Cultural Icon Refresh: Seven New Candidates

mike-tyson-kids-300x300Today, Elvis would be on Celebrity Rehab, Marilyn Monroe would be in yoga class and Dirty Harry would need SWAT backup. We need new icons to emulate as the twenty-teens roll on. My not-so-obvious choices for the revised list:

Mike Tyson

If ever there was a guy we were born to hate, it’s Tyson. He was hardly the people’s champ, with his thuggish behavior, rape conviction and bizarre face tattoo.

He did three years on the rape rap. Prison rehabilitated him, as he proved by biting off a piece of Evander Holyfield’s ear.

Broke–having squandered $300 million—diagnosed as bipolar, Tyson seemed headed for a steep fall down the Google search rankings into obscurity, if not poverty.

But Mike is pure. A 100%, unadulterated, seemingly irredeemable f**k-up trying to get get un-f**ked and as such, is the object of some fascination.

There was a semi-confessional documentary. TV appearances. He was in The Hangover. And the sequel. In the sequel to come. He is a motivational speaker. When last we checked, he was a vegan. (Did I mention, he bit off a guy’s ear!? ) Spike Lee is directing a Tyson one-man show on Broadway and has compared the pug’s storytelling skills to that of Mark Twain.

No one does comebacks like a boxer, and Tyson’s story stokes our belief in redemption. Holyfield had his ear sewed back, but Evander’s probably sitting in his mega-mansion wondering why he never got a one-man show. He can always call Joe Frazier to commiserate.

Let it go, champs. It’s not about the deeds, it’s about the drama. After hearing Tyson’s story, even Bernie Madoff can hope for a comeback.

Clint Eastwood

I am going to ask you to clear your mind of the snarky empty chair routine.

Ok? Is it gone? Now listen. Eastwood is Hollywood’s compassionate conservative. Few directors have made more movies about the downtrodden and the 47%. With films such as Mystic River, Changeling, Million Dollar Baby and Gran Torino, he counters the claim that all conservatives are “out of touch.” Even ballistic saint Dirty Harry was just a working stiff lumbering toward a detective’s pension. In France, Honkytonk Man was compared to The Grapes of Wrath. (The French made him a Commander in the Legion of Honor, a rank he shares with Jerry Lewis).  

Clint’s storytelling conveys genuine compassion; his characters eat gluten and don’t own Cuisinart’s; he’s much in touch.


Obama plays basketball; Clinton and Bush stuck with golf. But President Dwight Eisenhower played poker, and poker is more American than warfare. Ike learned to play as a boy in Abilene, Kansas in the 1890’s, and he was very good.

The Supreme Commander knew what every card shark knows—it’s not just about the hand, but about sizing up your opponent. He knew how to bluff; he could seem vague or weak at times, then stubborn and tough. Eisenhower is among the top ten of nearly in every ranking of American presidents

Its time for our foreign policy makers to play more poker, less Call of DutyShuffle and deal. Keep the drones in your vest pocket, just in case. If poker doesn’t work, and the hand is weak, follow Ike’s other example—stand up, upend the poker table and declare D-Day.

Candy Crowley

Anchoring is a tough business, especially if you are a woman. You need brains, a work ethic. You also have to be eye candy. Except in the case of Candy Crowley. Crowley has endured demeaning, insulting remarks and tweets about her weight, especially from right-wingers who thought she was too sympathetic to Obama, calling her a “fat ass” and “liberal pig” And this is nothing new; people have been writing and talking about her weight for years.

She’s good at her job, always has been, and has chosen to deal with her issues in her own way. While she may not be a role model when it comes to the ideal weight, we should all laud her ability to shake it off, and do excellent work with good cheer and no small amount of dignity. The next time you cringe at the mirror at the sight of a few extra pounds, think of Candy comfortably moderating the Presidential debate, smile, and give the world the finger.

Arnold Schwarzenegger

Down on the Arnold for his bad behavior? We understand. But this is a man who arrived in Santa Monica lacking education and money, and proceeds to dominate the body building world, become a millionaire real estate investor and the world’s biggest box office star with an accent more Teutonic than Kissinger. He then tops himself by becoming a two-term governor of California.

What’s on your resume?

This fame—money—power trifecta would be unlikely for a fifth generation American from Tennessee. But for an Austrian immigrant? Miraculous. Boil off the luck and you are still left with an inspiring story of drive, hard work and determination. Yes, and he married a Kennedy, or rather, a Kennedy married him. As the world becomes more competitive, we could all use a dose of Arnold’s focus formula and, as the Austrians would say, chutzpe.

Disclaimer. That thing he did, with the maid, even besting Woody Allen and Bill Clinton for creepiness? You just have to minus the sexual misconduct, or we’d have no icons at all. Even Albert Einstein screwed around.

The Rope-A-Dopers

Let us celebrate Muhammad Ali once again,and his student, Ronald Reagan, this time for their use of the “rope-a-dope,” which reminds us that sometimes, brute force tactics should be avoided. Ali flummoxed George Foreman, tricking his opponent into depleting his energy and giving him a taste of the canvas.

Ronald Reagan’s tough talk and threats to build an expensive missile shield flummoxed the Soviets when they had already maxed out their credit card. Reagan was “putting pressure on us—to exhaust us,” said Gorbachev.

The tactic still works. Osama bin Laden? In the end, punched out and burned out, holed up in a dull compound without air conditioning for six years , slurping “natural Viagra” oat syrup , dyeing his beard with Just for Men, communicating by snail mail, and watching an ancient 14” thick screen portable TV in a sparse room filled with dangling wires. Worse, his wives were feuding like fundamentalist Mormons.

Where was the finger-wagging dirty bomber, who in 1998, ridiculed “the weakness of the American soldier?” Where was the pitched battle with his army of chanting Jihadist warriors that starred in his videos? Rope-a-doped.

Donald Trump 1.0

For a few short years, he was a role model for the young and ambitious on the make in New York. I’ll admit, even then he was called obnoxious, overrated, and showed early signs of his now-legendary narcissism. But he had vision, he had vitality, he had flair.  By 1972, he was reportedly worth $200 million and not yet thirty.

In the bars and conference rooms of Manhattan, young men bellowed that they wanted to be like Donald Trump. They said it to one another, not just to women when trying to get laid.

Even before the various towers Trump, he altered the face of the City. He virtually rebuilt the old Commodore Hotel at Grand Central, transforming it into the Grand Hyatt. The remake was so dramatic even the hotel hookers were confused because they couldn’t find the johns’ rooms after the remodeling.  

The NY real estate establishment declined to rescue the failing renovation of Central Parks’ cherished Wollman Rink, but Trump stepped forward and brought it in under budget. He jump-started the Javits Convention Center. He married an athletic and capable Czech beauty, Ivana. (Since wives, unlike hotels, cannot be renovated, he’s had to replace them twice; in between, he rented).

Wouldn’t it be great if Donald fired himself, quit his show and his business-fetish clothing line and devoted his time to rebuilding and storm-proofing the five boroughs, free of charge? After all, he built his own fortune with government help and heavy debt, so he knows just what to do. He could go  from Celebrity Apprentice to Sorcerer’s Apprentice and stop the flooding.

Probably not gonna happen. Unless his kids come out from under his comb-over and stage an intervention, I’ll take my inspiration from 70′s Trump.

Mitchell J. Posner