Guys like me used to envy guys like Charlie Sheen.
He was rich; he was handsome; he could have any woman he wanted.
We were just handsome.
But last week we learned that if you dig down beneath the fake tinsel of Charlie Sheen's life, you find the real tinsel.
Testifying in the federal tax evasion trial of Hollywood madame Heidi Fleiss, Sheen admitted that he had paid more than $53,500 for sex with Fleiss' prostitutes.
Constantly tugging at his collar and wiping sweat from his brow, Sheen testified he had used Fleiss' call-girl ring at least 27 times, including Christmas Day, 1992, when he paid a prostitute $2,000.
Sheen, 29, is the former "Brat Pack" member who has built a career taking those movie roles that Tom Cruise turns down.
But contrary to what you might assume from his behavior, Sheen did not come from one of those "broken" Hollywood homes. His parents have been married for more than 33 years. His father, actor Martin Sheen, was loving, Sheen says, and Sheen counts his mother among his best friends.
"I've gotten much closer to them in recent years," Sheen said in an interview last year.
Yeah. So close that on Christmas Day, he's calling hookers.
As I have written in the past, I do not think prostitution should be a crime. But this does not mean I endorse it or fully understand the people who go to prostitutes.
OK, Hugh Grant, one time in a car for a lark, we can maybe figure out.
But Charlie Sheen 27 times? For $53,500?
Sheen has never heard of the sexual revolution? Or singles' bars? Or the "Love Connection"?
Hey, Charlie, let me clue you in: You don't have to pay for it these days. Everybody is doing it. For free.
I should admit right here that Charlie Sheen and I have a history. Two years ago, he read a column of mine he did not like and he wrote me an obscenity-filled letter in which he said he hoped I was home in bed asleep when my house burned down. (That should have tipped me off right there that this is not a guy who believes in moderation.)
Sheen also wrote: "How's it feel to wear fake hair on your head?"
As I pointed out at the time, my hair is not fake. If it were, it would look a whole lot better.
But when I learned about Sheen's cash-and-carry sex life, it struck me: Which is more pathetic? People who buy hair? Or people who buy sex?
And take a look at how Sheen got found out:
When Heidi Fleiss was first arrested and rumors flew about her "black book" of famous customers, Charlie Sheen denied he was one of them. (That denial, as they used to say in the Nixon White House, is no longer operative.)
But privately he was panicking. So Sheen, who is active in the annual Los Angeles Police Department celebrity golf tournament, had his publicist call the cops to see if they were going to release the names in Heidi's book.
The cops said Sheen could relax. That wasn't their policy. And Sheen's name did not get released, even when Fleiss was convicted on state pandering charges and sentenced to three years in prison.
But then the feds charged Fleiss with tax evasion and money laundering. And they subpoenaed her financial records. And guess what they found?
A whole bunch of checks signed by Charlie Sheen.
Just how stupid do you have to be to pay for an illegal act by check?
Only Charlie Sheen knows for sure. But when you look up numbskull in the dictionary, you will probably find his picture.
Federal prosecutors granted Sheen limited immunity if he would testify against Fleiss. And Sheen was allowed to testify on videotape, because he is currently making a movie in Virginia.
He is making this movie for Disney, by the way. (If they need a title, I would suggest, "Dodo: Friend of Dumbo.")
In his taped statement, Sheen emphasized that he paid for "heterosexual" sex only. Last year, however, he was quoted more fully in Movieline magazine.
"I'm a foot guy, you know," Sheen said. "Terrible foot fetish. I'm not saying 'terrible' as in 'bad,' I'm saying it's just tremendous."
Charlie, baby, do yourself a favor. Next time you get the urge, don't call a hooker. Call Thom McAn.