NEW YORK -- For eight years as a major TV star and chief macho maniac, Charlie Sheen threatened, abused and scared women
in his life, including two wives and numerous escorts, call girls and starlets.
How did Sheen get away with it time and time again? Where was public opinion? Where were the female bloggers and columnists and the feminists groups who are usually ready to jump up and cry out against the smallest hint of sexism and abuse?
Celebrity usually trumps all. Sports figures, movie stars, big financiers may get a pass and even forgiveness and adulation when most people might not. It's not always so.
The fashion designer John Galliano, for instance, was fired on Tuesday by the French fashion house Christian Dior for making anti-Semitic remarks during an assault on a woman at a Paris cafe last week. Galliano paid a price, but that has not been the case for a long time with Sheen.
He was the darling of CBS with the network's top-rated sitcom
, "Two and a Half Men." Women loved the show, though it's all about taking sexism to a new level of gross behavior. Men, of course, may have seen a little of themselves in the Sheen character. And the jokes were great.
Sheen, at the same time, built up an impressive list of sexual abuse charges, many of them front-page in the tabloids and featured on the entertainment and gossip shows.
Bedeviled by addictions to drugs and alcoho
l, Sheen was a serial abuser. He threatened to kill one wife, Denise Richards; tried to strangle and held a knife to the throat of his third wife, Brooke Mueller, on Christmas Day 2009; indulged in public relationships with sex film stars; went on a tear at the Plaza Hotel in New York last fall and threatened a hired call girl who hid in the bathroom.
He got away with it all. In fact, he got richer and more famous. Even after his guilty plea in the Christmas Day incident, the ratings for "Two and a Half Men" kept climbing -- along with his salary. Sheen was making approximately $1.8 million per episode, one of the highest paid actors on television.
But he finally went too far, even for CBS. On a recent radio show, he ranted against his executive producer, Chuck Lorre, calling him "a clown,"
suggesting he stole from him, and making an anti-Semitic remark against him.
CBS and Warner Bros. pulled the plug on "Two and a Half Men" immediately. An industry that overlooked and belittled Sheen's abuse of women drew the line when it came to insulting the boss.
Sheen appeared unhinged Monday on the "Today" show, saying he was at war with CBS
, that it was out to destroy his family, that he was suing the network for $320 million.
There's a certain pattern that successful men in the public eye tend to get away with abusing women sexually, physically, emotionally.
Witness those two legendary quarterbacks, Brett Favre and Ben Roethlisberger.
Favre was at the center of allegations last year that he sent a young New York Jets hostess
some provocative photos of himself and sexually suggestive messages. The accusations rippled through the sports world for a while, but Favre never publicly answered the accusation. The issue seemed to go away, and in December, Favre, a future Hall of Famer, retired.
Sex scandals -- mostly involving the abuse of women -- are nothing rare in sports. Early in 2010, the National Football League suspended Roethlisberger, the Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback, for four games after he was investigated for, but not charged with, sexually assaulting a woman at a bar in Georgia. He was back in the game in the fall, in time to lead his team to the Super Bowl in January.
In Hollywood, besides Sheen, there's Mel Gibson, who allegedly battered his ex-girlfriend
, Oksana Grigorieva, who is the mother of his year-old daughter. He is accused of breaking two of Grigorieva's teeth at their Malibu home last year. Gibson has denied the allegations and faces four years in prison if convicted. But Gibson seems to have received more condemnation for his anti-Semitic rages.
Christian Bale, who won an Oscar for best supporting actor on Sunday night for his role as a crack-addicted has-been boxer in "The Fighter," was accused of assaulting his mother
, Jenny, and his sister, Sharon, in 2008, allegations that landed him at a London police station before being released on bail.
A day later he attended the premiere of "The Dark Knight," which earned him raves for his brooding role as Batman/Bruce Wayne. His career has only gone up since "The Dark Knight," culminating with the Oscar on Sunday night. But his private business with his mother and sister apparently is not over, according to bbcamerica.com.
In one of the more bizarre and inexplicable incidents of violence against a woman lately, Galliano was accused of grabbing a respected art historian's hair and calling her an "ugly, disgusting whore"
with a "dirty Jew face" during an unprovoked attack in a bar in the fashionable Marais district of Paris.
Galliano, 50, a small-frame, mustachioed Parisian who is a friend of Madonna's and other fashion celebrities, was arrested and initially suspended from his job as the chief designer at Christian Dior. On Tuesday he was fired for his anti-Semitic outbursts
contained in a video published Monday.
The video, posted on the website of the British tabloid The Sun, showed Galliano telling other people at the bar, La Perle, that "I love Hitler" and that "people like you should be dead," and "your mothers, your forefathers" would all be "gassed."
The actress Natalie Portman, who won the Academy Award for best actress on Sunday night and who has an endorsement contract with Dior for its Miss Dior Chérie perfume, said in a statement: "I am deeply shocked and disgusted by the video of John Galliano's comments. . . . As an individual who is proud to be Jewish, I will not be associated with Mr. Galliano in any way."
This time, fame wasn't enough. Galliano didn't get away with it all.