Not so long ago, Charlie Sheen was a walking punchline to a joke about how his handshake could give you a contact high and a venereal disease. Such was his manwhorish mania for drugs, prostitutes and porn stars.
Today, it's Sheen who's having the last laugh.
Sure, he's still a sex tape away from being Tommy Lee, but the best ex Denise Richards can drop on him are claims he is addicted to gambling and porn websites and is a bit "unstable."
Instead of playing down his bad boy rep to get back into Hollywood's good graces, Sheen's playing into it, and in such a charmingly unrepentant "boys will be boys" manner that audiences are inviting him into their homes in record numbers.
Sheen is TV's highest-paid sitcom star $350,000 an episode on TV's most-watched sitcom, Two And A Half Men, a show that allows a wanton womanizer named Charlie to do what he does best: play a wanton womanizer named Charlie.
That Sheen once the hottest star in Hollywood thanks to the one-two punch of Platoon and Wall Street has resuscitated his career so completely, and without a Hugh Grant-style talk show mea culpa, should come as no surprise.
Hollywood, for all its perceived piety, is as forgiving as a parish priest.
Sure, when scandal breaks, your calendar will clear up faster than your complexion on Clearasil. No more lunches at Spago, no more three-picture deals. At least not until the heat dies down. Then it's business as usual.
Hugh Grant didn't corner the market on ugly hookers, and after Eddie Murphy offered a trannie working girl a ride home he did penance and earned sizable bank in family fare like Doctor Dolittle and Daddy Day Care. His dramatic turn in next month's Dreamgirls is even earning Oscar buzz.
Sheen's party pal Rob Lowe sent his career into a tailspin when he videotaped himself having a threesome with a couple of underage girls at the 1988 Democratic convention. But it was a short leap from sex scandal to singing with Snow White at the Oscars to starring on The West Wing (and now Brothers And Sisters).
Nick Nolte posed for one of the scariest photos ever after his DUI arrest, and he's still in demand.
Russell Crowe clocked a hotel worker with a telephone, got a slap on the wrist from the court, cut the victim a cheque and went on 60 Minutes to say that in Australia the whole thing would've been settled with a handshake.
Which brings us of course to Mad Mel, agent of anti-Semitism and scourge to any cop with "sugar tits."
Gibson also got off easy probation, a $1,300 fine and rehab and then went on Good Morning America to offer that his actions were "just the stupid rambling of a drunkard." Sure, ABC cancelled his Holocaust miniseries, but who cares? The Passion Of The Christ made Gibson into a mini-studio; he funded his upcoming Apocalypto out of pocket. Oh, and never mind those homophobic rants he made in the 90s. We've forgotten that, too.
Speaking of forgetting anyone remember that time Matthew Broderick killed two people while out for a drunken drive in Ireland? How quickly Hollywood wants us to forget.
But can the same be said of Michael Richards?
During a stand-up routine last week, the Seinfeld star launched a vicious racist attack against some black audience members who heckled him about his lack of a post-Kramer career.
Richards appeared via satellite on David Letterman last Monday coincidentally, Jerry Seinfeld was already appearing to promote the sitcom's latest DVD release. Richards gave an apology, of sorts, denying he's a racist and somehow connecting his obviously racist rant to hurricane Katrina and the war in Iraq.
While there's really no limit to Hollywood's ability to forgive, Richards is hardly a star of Crowe's or Gibson's calibre. So let's see how quickly Hollywood wants us to forget.
Two And A Half Men airs Mondays at 9 pm on CH and CBS.
What to watch this week
Thursday, November 2
Ugly Betty Salma Hayek spices up this delightful fashion dramedy. 8 pm on City and ABC
Sunday, November 26
Brothers And Sisters Continuing this issue's Brat Pack theme, Rob Lowe joins the cast of this family drama.10 pm on Global
Tuesday, November 28
HouseStill crusty, still saving the lives of those afflicted with impossible illnesses, still entertaining. But for how long? 9 pm on Global and Fox