C’mon — who wouldn’t want an A-list celebrity to crash into their home? Really.
By Tony Peyser
It’s been a tough several weeks for aging celebs, starting with Madonna tumbling down a flight of stairs at the Brit music awards. The Material Girl later admitted the fall was proof “that the universe was trying to teach me a lesson.” I doubt she’ll install one of those chair lifts for stairs at her next live show, but she does appear to have gotten more than a tiny hint about what she can and cannot do on stage at her age. This, good guess, brings us to Harrison Ford’s crash landing on the eighth hole of the Penmar Golf Course next to the Santa Monica Airport.
The action hero actor, who reportedly owns a dozen or so planes, is lucky to be alive — especially when you realize that the end of his ill-fated flight, after clipping a tree, was dropping to the ground from 100 to 200 feet. Indie music darling Neko Case arguably had the best tweet: “Not to minimize the seriousness of Harrison Ford’s crash, but he was smart to choose a golf course. WAY more docs there than at a hospital!” Indeed, Ford was fortunate enough to receive instant medical attention from physicians who happened to be on the course at his moment of need. Thanks, Obamacare.
Subsequent news coverage has noted two other flying mishaps Ford has had since getting his license some 20-odd years ago. If wife Calista Flockhart can’t bring herself to tell the hub his flying days are finished, perhaps she can take a page out of Nancy Reagan’s playbook. You may recall the ex-First Lady prevailed upon the man who managed the stable at their Santa Barbara ranch to inform our 40th president that he needed to become a former equestrian.
Ford’s crash resonates in a special way locally because of the longtime complaints from nearby residents about the perils of living close to an airport that has come to resemble horribly annoying neighbors who, despite repeated complaints, refuse to move. Ford has embarrassed the pro-airport movement in the same way a notorious teetotaler would if he flunked a breathalyzer and a field sobriety test. The anti-airport groups don’t need my help — this is an early Christmas gift that they’ll have no trouble using to galvanize their efforts. Hell, Ford even donated $26,000 to the big money behind keeping the airport just as it is.
If I were to become a consultant for the Santa Monica Airport Association, I’d advise them not to panic. First of all, stop calling it a “crash” and start referring to what happened as an “incident.” It sounds so much more benign. Second of all, play up Ford’s heroics: Emphasize his saving lives, not having engendered them. Lazy media outlets will love referring to Ford’s real world derring-do. Third of all, take a breath: It could have been a lot worse. No, I’m not talking about other people winding up at the ER. How awful would this scenario have played out if the pilot hadn’t been a bona fide star but some Hollywood has-been? Imagine Chevy Chase in that cockpit. Did you see him at SNL’s 40th reunion? He was sweating more than a banker at a House hearing on the adjustable rate mortgages that caused the 2008 financial collapse.
What matters most in America isn’t family or God or even money: It’s celebrity. Fame, like a top plastic surgeon, can airbrush away any unsightly problems that may arise. Bearing that in mind, Santa Monica airport backers should immediately go on the offensive about what a treat it is for mere mortals to have run-ins with the folks we peons can only dream about.
Even if Ford elects not to fly again, there are still lots of high-wattage names with pilot licenses who use SMO, like Tom Cruise, John Travolta and hotel impresario Steve Wynn. They could no more resist keeping their private jets in hangars there than former Gov. Schwarzenegger could resist keeping his hands off his maid. (Did I mention that Arnold also has a plane there? Yeah, he does.)
The bottom line: Who wouldn’t want to have one of them literally drop into your backyard?
Ford’s emergency landing is nothing more than wake-up call to the upside of air mishaps. It’s all good as long as it involves people whose names regularly wind up in the tabs. Finally, there’s a way for those of us in the cheap seats to keep up with the Indiana Joneses.