No sympathy for the devil

Disney says sayonara to Keith Richards as the fallout from snortgate continues.

Published April 6, 2007 5:40PM (EDT)

Whatever the media's been smoking, I want some, because the way a gross little story from Keith Richards has turned into a full-blown media phenomenon suggests that some strong stuff is floating around. As was reported in the Fix earlier this week, during an interview with Mark Beaumont of the British music magazine NME, Richards said, "The strangest thing I've tried to snort? My father. I snorted my father. He was cremated and I couldn't resist grinding him up with a little bit of blow. My dad wouldn't have cared, he didn't give a shit. It went down pretty well, and I'm still alive."

Icky stuff, but also pretty much par for the course for Richards. Remember, this is a guy who once bragged that going off drugs cold turkey isn't so bad once you've done it "10 or 12 times." He has also never been able to shake the urban legend that he underwent a complete blood transfusion to try to kick his heroin addiction. So snorting his daddy's dust is only marginally creepier than the stories we typically hear regarding Richards, but that hasn't stopped snortgate from taking on a life of its own. Shortly after the quote was published, message boards and blogs lighted up with anti-Richards sentiment. Barry Burns, of the popular indie-rock group Mogwai, summed up the prevailing feelings when wrote the following on his band's Web site: "I just woke up to find that average blues guitar peddlar and all round unlikeable London pirate-like arsehole Keith Richard snorted his dad's ashes on a drug binge," wrote Burns. "Well done, Keith, you talentless publicity hungry horrible prick of the highest order."

Even the highbrows got in on the Keith-bashing, as the ultra-academic American Thinker site pilloried Richards for his "cultural primitivism" and "shock" tactics in a blog post titled -- seriously -- "The Rolling Stones' Oedipal Cannibalism." As if the potshots weren't bad enough, word came Friday that Disney has dropped the Rolling Stones guitarist from the publicity for the upcoming "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End," in which Richards has a small part.

In an effort to halt the bad mojo flowing his client's way, Richards' manager explained to MTV that the comment was "said in jest ... [I] can't believe anyone took [it] seriously." A message also went up on Richards' Web site, explaining that "the complete story is lost in the usual slanting" and that his father's ashes are safely resting in peace under an oak tree. But the NME quickly refuted the claims from Richards' camp; Beaumont insists that the Rolling Stone's remark was "no quip, but came about after much thinking."

I think Richards deserves some sympathy here. Isn't the reason we like the dude because he's the kind of wild and skuzzy rocker who might plausibly go on a drug binge and snort his father's ashes? For people to get up in arms about how gross Richards is or for Disney to disassociate itself from him strikes me as hypocritical. Didn't Disney cast Richards precisely because he's creepy and roguish and rebellious? The man behaves like he always has -- like we expect him to -- and he gets the cold shoulder? Gimme a break. But don't feel bad for Keith Richards, because wherever he is and whoever he's snorting, you can be sure he doesn't give a crap about any of this stuff.

-- David Marchese

By Salon Staff

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