Movie star Charlie Sheen is angry with me.
He has been in Baltimore filming "Major League II" and he read a column of mine he did not like.
So he sent me a letter. It is handwritten mostly in capital letters. I have bleeped out the swear words:
"ROGER -- READ YOUR 'COMMENTARY' REGARDING THE SOUTHLAND FIRES OF LAST WEEK. HOW 'BOUT 'F--- YOU!' HOW'S IT FEEL TO BE SO EMPTY & JEALOUS? HOW'S IT FEEL TO WEAR FAKE HAIR ON YOUR HEAD? HOW'S IT FEEL TO LOOK IN THE MIRROR AND KNOW THAT'S THE ONLY HAND YOU WERE DELT [sic]. HOW'S ITS FEEL ROG; TO BE -- 'YOU'? THINK ABOUT IT A------ -- AND THINK ABOUT THIS; DUNCAN GIBBEN [sic] WAS A FRIEND OF MINE.
"THERE MAY COME A DAY WHEN your NEIGHBORHOOD GOES UP IN FLAMES -- WHEN your FRIENDS & FAMILY ARE AFFECTED BY IT. WHEN your HOUSE BECOMES A TARGET. I HOPE YOUR [sic] THERE WHEN IT HAPPENS -- IN YOUR COZY LITTLE BED, ASLEEP & DREAMING -- ABOUT THE 'RICH.'
Let me first address the most important part of this letter: My hair is not fake. If it were, it would look a whole lot better.
Secondly, my column on the recent Los Angeles fires was in sympathy with the wealthy people who lost their homes and an attack on those who were indifferent to their plight because the victims were rich.
In other words, Charlie Sheen got it 100 percent backward.
True, the column was written in an ironic tone. Most people understood it; Charlie Sheen did not.
Could I have made the column absolutely clear? Yes. It is a problem all newspaper writers face: Should you write "down" to your audience, so that nobody could possibly misunderstand?
I don't think you should. I believe anyone who chooses to spend time reading a newspaper is intelligent and should be treated that way.
I do understand why, Charlie, you would be upset at the death of your friend -- whose name, by the way, was Duncan Gibbons -- and I sympathize with those who lost their homes.
But I read a 1990 interview with you in Movieline magazine,
which explains a lot of your attitude toward those mass of Americans who look in the mirror every morning and discover they are not rich and handsome Hollywood stars.
It seems that Charlie's problems began when his parents bought him a BMW for his 16th birthday.
"When I was 16," Charlie said, "me and a friend smoked a little pot, and we fell asleep in the car with the radio on. . . . I woke up to a badge tapping on the window . . . I was carrying this knife in an ankle holster and I had this beautiful ivory inlaid billy club. . . . "
The police officer handcuffed Charlie and searched the car and found Charlie's marijuana stash.
"I said to him, 'Listen, could you just bust me for the weapons and not the pot?' " Charlie said.
But the cop -- some ugly working-stiff having a bad hair day, probably -- wouldn't listen.
It didn't matter much, however. Because Charlie's mom was "pretty cool" about it, though his dad, actor Martin Sheen, was angry and took him to church.
But Charlie beat the rap anyway because: "The judge was a friend of my mom's and nothing ever came of it," Charlie said.
So next, Charlie tried credit card fraud. "I had about a four-day crime spree before I got arrested," he said. "We got credit-card receipts from the trash of the Beverly Hills Hotel . . . then we'd order things like televisions, Walkmans, jewelry, watches . . . .
"I'm standing in front of my art class, senior year, when two cops walked in. They said, 'You are under arrest for credit-card forgery.' I was 17."
And how did his parents react this time? "My mom was very cool," Charlie said. "She paid for the items. My dad was in Canada shooting 'The Dead Zone.' He was pretty cool about it . . . ."
So Charlie was a lucky boy. Because imagine what would have happened to a teen-ager from, say, Watts who did not have parents who knew judges and could pay for stolen items.
That teen-ager probably would not be making movies today. He might be doing hard time.
Which is the real problem you have, Charlie:
You give rich people a bad name.