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Lincoln Boehm: The Tyson Zone

BY LINCOLN BOEHM

Published February 4, 2010

The Rip Torn story, currently buried on the third page of most national newspapers, may very well be the most underrated celebrity scandal of all time. It has now made its way up the hierarchy of crazy celeb stories with the likes of Eddie Murphy receiving fellatio from a tranny hooker, Rob Lowe filming a sex tape with a 16-year-old and Kanye West’s infamous — yet underrated — “George Bush doesn’t care about black people” comment. (You do realize he was talking about the sitting president, right? Cajones.)

For those of you who don’t know who Rip Torn is or what happened, let me break it down for you. Rip Torn is a hilarious actor. You have most likely seen him in films and would without question recognize him. He played Zed in both “Men In Black” movies, he was the coach in the wheelchair in “Dodgeball” and he played Artie on what is in my opinion the best TV show of all time, “The Larry Sanders Show.” Rip Torn is a legend. Some may say a comedic God — he even did the voice of Zeus in the Disney movie “Hercules.” Coincidence? I think not.

The question is, if he's so amazing and so important, why haven’t you heard about what he did one week ago today? And if you have heard about it, why haven’t you heard more about it? Rip Torn is 78 years old, and last Friday night he got incredibly drunk, loaded up his revolver and broke into a bank in Connecticut.

Pause for disbelief.

That’s right. This 78-year-old man broke into a bank with a loaded gun while he was close to over three times the legal blood alcohol level, according to reports by The Associated Press. When I first heard this story, I didn’t believe it. It’s not that I didn’t believe it could have happened — I just didn’t believe it could have happened and not garnered appropriate attention from the media.

In my mind, this story has five unbelievable parts to it, but it only needs two or three of them to be a front-page story. Part one: We have a 78-year-old man. That’s older than a lot of your grandparents. Part two: He’s piss drunk. Part three: He’s carrying around a loaded revolver. Part four: He breaks into a bank. Part five: He is a very well-known celebrity. Put two or three of those parts together and you have a shocking story. All five? That’s pure chaos.

I sat down with one of my friends to try to figure out why this wasn’t front-page material. We determined that it’s because society has thrown Rip Torn into the Tyson Zone. For those of you not familiar with writer Bill Simmons, the Tyson Zone is a group of people who have displayed such craziness that they can do anything, and if you heard about it you’d believe it and not be shocked. Other members of the Tyson Zone include Mike Tyson, Ron Artest, Gary Busey, Tom Cruise and Flava Flav. For example, if someone said to me, “Yo, Lincoln, did you hear that Ron Artest is going to fight a caged lion on national television to raise money for Haiti?” My response would be “Dude, not now, I’m in the middle of writing my column.”

My friend and I determined that Rip Torn is the first person in history to be retroactively inducted into the Tyson Zone. He hadn’t done anything too crazy prior to this, but once it happened it came as no surprise. Most people’s responses were something like, “I’ve been expecting Rip Torn to do this for years.” I don’t get how this made so much sense to everyone, but it did. Nobody seems to be surprised by this story, but I think the idea of anybody older than my grandpa robbing a bank is nuts — not to mention that the culprit is Zed from “Men In Black.”

You may be asking yourself, “Why would you write your column about Rip Torn, Lincoln?” Well, that’s a valid question. The answer is simple: I refuse to be a part of this conspiracy to ignore Rip Torn and his ridiculous behavior. The man was too much of an influence on me as a child. I respect him too much as a human being to let this slide. Someone needs to put a foot down and say: “Did nobody see that this just happened? For the love of God, someone please care.” So I’ll take it upon myself to say: Did nobody see that this just happened? For the love of God, someone please care.

Lincoln Boehm can be reached at lsboehm@umich.edu.


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