Paint Your Bald Spot

There are things in this world we are not meant to see. Charo's falsies, Citizen Clinton's tax return, the nuclear reactor in the bowels of Columbia… All are purposely shielded from our eyes. Yet I recently beheld such a thing. I am one of the lucky ones, one of those few who are privileged to gaze at the faces of shadows and unearth ancient secrets.

I saw Al Gore's bald spot.

You probably won't believe me. Sometimes I wonder if even I believe me. But Al Gore is certainly going bald. The back of his head is combed over like those of other bald men throughout the world. The brown hair Tipper loved has thinned to molecular thickness along a patch of scalp roughly the size of an overgrown cassava melon.

The "too perfect" quality of Al Gore's dyed coiffure--and, by extension, the "too perfect" quality of his entire being--died as I glanced at a scalp exposed to UV rays, spit, and pigeon droppings. If his hair is human, might he be human too? If I had known about Gore's bald spot, if I had known of his ultimate vulnerability and humanity, if I had known that not only was he the Vice President, but he was also a client of the Hair Club for Men, then perhaps I wouldn't have voted for Nader after all.

So the question arose, as I stood slack-jawed on College Walk: Why didn't I know about Gore's bald spot?

Why hadn't I seen it before?

Another example points to the answer and will demonstrate why we should spend the next few moments considering all the secrets we are kept from seeing, all the lies that are our leaders' lives.

Several years ago Larry King, the pompous, gravelly-voiced TV talk show host, opened his studio telephone lines for viewer questions. I forget who the guest was at the time--let's say Tammy Faye Bakker. This is what happened:

Larry: Caller 1, you're on the air.

Caller 1: Yes, uh, my question is for Larry…

Larry: Oh? What's the question?

Caller 1: Larry, do you paint your bald spot?

Larry: Excuse me?

Caller 1: Do you paint your bald spot?

Larry: What's the question?

Tammy Faye: I think he wants to know if you paint your bald spot.

Caller 1: Do you paint your bald spot?

Larry: Bald spot? What are you talking about?

(Pause)

Larry: Do you paint your bald spot?

Caller 1: Do you paint your bald spot?

Larry: I can't believe this…

Though his tactics were unusual, the psycho-caller made his point. Larry King is bald, and he has tried to hide his baldness on camera for years. The caller was exposing King's duplicity and shame for what it was. How, the caller was asking, can the arrogant Larry King be afraid of a bald spot? Why would he want to hide it from the public?

Yet the psycho-caller neglected to ask how to paint a bald spot. Think about it: Why do we rarely realize how short Tom Cruise truly is? The answer to this question is simple. The brush is the media, and the watercolors are camera angles, staged press events, and undisclosed agreements between press and political figures. A technology of presentation exists, aiming to mask our leaders' faults and embarrassments.

The technology maintaining media silence about our leaders' perceived shortcomings operates simply and effectively. America had little knowledge of Franklin Roosevelt's physical disabilities throughout the twelve years he was in office. Those reporters and photographers who ignored FDR's condition were granted complete access to the White House staff and even the President himself. Those who did file reports on FDR's battle with polio were shut out from the White House. Similarly, during the "town-meeting" Presidential debate, the producer conveniently changed camera angles whenever Al Gore had his back to the camera--even when he wasn't talking.

So the media works with politicians and celebrity figures to hide said figures' personal faults, excepting in cases of sex scandal. I admit, strange relations between media and politics are unsurprising. Like Ecclesiastes said: "Vanity, vanity, vanity..." All is vanity.

Yet through their attempts to shield their flawed selves, our leaders and celebrities only expose themselves for what they are--just like us. Not everyone is a philanderer, but almost everyone is dissatisfied with his or her body in some way. Why does America like Jay Leno? Is it his sense of humor or his odd, crescent-shaped head? The question becomes, will you and I have the courage to admit to our flaws and peccadilloes when we ascend to the commanding heights, or will we run for the Spackle and paintbrush? Al Gore paints his bald spot. Larry King paints his bald spot. Let us hope that their generation will be the last.

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