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Talent trumps a vulgar mouth

From Saturday's Globe and Mail

What a clutter this last week or so has been. The Obamas have their dog. Down south, that got more coverage than a state visit, certainly more than Barack Obama's to Canada. The world has learned that there are pirates other than the foppish Johnny Depp. Navy Seals, with an okay from the new commander-in-chief, did an end to three of them, and there was nothing Disneyesque about it. Curiously, some in the U.S. media chose to rate this as "Obama's first test," which was more risible than the plots of Mr. Depp's ludicrous movies. The U.S. Navy versus a ragtag handful from a forlorn and lawless country doesn't constitute a world crisis. Choosing a litter box for the First Pup probably claimed more real presidential attention.

In Canada, the Ancient Mariner of the Airbus Iliad Karlheinz Schreiber was before another inquiry fluting a slightly new aria, this time promising - was there an echo of Revelations and the Seventh Seal here - "seven scandals in one." Mr. Schreiber is great on the trailers. The promotional material is top class. It's the movie that keeps disappointing. Unlike Johnny Depp, who seems to get more popular and draw larger audiences with each sequel, I fear Mr. Schreiber is on an opposite arc. The audience is wearying and the popcorn is stale.

On a broader front, we were presented with two splendid examples of the sheer classiness and dignity of today's entertainers. Every one of them is as debonair as Fred Astaire. We had Jamie Foxx, comedian and actor ( Booty Call, Ray, The Truth about Cats and Dogs - a varied oeuvre) doing an absolute slag on the 16-year-old Miley Cyrus. Ms. Cyrus, for those of you who are spared bulletins from the hype marsh of pop culture, is the latest teen megastar. First there was Britney, then there was Hilary Duff, now there is Miley Cyrus, a.k.a. Hannah Montana. She's not better, and certainly no worse than any of that strain, but Mr. Foxx went after her like she was a combination of Lady Macbeth and an axe murderess.

After someone in his radio studio established the telling detail that she, Ms. Cyrus, was "some white bitch," Mr. Foxx went nuclear, and among the many cheerful suggestions he made were that "she make a sex tape and grow up," and lest the subtlety of that missed the mark further advised that she "get like Britney Spears and do some heroin. Do like Lindsay Lohan and start seeing a lesbian and get some crack in your pipe. Catch chlamydia on a bicycle seat. That's what I want." Jamie Foxx, what a charmer.

I'm not sure I get every swipe included in that thick tirade, but Mr. Foxx had other observations that were all too clear. He did a direct hit on how she looks - she's all of 16, remember. Mr. Foxx asked who's Miley Cyrus, and answered his own question: "The one with all the gums? She gotta get a gum transplant. Let me get an order of mouth, light on teeth, heavy on the gums." It's not every 41-year-old Oscar winner (that was for Ray, I hope, not Booty Call) who dishes with such style and elegance on a teenage girl. As I said, entertainers today are just so classy.

The obligatory "apology" followed, delivered as all the best mea culpas are - remember Hugh Grant and the hooker - on Jay Leno. Mr. Leno's couch is not a confessional booth, but it is the venue of choice for celebrity ignoramuses looking for some necessary PR contrition. In the celebrity forgiveness racket, he's a cut-rate Oprah. Still, "Hey, he told Jay he was sorry," somehow doesn't have the ring of "Go, and sin no more."

At about the same time, something close to a touch of real classiness was taking place in a most unlikely venue, the British version of American Idol. There an unknown, plain, ordinary 47-year-old woman named Susan Boyle was introduced to Simon Cowell and his panel of professional jeerers. A group smirk greeted her appearance. She was clearly not "A" list. Eyes were rolled, sarcasms sent to the shop to be honed. And then she sang.

And voila - one of the great rules of modern celebrityhood was shattered like crystal on concrete. From the first note, she knocked the wind out of her condescending judges and reintroduced their smug selves to one of the oldest pieces of wisdom in the world: You cannot judge people by their appearance. Her song went, as we say now, "viral," with millions of hits in a few days. Just think - an ordinary person with no posse, no personal trainer, no "movie in the works," near 50, surgically unaltered, not adopting a baby a week, "no looks," as Hollywood knows that term ... that ordinary person had talent by the bushel.

It is far to much to hope that Jamie Foxx or half of Hollywood has seen the performance. For the fakes to have seen the real thing - to have seen the difference between a vulgar mouth and real talent.

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