Wednesday, April 13, 2011


So the whole concept of The Butterfly Effect started out with a short story back in 1952 by my old friend and mentor Ray Bradbury. It then inspired an MIT professor, mathematician, and meteorologist, Edward Norton Lorenz, one of the pioneers of chaos theory. When he couldn't think of an apt title for a talk before the American Association for The Advancement of Science in 1972, a colleague suggested, "Does The Flapping Of A Butterfly's Wings In Brazil Set Off A Tornado In Texas?"

This is often called The Butterfly Effect, or the ripple effect, and in the quirky way my mind and imagination work, I had the realization that I could have had an impact on the lives of the two most out-of-control shipwrecks in today's celebrity culture, Charlie Sheen and Lindsay Lohan.

Here's my hypothesis, and it all starts with my very first girlfriend, Jane Gentry, in 1959. We dated for six months in Dover, Delaware, where I had gotten my first job at a small radio station and Jane's father was the station engineer as well as owning a TV repair shop. I was very very shy, a late bloomer who hadn't yet bloomed at nineteen--in other words, an awkward virgin. Whenever I walked Jane to her door after a date I went through the agony of not being able to kiss her goodnight. There was no kissing in my family, so I had little or no practice. Puckering up for the back of my hand just didn't seem to inspire any confidence. We stopped dating. But what if we hadn't? What if I were more experienced or confident and we fell in love and got married? In 1959 that sort of thing happened a lot.

One result would have been that Jane wouldn't have gone on five years later to meet and marry a man named Vince Polo and give birth to a future successful actress, Teri Polo, the star of Meet The Parents and all the sequels, and a number of other movies.
If Jane had become Jane Gentry Gillies instead of Jane Gentry Polo, the producers of those films would have had to find another young, attractive actress with some comedic talent. They may well have chosen Lindsay Lohan, and the stability of that repeating role, not to mention working with such icons as Robert De Niro, Dustin Hoffman, and Barbra Streisand, might have given her the emotional strength and satisfaction to avoid turning to drink and becoming a tabloid sensation and butt of so many late night comedians' jokes.

And is it so farfetched to imagine she might have met and fallen in love with another talented and troubled actor named Charlie Sheen, and that the stability of their relationship might have prevented him from going totally nuts.

Of course, if I had been less shy and more ready to commit, there may have been some collateral damage in saving these two lost souls. Think of all the papparazzi, reporters, bloggers, comedians, who might be unemployed as a result of losing two of their most notorious and dependable subjects.

So maybe it's better that my butterfly wings didn't flap in this situation.

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