Harvey Weinstein’s Walker Vs. Bill Carlisle Onstage Performances

A couple weeks ago on Caffeinated Politics, I was disdainful of the optics that Harvey Weinstein used as we went to court, using of all things, a walker.  At the time I wrote rather to-the-point.

Like a scene out of a B-grade movie, a frail-looking Harvey Weinstein leaned on a walker yesterday looking pathetic. He passed by the reporters and protesters alike as he hobbled and looked like he as seeking out a modern-day Cecil DeMille for his close up.  Smarmy bastard does not seem aware his close up was his mug shot!

As I write this post I am reminded of the colorful Grand Ole Opry performer, Bill Carlisle (known affectionately as Jumpin’ Bill) who in his later years on stage, would enter onto the stage with a walker.  He would implore the audience to clap and cheer for him, as he leaned on his device.  When the singing was over he held up the walker, threw it over his shoulder, and walked off the stage to more cheers and a fair amount of laughter.

The use of a walker can be all about the optics.  Not only for entertainment but also as a vehicle for sympathy from a court of law.   When a walker is used for onstage comedy it can be seen in the humor of the moment, as with a nearly 90-year-old singing, “No Help Wanted”.

Perhaps it is due to the gravity of the charges that are being pressed against Weinstein, or the national outrage that has ensued since his legal matters have made so many news stories, but I simply do not think his use of a walker is for medical purposes.   I see this as a PR move to influence not only those in the courtroom but equally important, the news consumers who see the images in the newspapers and on television.

I also grasp the downside to this story for those who truly rely on such devices to make them mobile and more able to live fully.  This is another reason I am upset with Weinstein who I am confident is using it to curry favor with a nation that is rightfully scornful of his behavior.

The New York Times has a great column in the newspaper that cuts to the core of this issue.

So why should we care about what, in some cases, is a strategic use of this aesthetic in court? Criminal trials are performances, after all, with high stakes and lawyers squaring off in an adversarial system where their duties are to zealously represent their clients.

We should care because the aesthetics of disability can be used to manipulate the legal system while also reinforcing stereotypes of what people with disabilities look and sound like, and what they are capable of doing.

I wish to leave my readers with a lighter side to life after reading about the gutter side of Weinstein.  I really have no nice words to say about him.

Many–perhaps the majority of my readers–have never heard of Bill Carlisle but when I write Jumpin’ Bill, that is precisely what he did on stage. 



And here is the classic moment from the Grand Ole Opry and the use of a walker.