The latest headlines about the most recent arrest of controversial actress Lindsay Lohan have roots in Hollywood history. She is hardly the first celebrated actress to be in and out of court. From an historian’s perspective, the Lohan case presents a classic example of the conflicts between the high standards for historical accuracy expected at museums and a long history of image airbrushing in the motion picture industry.
Lohan’s latest brush with the law on assault charges is challenging Academy of Motion Picture Arts historians to seek a level of transparency in the court records of its members that President Obama promised all Americans when he first took office. Lohan’s December 2010 hearing in the Beverly Hills Courthouse provides a classic example. The felony case was originally scheduled for January 3, 2011, but moved up to a late December docket. As a result, the case was old news by the time magazine publishers got back to work in January. While she received a token sentence of community service, Lohan’s more recent court appearances have shown she did not take the sentence very seriously and had little concern that the sentencing Judge, Eldon S. Fox, would take more time to monitor compliance.
As the Los Angeles Homeland Security Examiner has already reported, the history of irregularities in court records related to Hollywood history is nothing new. Over time, there has been a pattern of minimizing negative publicity by scheduling 4 p.m. hearings on Friday afternoons, when executive offices of Manhattan media moguls are already closed. Riches to rags actor Nicholas Cage was arrested in New Orleans for beating his wife Alice Kim. The hearing of the incident was at 4 p.m. on a Friday afternoon. The pattern repeated itself in the December 2006 hearing documented above, which Fox also rescheduled to 4 p.m. on a Friday afternoon. While the case documents were not archived under unusual circumstances, the irregularity caught the attention of the U.S. Attorney’s Office. These details are nowhere to be found in the archives of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts, which continues to invite the loosing defendants to its events as VIP’s.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts Museum has not announced any plans to provide historians with accurate accounts of these kinds of cases in stark contrast to the Nixon Library and Museum in Yorba Linda and the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley. Perhaps adding a leader from one of these respected institutions or Chapman University Trustee Cecilia DeMille Presley to the advisory board could help the Academy of Motion Picture Arts present this aspect of Hollywood history with accuracy and integrity.