Saturday, February 11, 2006

Mr. Frey, have you met Grandpa Munster?

Damn you, Times Select! The ridiculous firewall around columns in The New York Times prevents me from linking to Dan Barry's piece today about the many fibs told by Al Lewis, who died last week. The actor, best known for playing the grandfather on The Munsters, was listed in obituaries as 95.

But he wasn't--he was 82. That's just the beginning, though. Here's an excerpt from the story:
"When Lewis talked about the 1930's, he described himself not as a boy growing into long pants, but as an adventurous man, always in the mix of history. He said that he worked as a radio actor, circus clown, trapeze artist, medicine show 'professor,' and union organizer in the South." Other jobs he claimed to have had included working "on the defense committee for Sacco and Venzetti, two Italian anarchists who were executed in 1927," when Lewis was 4-years-old. He also claimed to have appeared in "Olsen and Johnson's Hellzapoppin', the Broadway hit of 1938. Not to mention that time he got a doctorate in child psychology from Columbia University in 1941. Or was maybe 1949? Columbia certainly has no record of it.

So, why would a working actor actually want to be 13 years older than he really was? The theory is that he first fudged his age to get the part on The Munsters--he was a couple years younger than the actress who would play his daughter. But the rest of his embellishments? Pure storytelling.

So, here's the question: Why do I find this completely hilarious but the lies of James Frey to be totally contemptible? Somehow, Lewis's lies make him a quote-unquote character. Frey's lies make him (no quotes here) an asshole. And the lies coming from the White House? Ah, don't get me started...


NYPinTA said...

Maybe Mr. Frey's are so contemptable because he was making so much money from his lies, whereas the lies told by Mr. Lewis were of the 'big fish' variety. Interesting, but not really going to get him anything.

trinamick said...

Hey, bloodsuckers are always a little morally bankrupt. I think I would be more disappointed if I found out he always told the truth.