Listen all you fools out there
Go on and love me I don’t care
Oh it’s lonely at the top
— Randy Newman, “Lonely At the Top,” 1972
People say it’s lonely at the top, but I sure like the view.
— Charlie Sheen, 2011
“The Sheen machine marches on,” as a Philadelphia Daily News headline put it. Where in the mainstream media are the front-page stories on Wall Street’s manipulation of gasoline prices, or on the Wisconsin 14, who are still holed up in Illinois, waiting for Gov. Walker to give ground in his union-busting crusade? The only real news this week on the latter was when the Wall Street Journal falsely reported that the 14 state senators were ready to give up and come home.
It’s all entertainment all the time, and it’s hard to let go of an entertainer of Charlie’s caliber. If I had a hat, I’d tip it to this man for taking a great lyric and turning it on its head. He ain’t Oscar Wilde, but he’s good for a chuckle.
Newman wrote “Lonely at the Top” with Frank Sinatra in mind, thinking the irony was a good fit for the aging, world-weary crooner. Maybe it was too good — Sinatra turned Newman down, maybe because he saw the double irony in the song’s message. Yes, the narrator is lonely but he’s arrogant, not remorseful or self-pitying. He has great talent and contempt for all who don’t.
I wonder if even Newman, a great ironist, would be capable of doing justice to the phenomenon of Sheen, who has an ego as big as Sinatra’s but whose greatest artistic triumph is a moronic sitcom?