The Fall Doesn't Have to Kill You
Since there is little else of interest in the September 2001 issue of Talk magazine, let me confine my comments to Michael Cieply's article. Tastefully titled "The Crack-Up," it features a large, brooding photo of writer Aaron Sorkin who "reluctantly" submitted to an interview as a result of pressure from his agent and press representative. I suppose they felt he should try to clear the air and try to buff up his tarnished reputation. Or perhaps, as Sorkin pointed out on Mighty Big TV's discussion forums (where he has been posting comments since late January of this year, using the handle "Benjamin"), it was a matter of feeling more or less blackmailed:
I don't think I need to tell you the last thing I want is to keep a story like this going. But what do you do when they call you and tell you they're running the story whether you participate or not "and it'll be worse for you if you don't participate?" What do you do when they say they're going with an unidentified source who's telling them something untrue and damaging with no one on the record refuting it? You're in a tough spot. [August 3, 2001]
A tough spot, indeed. While it may be utterly commonplace, it's still a lousy way to be a journalist. Let's hope that that is not how Mr. Cieply got this particular interview.
I imagine that when Sorkin looks back on the 2000-2001 season, he will remember it as a "wonderful, terrible year" for many reasons. The season started off with The West Wing collecting a truckload of hardware at the Emmys: nine awards. The show's ratings continued to climb, exacting a pretty good chunk of change for NBC. The season roared along toward a compelling, widely discussed finale. All should have been well for Sorkin, frequently described as "television's golden boy." But about a month before the season finale aired, Sorkin was busted at Burbank Airport on his way to Las Vegas.
The trip was a gift from his wife, Julia, as a reward for finishing the season, and he was supposed to spend one night at the Bellagio to enjoy a rare opportunity to relax. Sorkin says in this article that he and Julia had already made the decision to separate before the drug bust, and indicates that they continue to have a very amicable relationship, with Sorkin visiting constantly to see his baby daughter Roxanne. He never got out of California, though: security staff at the airport spotted a pot pipe in his luggage as it was being scanned by the x-ray machine. Upon further inspection, they found marijuana, mushrooms, and rock cocaine. Cieply writes, "Sorkin says he grew lightheaded, as if his body knew before his mind that he was in serious trouble." Apparently his subsequently fainting did little to detract from the suspicion that he was high at the time. That was the beginning of a nightmare that will probably dog him for some time.