The late Leopold Tyrmand, an astute observer of culture, once told me that the most important publication in America is Women’s Wear Daily.

Style over substance?

Yesterday’s Grammy award ceremony revealed that substantive ideas—or what passes for substance when social anarchy exposes itself—are manifest in the style of contemporary music, television, film and stage.

I began my research for this essay by watching Sunday’s Red Carpet programming that appeared hours before the main event. Style was visible everywhere with a reprise of past and present gowns and interviews with celebrities attending the event.

Hair styles were evident as well, particularly with men who seemed not to have shaved in months nor visited a hair stylist in years. One celeb with bizarre hair wore what appeared to be a workman’s jacket and jeans; others wore black suits, white shirts and black ties topped by strands of dangling hair.

It was clear that this was going to be a long and tiresome night, so I found my copy of Alexandr Solzhenitsyn’s August 1914 and picked up from page 287. With 550 pages to go, I knew it would be easier to view the parade of oddballs, wannabees, nudity, bizarre deportment, gym choreography, and mod music when reading about events leading up to the Bolshevik revolution.

Even that diversion couldn’t overcome my sense that a more serious war was visible in Los Angeles than on the pages of Solzhenitsyn’s book, so I reached for my Samsung Notebook and accessed Patton on Netflix. The violence of those past events were somehow in harmony with the Grammy’s Red Carpet parade and show, perhaps not in contemporaneous—on air—physical violence, but the smell of violence was embedded in these weird styles. As I was about to dismiss that analogy, President Barack Obama appeared to appeal for the entertainment industry to address the issue of abuse of women.

That unnecessary PC commercial was followed by a woman who appeared on stage to affirm that she had been the victim of abuse by her partner—as if Grammy attendees were unaware of the abuse that occurs in homes in the Hollywood Hills.

But, first, we must ask, why do successful, talented, women expose their surgically enhanced boobs, underwear and corsets in transparent gowns for an international audience?

Were so many women on the Red Carpet not aware that they were evoking a desire for anarchic sex? Were they ignorant that Islam was rising from centuries of quiescence precisely to respond to excesses of the West? Had they not attended a recent High School Prom as chaperones?

Not all celebrities were dressed inappropriately, of course.

Tony Bennett dressed as any man, approaching 90 in six months, would dress. One woman wearing a black dress closed at the neck was asked what she thought of the event.

She said, “I look at the Grammys in terms of the music industry and the circus. This is the circus.”

She was not alone in expressing disapproval of the cultural upheaval evident in the clothing attendees chose to wear last night. Even some women standing on the Red Carpet in transparent gowns seemed not to appreciate that they were being used for prurient purposes and gave the impression that they simply wanted to get to their seats before Mom and Dad saw them on TV.

One week before the Grammy’s, the half time “show” at the Super Bowl was an improvement over scandalous half time extravaganzas of previous Super Bowls. But, the NFL has taken some kicks in the teeth from the antics of star athletes and calls for Congress to re-examine the NFL’s tax exempt status.

On February 19, 2012 at the televised funeral for Whitney Houston, Rev. Al Sharpton and Rev. Jesse Jackson were heard to say that the music industry had to learn how better to treat young black women in church choirs who were being destroyed by the music culture. Yesterday, Whitney Houston’s 81 year old mother visited the bedside of Whitney’s daughter at Emory University Hospital. Let’s pray that the music industry  cleans up its act before another member of the industry family commits suicide or is brutalized.


Bishirjian, Richard J., earned a Ph.D. in Government and International Studies from the University of Notre Dame (1972) and the B.A. in Political Science from the University of Pittsburgh (1964). Dr. Bishirjian has served as Yorktown’s President and CEO since 2000.