There's "honest" - and then there's "Holy GOD, I can't believe that person had the courage to say THAT." These are moments of expression so painfully truthful - at least, from my perspective/ experience - that they took my breath away. Furious honesty!
  1. Britney Spears, 2007
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    Having lived for years as the nation's pedophiliac punchline... having been sexually assaulted by the paparazzi, then ridiculed for it by every major media outlet... Britney Spears had a very human and appropriate response. She shaved her head and attacked a car with an umbrella. I was blown away and thought, "This is what you want, this is what you get." Charlie Sheen would imitate her "meltdown" later, but never come CLOSE to Britney's level of defiance.
  2. Richard Pryor at the Hollywood Bowl, 1977
    His notorious performance at an early gay rights benefit. Richard got up and talked about his sexual experiences with men - at a time when a "straight" celebrity simply COULD NOT DO THAT - then threw out every slur possible to push the buttons of the "Hollywood liberal" crowd that made him feel unloved. Ended with his famous line: "Kiss my rich, happy black ass!" Afterward, Lily Tomlin came to his defense, which is one of 10,000 reasons I love Lily Tomlin.
  3. Philip Seymour Hoffman, "Boogie Nights," 1997
    Chewing on the pen. The body language, arms crossed, containing his incredible power. And especially, of course, crying in the car: "I'm a fuckin' idiot." wrote of this scene for its "strange campiness." I find nothing campy about it whatsoever. The first time I saw it, I was in awe: "I can't believe he said it out loud."
  4. Amy Winehouse, "Wake Up Alone," 2006
    Nestled away on the Back to Black LP, there's this time bomb. Amy rips the skin off every pop song cliche to reveal the pain, fear and disgust wriggling underneath. It's unbelievably beautiful! I don't think she's ever been topped.
  5. Harvey Pekar on Late Night With David Letterman, 1987
    Harvey is the brilliant comic book writer who was portrayed by Paul Giamatti in "American Splendor." This was the infamous Late Night appearance where Harvey went after Dave's corporate overlords, GE. I saw it when it aired, and it was disturbing - yet thrilling - to see my hero Dave genuinely rattled. If you've never witnessed this amazing appearance, click here to enjoy a moment that would never - EVER - be broadcast today:
  6. Notorious BIG, "Suicidal Thoughts," 1994
    I know that the Geto Boys' "Mind Playing Tricks on Me" made it cool for rappers to talk about how emotionally unstable they are - but there's no way to hear this Biggie track without thinking, "This is not a pose." I always remember a writer saying that Tupac spent the last year of his life symbolically "begging for someone to kill him." Biggie made it literal. Again, I don't get how anyone could be a "hard" rapper after this; kind of the last word.
  7. Hubert Selby Jr., "The Queen is Dead," 1964
    The second story in his landmark book, "Last Exit to Brooklyn." A true heartbreaker - the last line, "It wasn't shit," wrecked me - and I don't understand how Selby had the courage to publish this 50 years ago!
  8. The Smiths, "How Soon Is Now?" 1985
    In high school, I hated The Smiths and felt they had "no sense of humor." Then I moved to Los Angeles at the age of 21 and heard this song on KROQ. And when Morrissey described "clubbing" as a night where "you go home and you cry and you want to die," it was so true to my experience that I burst out laughing. Now I actually go to Morrissey/ Smiths conventions and shit. (Can't wait to see Mexrissey, BTW!)
  9. Black Mirror, "15 Million Merits," 2011
    And, of course, Sarah Kane's "4.48 Psychosis," which inspired it. And (pretty much) every other Black Mirror episode, too!