Dear Buddy –
I’ve been thinking about writing this for a few days, in fact just moments after reading you were busted on DWI charges in Manhattan. But you know what finally prompted me to just sit down and do it? The cavalier reactions I’m reading all over the place. I can’t take it.
If in response to this one more person quotes the Biblical verse, “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone” (John 8:7 for those keeping score at home), I am going to scream. What a handy dismissal of a serious matter, and conveniently in a book so many see as their guide in life.
Except no one is asking that you be stoned (or the modern-day equivalent). Quite the contrary. I’ve met you, interviewed you, found you charming and real and proud to have a show that centers around family (or famiglia, if you will). That speaks to me, not just in a general sense but as an Italian-American and 16-year resident of Hoboken, N.J. This is a little bit personal, seeing as most film and television that takes place in my home state winds up making us look illiterate, trashy, temper tantrum-prone, and, in some cases, like criminals.
I’ve watched the long lines at Carlo’s snake down the street when I walk out of my gym in the morning. I’ve seen news about new Cake Boss-spawned locations sprout up, from New York to Las Vegas. I’ve noted the Cake Boss loaf pan for sale at Kohl’s and the Cake Boss coffee blend available at Bed, Bath and Beyond.
My reaction through all of it? You go, man. Live your American dream. Inspire people. Make money. Tell stories. Entertain. Be altruistic. All of it.
I think we can agree you’ve built an empire on the concept of not just a family business, but family. Your fans, at least the ones I see lining up in front of the bakery, are mostly pre-teen and younger. They light up at the sight of you. I’ve seen it in person. Heck, I’ve seen adults clamor to get near you.
But it’s now, in this moment, that we’re going to find out what you’re really made of. You did something stupid. I’ll leave the contractual/legal issues to your lawyers; that has to be dicey territory. I’m going to stick to what you need to do now.
You need to treat this as a serious matter. Talk to your viewers like they are your own children. What are you imparting to them? Because even though I’ve read that this is a private family matter, I think that’s bullshit. You lost that right when you went down the aforementioned path of making your family everyone’s family on national television. This is how it works and now you’re seeing the flip side of the money and fame.
A big part of my initial reaction to hearing about your DWI incident was what would happen to all the people you employ if you, the center of this thing, come tumbling down. I get that you’re human and you made a mistake, but you need to acknowledge this was a whopper. Not sweep it under the rug using the privileges money can buy. Forget the idea of a tidy public relations treatment on this. You need to bring your authentic, contrite self to this and explain why it was wrong. Not in a canned way, either.
Need I reiterate? There are countless 8-, 9-, 10-, 11-year-olds who idolize you. Charles Barkley may not have signed up to be a role model, but you did by the very nature of your show’s philosophy and your pride in continuing what your father left behind.
I know and care about people whose lives are or have been drastically altered by drunk driving and the fallout. People who are waiting for a phone call from a hospital to find out an alcoholic loved one has finally wrapped herself around a pole. People who have had a loved one die or suffer a debilitating injury at the hands of a drunk driver. People who drove drunk and got caught even though they thought they were invincible.
It’s all ugly. And it’s not funny or worthy of dismissing with “Oh, who hasn’t had a DWI?” (yes, I’ve seen this comment more than once) or “Everybody does it, he just got caught” or “We all make mistakes.”
Heck, yeah, we do. The best people take their lumps, strengthen their character, and thank their lucky stars their actions didn’t kill or maim anyone.
Buddy, it’s time to see what you’re made of without a bag of icing in your hand. Shit just got real. I hope you’re up to the task.