Schilling, My Inner Diva, and Sandra Bullock

I pride myself on professionalism as a writer.  I meet deadlines.  I (usually) listen to my editor.  I show up to meetings and events on time and sober.  And, as part of this code of professionalism, I make an effort not only to write my books but also to help sell them.  Book tour?   Bags packed.  Signings?  Pens at the ready.  Social networking?  If you’ve been following me online (here or here), you know I’ve lost all trepidation about pouring my guts out on the Internet.

But every once in a while, I’m reminded that I’ll never be a schiller.  I just can’t do it.  This weekend, I took off on my first flight for book tour.  The guy next to me was reading Harlan Coben’s Long Lost.  Any self-promoter worth her salt would have seen the opportunity to gain a new reader.  What do I say?  “He’s great, isn’t he?”  Those promotional bookmarks I keep in my briefcase?  Yep, they’re all still there.

I also have to admit that, as much as I keep my head down as a work-a-day writer, I have an inner diva who occasionally rears her precious head.  I’ll refuse to change that word that irks my editor.  I’ve been known to keep that leisurely scene, the one that doesn’t advance the plot but sure was fun to write (and hopefully read).

I know the pro in me should probably blog today about my new book or at least say something about the tour.  This is, after all, a blog about writing, both the art and the industry.  But you know what?  I was lucky enough to speak last weekend to a room filled with enthusiastic undergrads at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, and I’m going to follow a piece of advice I gave them: Write what you want to write.

And, I’m sorry, y’all, but in the middle of the big publicity push, I just can’t bring myself to write about either the craft or the biz today.  What the inner diva wants to write about is Sandra Bullock.
As you may know from previous Rati posts (here and here), I have a fascination with both celebrity and sex, and I refuse to chalk either one up to prurience.  Or, at least, not entirely.
You’re undoubtedly familiar with the tawdry facts that have put Jesse James, Sandra Bullock, and this gem of a gal on countless magazine covers. 

Michelle “Bombshell” McGee

The tattoos.  The white supremacist connection.  The Vanilla Gorilla nickname.  The additional women who’ve stepped forward, placing James neck and neck with Tiger Woods in the most-women-sexted tourney.  That’s the stuff for the voyeurs.
There’s also the human story behind the seediness, and you’ve probably heard most of that as well: the mistress who sold her man out to a tabloid for thirty grand, the intentional timing of the story to coincide with Sandra Bullock’s victory lap, the wince-worthy replays of the accolades Bullock heaped upon her husband as she enjoyed a spotlight that belonged only to her.


(At the Oscars, choking up when thanking her mother for allowing her to “have that,” her marriage with Jesse James)

(At the Golden Globes, thanking Jesse “who works so hard, all day, and you get dressed up in monkey suits with people you don’t know… I love you so much, and you’re really hot, and I want you so much.)

(With, gulp, Barbara Walters, gushing about the man who has her back.)

But there’s a reason my inner diva finally had to write about this story today, book tour be darned: I understand why Sandra Bullock might stay with Jesse James.

Didn’t expect that, did you?  Hold on, now.  Don’t throw anything at the computer yet.  Hear me out.
Jesse James is a lowlife.  He not only cheats on his wife, but apparently does so multiple times with multiple women and without protection.  So far, so Tiger.  Even worse, he allows her to entangle her professional identity with their marriage and to publicly share her every achievement with the man who “has her back,” even as he’s texting his next stripper hook-up.  In short, he makes us feel sorry for her.  Is there any worse betrayal?
As it turns out, the answer is yes.  By all accounts, Sandra Bullock has been a devoted stepmother to James’s three children by two different baby mama.  She has supported his battle against his ex-wife, porn star Janine Lindemulder, for custody of their five-year-old daughter.  While Lindemulder lived in a halfway house after a conviction for tax evasion, Bullock has reportedly raised James’s daughter as her own.
Supposedly Jesse James says he wants nothing more than to keep his family intact.  But guess what?  He’s not the one who’s losing his family.
Of all the bad, bad, very bad things that man did to his wife, the very worst was to allow her to love his children.  Being burnt by the man you love is hard enough.  I’d like to think I’d leave him every time, but smart women like Hillary Clinton and Silda Spitzer are evidence that love can be messy.  The addition of young children in the mix only makes it messier.  Ask Elin Nordegren, who might (as widely speculated) be staying for money, but could also be unduly optimistic for her children’s sake.
But even mothers – most of them at least – can decide whether to stay or go without losing their family.  But Sandra Bullock isn’t most mothers.  She’s not a mother at all, at least not as far as the law is concerned.
Of all of Jesse’s crimes, the worst was forcing his wife to choose between her dignity and a five year old child she has come to love as her own.  Ex-step-mothers have no legal rights.  Sandra – who dedicated her Academy Award to “the moms who take care of the babies and the children, wherever they come from” — cannot leave him without leaving them.  She cannot stay with them without staying with him.  And what will America say, and what will happen to her career, if she stays?

At least for now, James’s ex-wife is saying Sandra can stay in her daughter’s life: “She has taken care of our daughter as if she was her own … she sacrificed much … and I will forever be indebted to her for that.”
But people change their minds.  Ask Jesse James.            

The most painful Bullock quotes to rewind were given to Barbara Walters:

“I always had this feeling that if you got married, it was the the end of who you were.  I never met anyone who was bigger than me.”   

“We’re not [different].  The end result in life that we both want is the same.  The thing we want at the end of the day is the same.  He’s not out in bars…  He couldn’t be happier…. I never allowed myself to be cared for or protected that way in a relationship…. Not once asking me to be anything other than what I am…. It’s not a mistake that my work got better the minute I met him. I became committed to being scared and being braver.  I really couldn’t fail anymore because I have home to go home to.”

“Ten years from now… I hope the same people in my house today are there ten years from now.”

She appreciated what she had, but her husband didn’t.  She wanted nothing other than to keep it all — her work, her happiness, her man, and her children — but now she can’t.        

And that’s why Sandra Bullock is the person I had to write about today.  And why Jesse James’s next tattoo should be a warning label: Danger.  Loving this man could break you.

P.S. To appease the Gods of marketing, I will say that I’d love to see the Rati on tour.  View the schedule, pictures, book excerpts, and just about everything you can imagine here.  If you enjoyed this post, please follow me on Facebook and/or Twitter.

20 thoughts on “Schilling, My Inner Diva, and Sandra Bullock

  1. Irritated

    The tattoos.

    If you judge people the color they ADD to their skin, it puts you into the category of the person who doesn’t consider the character of people. It’s easier to look at appearance and determine who is acceptable and who is not.

    Not all people with ink are homewrecking, attention seeking, sleazeballs so eager for their 15 minutes of fame that they will trash innocent people on the climb to the top of the tabloid heap.

    Yes, I am sick and tired of epithets being thrown at this woman because she has tattoos, as if that is some sort of moral gradient or a brand of societal inferiority. The "ah-ha, she’s one of those tattoo freaks, so she must be scum" comments are offensive. Try substituting a word like "author" for "tattoo" and see how it sounds.

    There are flaws in her character, for certain, that have nothing to do with ink.

  2. Zoë Sharp

    Hi Alafair

    Interesting post. Good luck with the tour – have a ball. And I, too, can’t bring myself to get out the bookmarks for total strangers unless they express more than a passing interest. It just smacks of desperation otherwise.

    Irritated – you make a fair point. I’m a motorcyclist, and in most cases you can substitute the word ‘biker’ for ‘tattoo’ and receive equal prejudice.

    Have to say, though, I would have admired your comment far more if you’d been brave enough to put your real name to it ;-]

  3. Alafair Burke

    Irritated, I didn’t say anything negative about people with tattoos. I listed this specific woman’s tattoos as one of the (many) facts that has put the story on tabloid covers. Michelle McGee doesn’t just have tattoos. She reportedly has a swastika on her torso. She also has WP tattooed on the backs of her knees (or knee butts as Tina Fey would say). WP is well known shorthand for White Power. (See the next sentence and the link.) Her defense? That it means wet p****. Yes, I suppose that’s better, but still…

    Zoe, Thanks for the well wishes. Maybe I’ll try to find the nerve to introduce myself to at least one person on the plane this week.

    I may be slow to comment today. I’m getting on a plane to Houston this morning and will be signing stock around the city before my event tonight at 7:30, Murder by the Book. Hope to see some of you there.

  4. Karen in Ohio

    I agree that the KIND of tats one has give a clue to one’s character, in the same vein as bumper stickers and sloganed t-shirts do. If you’re tacky enough to have what looks like a male member permanently attached to a publicly visible part of your body you do deserve public criticism. Sorry, but that’s the way it is. It has nothing to do with tattoos, per se. If it was a tasteful flower or some other socially acceptable symbol no one would bat an eye.

    As for public curiosity about others’ marriages: Truly, it’s none of our business, and I feel terrible for Ms. Bullock, and Mrs. Edwards, and Mrs. Tiger. The real sin of their spouses is not solely in cheating; hell, half of married men ADMIT to having affairs. No, the big sin they committed was in cheating and getting caught doing it. These are FAMOUS people; did they think they were invisible? If they meant to be caught, they deserve even more criticism, because they brought even more shame to their spouses.

    It is an act of real aggression to flaunt your infidelity to publicly, one might even say passive-aggression.

  5. PK the Bookeemonster

    What is sad to me is that Bullock seemed to do everything right in a very difficult industry — except fall for a bad boy.

  6. Cornelia Read

    Having been through the infidelity thing, I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy’s dog. Just shatters you.

    Alafair, I’m leaving for tour today too. I hope you have a great time!!

  7. JD Rhoades

    On the one hand, I really feel bad for Sandra Bullock. She was obviously head over heels for the guy, and he repaid that by not only running around on her but doing it in a way that practically screamed for the tabloids to move in and have a field day. Not cool, dude. Not cool at all. But what goes around, etc. I expect we’ll see him hosting a fifth rate reality show on TruTV within two years, along with Tonya Harding, Danny Bonaduce, and that kid from "Different Strokes" who turned into a felon.

    On the other hand, I’m reminded of the old fable of the woman who lets a snake sweet-talk her into carrying him across the river. When they get there and he bites her, he tells her, "hey lady, you knew I was a snake when you picked me up." I mean, come on, his name’s Jesse James, for chrissakes. His ex-wife’s not only a porn star, but one who apparently has a reputation for having more than a few bats in her belfry, if you know what I mean.

    On the gripping hand, I can’t shake the idea that if I was just a bigger asshole, I could have been doing the wild thing with Sandra Bullock. Damn it all to hell.

  8. Alafair Burke

    Cornelia, Betrayal breaks you, no question, but one can get fixed. Have a great tour.

    JD, You crack me up. My husband, btw, shares your opinion. He said to me yesterday, "He’s a motorcycle guy who was married to a porn star. C’mon."

  9. Fran

    Alafair, can’t wait to meet you on Thursday! (Cornelia, I’ll pick you up at the airport tonight.) What fun!

    My heart breaks for the little girl. Sandra’s got to be completely devastated, but she’s also a fairly powerful lady and I suspect she’ll come back from this stronger than ever. But that poor little girl, who isn’t old enough to understand what’s going on and probably thinks on some basic level that the anger in the house is her fault. Just rips me up.

  10. Rae

    Alafair, completely agree with you about the issue with the children. They have to know that something awful is happening – and for them to lose their stable home would just be awful.

    Also agree with your husband, i.e. biker guy married to a porn star – I’ve gotta wonder if Sandra fell into that famous ‘reforming the rake’ trap.

    What really tees me off about it all is the glee with which the tabloids blew up her world. Really nasty stuff.

  11. Nicole

    Just due to reading this, I’m going to have to check out your books. Someone posted your blog on on a post about Jesse James.

    That’s the part that’s so unfair in all of this is it’ll tear SB from her step children, and hurt both her and the children. It’s unfair.

  12. Dana King

    As an IUP alumnus, I hope you had a great time. It’s been a long time since I’ve been back, but I have nothing but fond memories of my time there.

    I’ll pass on any Sandra Bullock comments-it’s clear she’s getting screwed here every way imaginable, plus a couple–and comment on shilling. (When I read the title I wondered what Curt Schilling had to do with Sandra Bullock. Why one should always read the whole post before jumping to conclusions.) I agree with you on that. There’s a time and a place for everything. I might talk about one of my books to a seatmate if she was reading one. (Getting one published will be a major step in that direction.) If people have come to see me talk about my book, I will. At length. If a casual conversation drifts around that way, I will. (At somewhat less length.) I can’t imagine accosting a stranger with a pitch to read my book. Strikes me as no less invasive than a wannabe writer approaching someone successful and asking for advice/a reading/ a reference, etc.

  13. Alexandra Sokoloff

    Just remember, in these Hollywood entanglements, if you think you know the story, it’s virtually guaranteed that you don’t.

    Sandra Bullock will be just fine.

    Alafair, I’m in the middle of ANGEL’S TIP. Love it!! Can’t wait to finish tonight.

  14. Robert Gregory Browne

    So what’s this thing you have against people with tattoos?

    I’M KIDDING. I gotta be honest here. If I were Sandra Bullock there’s no way I’d ever take this guy back in a million freakin’ years. But the kids thing really IS the heartbreaking part.

    But you know, we hear gossip and we read the stories and we make judgments based on what we read, but the truth is, we have ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA what really happened here. And it’s none of our business.

    It’s up to James and Bullock to sort it all out and they certainly don’t need our two cents.

  15. Peggy

    We have discussed this situation at work and my guys have said pretty much the same thing your Sean did. She wanted a bad boy and she got one. She knew his background and still married him. We all feel for her mind you, many of my guys know Mr. James and the opinion is not high. I work in Law Enforcement by the way.

    I loved your rant Alafair. One of the first things I thought about was the kids. I’d heard that not only was she working to help him get custody of the youngest but that she wanted to adopt her as well. The latter might not be factual as I never heard anything further. Still when this all came down I thought how did she just walk away from the kids. I know she was really hurting and more than likely just had to get out of there but how do you explain that to the kids.

    She will make her own decision and she may very well stay and as you noted it is the family she has gained in these 5 yrs that may be the deciding factor.

    Tattoos? I didn’t take it you had a particular dislike for them. You can not possibly describe Bombshell McGee without mentioning the tats. I’m not a fan but mostly I’m not a big fan of putting them all over like that or some of the things they advertise. However I don’t know the woman and as someone else noted when anything involves celebrity you never really know the whole story.

    Have a great time on your tour. I loved Angel’s Tip and I’ve started on 212. It is even better. Congrats on being Teacher of the Year. That is a great accomplishment.

  16. Alafair Burke

    Thanks for all the comments. I had a terrific even tonight in Houston. Having already gotten my Jesse James rant off my chest, I was actually able to talk about my book (and even sell a few).

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