Ill-Mannered Alec

Not long ago, when you put the names Alec Baldwin and Montreal in your search engine, you invariably came across the name of Genevieve Sabourin. Then came the sad story of the harassment to which the Quebec actress subjected the American actor and the sentence of six months in prison that the 40-year-old blonde received. As an advertisement for Montreal, it wasn’t ideal.

But for the past few days, there’s been something new in the search engines. Genevieve Sabourin’s name has been replaced by that of C2 Montreal, an immersive conference that is taking place May 26 through 28 and is claiming to be a future Davos for creativity. Nothing less.

By bad luck, one of the star guests of this creative Davos 2015, the actor, producer and diabolical linchpin of the series “House of Cards” Kevin Spacey canceled his participation. It’s Alec Baldwin who will preside in his place during a public meeting at Arsenal in the Griffintown section of Montreal.

I have to admit that the last minute choice surprised and disappointed me. I love Kevin Spacey the same amount that Alec Baldwin, that big hot-headed lout without manners, gives me hives. Especially after everything that happened with Genevieve Sabourin.

Because even if the woman lost it and her hysteria needed to be curbed, Baldwin could have taken care of that affair with a minimum of delicacy, which he didn’t. He was horrible in dragging her into court and horrible to claim that he was afraid of a woman that he had, in fact, invited to dinner while making eyes at her. Good for him if the judge, whom he knew, ruled in his favor. Nevertheless, it remains true that Baldwin is less a victim than a star who abused his power and his fame.

Add to this sordid story the homophobic words that the actor had for a journalist whom he called a “toxic little queen” on Twitter and which ended up making him lose his talk show, which was floundering on MSNBC. Add also, when we go back in time, the bitter message he left on his 12-year-old daughter’s voicemail, calling her a “rude, thoughtless pig” while he was divorcing her mother, the actress Kim Basinger.

Wrathful, impulsive, brought to physically and verbally aggressing those who don’t do his bidding, Alec Baldwin, however talented an actor, is not a particularly nice human being.

But as Nadia Lakhdari, vice president of Content and Event Program at C2 Montreal, pointed out to me, it’s neither for his human qualities nor for his private life that Baldwin was invited to Montreal. It’s for the whole of his work which runs through several decades, from afternoon soap operas to evening soap operas, then from TV to movies, and which made him, along the way, the darling of Saturday Night Live, which he hosted not less than 16 times.

Ever since he reinvented himself next to Tina Fey in the role of the swindler and liar in the show “30 Rock,” Alec Baldwin has become the hero of the hippest Americans. The only thing he’s missing, as the American critic James Wolcott highlights, is a memorable role that would have immortalized him on screen and given him the legitimacy of a Jack Nicholson. This role never seems to have crossed Alec Baldwin’s path. Maybe he didn’t see it, maybe no one offered it to him. Who knows if that memorable role wouldn’t have softened the bitterness of an actor who threatens to quit the business time and time again?

In reading about him, I realized that C2 Montreal had perhaps finally succeeded in hitting the ball out of the park in inviting him. Because what is good about the man is that he has a big mouth that he’s not afraid to run, even if it means saying ridiculous things that come back to haunt him.

In contrast with American actors who are too well-groomed and civilized and never speak without asking permission from their agent, their manager, their lawyer and their trainer, Baldwin says everything that comes into his head, gives his political opinions out generously —he’s a Democrat — and plunges head first into controversy as if it were a nurturing ocean.

If we give him the chance, he can just as well criticize Hollywood publicly, say all the evil he thinks of Fox News, affirm that Barack Obama was elected because Americans are less racist than sexist and a wealth of other equally entertaining things.

I think I will go hear him while still dousing myself in rash cream. But don’t ask me to change my mind about him. Being funny and entertaining can excuse a lot of things, but not, of course, the essentials.

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