The XX Factor

Charlie Sheen: Accidental Third World Tourist and Thespian

If Charlie Sheen’s debut on stage is any indication of what we can expect from his national tour to spread his warlock wisdom, we can now rest easy knowing that he is probably not going to take Broadway by storm any time soon.

News reports say he was panned in Detroit , the first leg of his “My Violent Torpedo of Truth/Defeat is Not an Option” 20-city variety show tour, and “was heckled, booed and eventually abandoned by the crowd … with many of the audience members chanting “refund” and heading for the exits even before the show abruptly ended.”

Apparently Sheen’s tiger blood was no match for the Greek chorus of self-appointed critics in the audience.

“Come on, guys. You paid to see me,” he said trying to calm the booers. ” You gave me your hard-earned money without knowing what this (expletive) show was about. I’m here now … and I’m willing to open up.”

I was initially annoyed that the shows quickly sold out when the tour was first announced and that people were willing to pay hundreds of dollars to hear Sheen in person when they could simply sample his incoherence for free on YouTube. I was even more irritated when I heard that Sheen was taking his road show to Haiti, a pseudo goodwill gesture clearly designed more to help his image than to help the beleaguered Haitian people. As a Haitian-American, I was offended by the notion of an unstable, entitled, two-million-dollar-a-week-earning actor coming to Haiti to redeem himself through photo-ops with destitute Haitians who live on less than $2 a day. But given all of Haiti’s problems, I believed Sheen would be a minor distraction that most Haitians were either unaware of or would ignore. This is true for the most part but when I was in Haiti on a recent reporting trip, a few people made a point of noting their displeasure with “this Charlie Sheen situation.” They did so without any prompting from me and were likely motivated by the fact that I’m an U.S.-based reporter and that they think all members of the American media are obsessed with Sheen.

Basically their comments were along the lines of: We don’t like the idea of your jerks coming here to clean up their dirty images. (John Edwards also came to Haiti following the January 2010 earthquake and after news of his affair and out-of-wedlock love-child became public.) Sean Penn, who invited Sheen to Haiti and has mostly been living in Haiti since he began running a well-regarded tent camp there, is a darling of the American media covering Haiti. Penn is also starting to irritate some folks with his self-righteous criticisms of other Haitians he doesn’t think are doing as good a job as he. He came to Haiti after his bitter divorce from Robin Wright-Penn.

I softened my position on Sheen after it was announced that he would donate $7 million from the tour to Haiti . I figured at least some good might come from his visit.  If he was going to exploit Haitians at least they would get some tangible aid in the process, and he could also help shine the media spotlight back on Haiti. Now I’m wondering if he’ll still honor the $7 million pledge if the rest of the U.S. tour is cancelled. For now news reports say refunds are not being offered to audience members with buyers’ remorse.