainment news comes from Jezebel or reading Go Fug Yourself.

      I would need to have a lot more text, some samples of known authorship for comparison, or both to tell you anything else about "eljaybee". Let me know if this one posts anything especially long or interesting, please?

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    2. Sure, I'll let you know. But I should probably let them off the hook, I think I was wrong. I'm suspicious that Himmmm will show up again, but try to disguise his voice. There are a few times Himmmm (or Herrrr) tried to direct people to solve a blind item by saying things like "I think what we're looking for is", obviously trying to conceal he knew more. I thought I might be seeing a bit of that from this user. They just seemed a little ... confident in certain specifics, and unusually succinct in summarising a blind item that most people were having trouble extracting sense from. But yeah, I'm really unsure I was onto anything at all now. Could easily just be their style of processing this confusing info.

      Thanks for your time, I know this is not exactly the direction you're interested in. I don't know anything about your field, but find your analyses interesting nonetheless.

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