The Bad Guy Rarely Thinks He’s the Bad Guy: Of Celebrity Enemies and Mea Culpas
This is a long one folks, but bear with me. I think it’s worth the journey.
You know who Adam Goldberg is, right? He was Chandler’s crazy roommate Eddie on Friends when Joey moved out:
He was in Saving Private Ryan:
He was The Hebrew Hammer:
And he is my life-long sworn celebrity enemy.
When I was a young lad, my folks forced me to go to Hebrew School to get ready for my bar mitzvah. And there was this kid in my Hebrew School class who I didn’t otherwise know, a kid who was a real asshole. His younger brother had been in a famous TV commercial a few years back and while he had nothing to do with that commercial, he talked about how he was going to move to L.A. and become a famous actor and blah blah blah. And that asshole was Adam Goldberg.
So my entire adult life, I’ve despised Adam Goldberg. Not just because he was a kid asshole, but because that kid asshole ended up being right. He did become a famous actor. Every time I’d see him in something, it would get under my skin just a little bit more. That hair. That nasally voice. That … that … that everything. God damn it and god damn him.
In fact, the only time I’ve actually been happy seeing him? This moment:
Still makes me giggle.
Anyway, for years I’ve told tale of my hatred of Adam Goldberg. I’ve told folks what an asshole he is. I don’t care that he was in Dazed and Confused or the wonderful, under-appreciated The Unusuals. That Adam Goldberg, he’s a right and proper asshole and don’t nobody forget it.
And then earlier this year, a new show premiered from Adam Goldberg, The Goldbergs. It was basically The Wonder Years only set in the ’80s and outside of Philly, just like where we grew up. I wanted to hate it. But damn it, the nostalgia roped me in hard and fast. It’s not the funniest show, but I kinda adore it. And I hate myself for this. Because fuck that guy.
Cut to this week’s The Station Agents podcast (you do listen to the podcast, right?):
Joanna: So the creator [of The Goldbergs] is Adam Goldberg and I thought it was Adam Goldberg as in The Hebrew Hammer and that’s why I wrote you that e-mail about it. I was like “why didn’t you tell me it was Adam Goldberg” and you were probably like “I dunno, because who’s that guy?”
Dustin: Well I literally looked it up six times to make sure it’s not that guy and every time it’s still not that guy. … Cause Seth has this, I think Seth went to high school or something with the Hebrew Hammer and hates him for some reason because he was a total dick to him at some point.
See? Toldja that I tell lots of people about how much I hate that fucking dick Adam Gold— wait a minute. Wait. The Goldbergs guy isn’t the Hebrew Hammer guy? So I don’t have to feel guilty about liking the show? Well that’s just fantastic. The universe is right again and all is well with the world.
Only, something begins to nag at me. Clearly, the Adam Goldberg of The Goldbergs grew up somewhere around me. His brother’s a Flyers fan, they drive into Philly, they shop at the King of Prussia mall. Could there be two Adam Goldbergs of the same age from the relative same area who are now both Hollywood successes? That seems highly unlikely.
To the internet!
Wherein I quickly learn that the Hebrew Hammer did not grow up in the suburbs of Philly. He grew up where I live now, lovely Santa Monica … and he’s six years older than me.
Well. Fuck. I’ve hated this Adam Goldberg for about two decades and he’s not the guy. So I’ve hated this dude for absolutely no good reason whatsoever. Worse yet, here I’ve been telling everyone I knew what an asshole that Adam Goldberg guy is. Yet I’m actually the asshole for casting aspersions on this guy who’s never done a goddamned thing to me. I am the one who sucks.
So let me publicly offer my deepest apologies to Adam Goldberg. Sir, should I ever bump into you in a bar here in the City of Angels, I shall do my best to act the part of an angel. Which is to say, the first beer’s on me.
And that’s that.
Only, something begins to nag at me. There’s this other Adam Goldberg who I assume, based on the show, is from the Philly area. So he must be the asshole Adam Goldberg I’ve been mistaking the Hebrew Hammer for for all these years.
To the internet!
And look at that. This guy. Adam F. Goldberg. He’s from Jenkintown, Pennsylvania, which is totally just outside of Philly. And. And.. He’s my age. The “F” is clearly for “fucking” and this is the Adam Fucking Goldberg who is my sworn celebrity enemy. Ok then, fuck this guy and … oh, but shit, that means I have to go back to feeling bad about liking The Goldbergs. Damn it, I thought the one good thing to come out of all this would be being guilt-free over the show.
Only, something begins to nag at me. Jenkintown is outside of Philly, but a different outside of Philly than my outside of Philly. I used to date a girl who lived there, and it was a good 40 minute drive. Why would his parents drive him so far to come to my Hebrew School? That makes no sense.
To the internet!
Wherein I need to find that damned cereal commercial and figure out how it ties together with this Adam Fucking Goldberg. Only, I don’t remember a damn thing about this commercial. Which means I’m going to have to spend an hour watching some of the worst 1980’s cereal commercials you can possibly imagine until — there it is. That weird Jimmy Durante puppet, I recognize it immediately:
Crispy Critters. “Indubitably.” That’s him. This kid:
…he’s the heart of it all. Who is he? How can I determine that he’s Adam Fucking Goldberg’s younger brother, closing the loop on this sordid tale?
Because after diving further down the internet’s rabbit hole, I finally come to this interview with the star of the Crispy Critters commercial. And his name is … Rhett Creighton. Creighton. Not Goldberg.
Well. Fuck. I’ve hated this Adam F. Goldberg for about ten minutes and he’s not the guy. He’s not the indubitably kid’s brother. Et cetera, et cetera, I suck.
So let me publicly offer my deepest apologies to Adam F. Goldberg. You too, should we bump into each other, a beer on me.
Maybe I can figure out a way to sit down with both Adam Goldbergs. Buy ‘em each a beer, tell them my sordid tale and beg their forgiveness. Sure, they don’t know me. But it would be a good coda to this story , and they’re both story tellers so they should appreciate the art of a good ending. And that would be that.
Only, something begins to nag at me. What’s the deal with this Rhett Creighton? Why did I think he was the younger brother of any Adam Goldberg? What the hell is going on with this twenty-six year old memory of mine?
To the internet!
Wherein I learn that Rhett Creighton grew up in Havertown, Pennsylvania, which is totally just outside of Philly, and it’s the same outside of Philly as my outside of Philly. And he would’ve been seven or eight when I was in Hebrew School, so he fits into the story as the younger brother of a kid I went to Hebrew School with. But, I can’t find anything about his brother. If he has one. Damn it. I need closure.
Maybe I should just take all that Adam(s) Goldberg hate, and pour it Rhett’s way. After all, if he hadn’t have made that damn commercial, I’m sure none of this would’ve never happened. Plus, I mean, look at those eyes:
Only, in researching Rhett Creighton I find out that he’s a pretty good dude. Including that he was a physics major. I was a physics major. All physics majors are awesome people. That’s scientific fact.
Well. Fuck. I can’t even hate this dude. Again, I suck.
So let me publicly offer my deepest apologies to Rhett Creighton. I haven’t really wronged him, aside from disparaging his childhood eyes, but still. He lives in Austin so maybe at next year’s South by Southwest, beer. Not to apologize as much as just to talk about physics and the time he tried to set a world record for crawling.
And now. Finally. We come to the end. Memory is a helluva thing, ain’t it? The best I can figure it, I did go to Hebrew School with Indubitably’s older brother. Or, hell, maybe it was just a kid who knew Indubitably and was an asshole braggart about knowing a commercial star. And at some point around that same time, I must have somehow bumped into Adam F. Goldberg someplace. Probably when I was up visiting family in the Northeast, around his part of outside of Philly. And these two disparate snippets of memory somehow wound up percolating in my stupid little hormone-addled mind, probably getting unnecessarily riled up by the shortly thereafter death of my mother, mixing and mashing together until, in the mid ’90s, they coalesced into this unfounded but loathing disdain for the other Adam Goldberg. The one who wasn’t from Philly. The one who had just as much nothing to do with Crispy Critters as middle initial F. The one who was just a dude trying to make himself into a Hebrew Hammer.
Some villains know they’re the villains. But most do not, because they’re self-deluded, because they’re willfully blind, because they blame someone or everyone else, or maybe just because they don’t stick around long enough to reach an epiphany. But every once in a while, a bad guy can learn. He can see the error of his ways and turn things around. And so I put down my black hat and replace it with a white yarmulke. Now I shall walk down the path of light and besmirch the good name(s) Adam Goldberg no more.
…But I’m still going to giggle at that Saving Private Ryan scene. I’m only human.