"Oh my man, I'm fine!" And with that, Charlie Sheen wrote off yet another scandal that should have buried him. Despite three decades riddled with put-downs, rehab and assault charges, Sheen's career has turned out to be bulletproof. The latest bullet came this week, when cops busted into his trashed hotel suite, after his alleged escort called 911. Details are still emerging but today's allegations purport Sheen was fueled by cocaine when he blew up at an escort who demanded $12,000 for sex.
Every time Sheen gets into trouble, and it's becoming monthly, the same question surfaces: How does he keep getting away with it?
"The public still seems to like Charlie Sheen, and it hasn't caught up with him," publicist Howard Bragman told "Good Morning America," yesterday. "We've seen it so many times that we hardly get fazed when something happens to Charlie Sheen."
Compared to addiction-addled Lindsay Lohan, Sheen's treatment by fans and the penal system has been considerably lighter. For more serious charges of threatening his wife with a knife, the father of five received no prison term, and a fraction of Lohan's rehab sentence. And unlike Lohan's dwindling employers, his hit series "Two and a Half Men" continues to welcome him with open arms, and make light of his actions on the show. It's as if his abusive behavior has its own built-in laugh track.
That behavior includes allegedly smashing an ex-girlfriend's head into the ground and threatening her life; assaulting a college co-ed who wouldn't sleep with him; the accidental shooting of ex-girlfriend Kelly Preston; shouting racist profanities at the mother of his kids and, of course, involvement in a prostitution ring.
Some wonder why Sheen isn't facing the same public ridicule as another alleged abusive actor, Mel Gibson. One reporter speculates it has to do with public evidence."We have so much public evidence against Mel Gibson-the voice recordings from the phone calls, the photograph of Oksana-all very, very public stuff," gossip insider Mark Pasetsky explains to E! Online. "In contrast, it appears that Sheen was able to keep a lot of the evidence against him under wraps by negotiating a plea deal."
As it happens, Sheen is barely ever penalized for his growing record of crimes.
Despite countless courtroom appearances, he has never served hard time. All his cases have been settled, his sentences suspended. His jail terms, commuted to rehab. And in the public perception, bad people go to jail, sick people go to rehab. So Sheen's alleged violent impulses may just be something he can't help, right?
These are all clues to why Sheen has survived so long in Hollywood while others fall around him for lesser crimes. And they all lead to one suspect: Martin Sheen.
The legendary actor, and father of Charlie, may not be to blame for his son's wicked ways. But he is responsible for providing him with the keys to Hollywood's backdoor. There's nepotism, and then there are the sons of Hollywood. As Michael Douglas and Keifer Sutherland know, a legendary father who has your back, is like a get-out-of-jail-free card. Literally.
Martin, a loving father, has made very public appeals to help his son through recovery, even asking fans to pray for Charlie after one particular overdose. Suddenly, Charlie was all of our responsibility.
But Marlon and Clint's responsibility in particular. "I owe a very great deal of gratitude to Marlon Brando for showing me how to be a strong father," Martin Sheen told the press in 1990. With the help of both Brando and Clint Eastwood, Martin got his son to rehab 30 years ago. Eastwood, who was filming a movie with Charlie at the time, created a flexible shooting schedule to accommodate Martin's son.
A few years later, Eastwood would lend Sheen his northern California retreat as he rode out another assault charge. And during Sheen's Heidi Fleiss debacle, when the actor should have been "tainted," Brando started filming one of his final movies with Sheen as his co-star. Whether some of that influence played a role in his legal battles, is not known. But it never hurts to have friends in high places.
But Martin's biggest contribution to son Charlie's career survival has to be television. One year after he watched his father win accolades and awards for "The West Wing," Charlie followed in his footsteps, taking a role on "Spin City." As Martin's fictional American president reflected his own political interests, Charlie's "Spin City" politician was personalized with an appetite for sex and scandal.
"Ignoring [my past] would be a bit of a disservice to the show and to potential comedic situations. To laugh at myself is a good way to dispel a lot of it and let everybody know I'm moving toward a positive and productive future," he said in 2000.
It was a precursor to the role that would earn Charlie a million per episode: the role of a hooker-and-whiskey-loving guy named, well, Charlie. The "Two and a Half Men" character doesn't just share Sheen's vices, he shares the same bounce-back-ability: things are normal, something insane happens, things go back to normal. It's the strange story of Sheen's life.