Column: We’re used to celebrity scandals, but oh my God, Felicity Huffman?
Why did it have to be Felicity Huffman?
You would think at this point we would be inured to revelations that even the “nicest” celebrities feel entitled to free passes — to events, gifting suites, in traffic court. But why did one of the “stars” of the college admissions scandal have to be Emmy winner Huffman?
Tuesday was not a good day for parents. Those who did not allegedly pay a very high-priced and utterly unscrupulous admissions company to lie, cheat and steal so their kids could get into the college of their choice spent the day feeling outraged and, depending on the number of wait-lists endured or athletic scholarships that never happened, ripped off.
Those parents who allegedly did spent the day in jail.
Which may be the fairest thing to come out of the college admissions process in years.
The Edge College & Career Network went above and beyond the tutoring and multiple practice-test-taking typical of most private prep classes. According to federal prosecutors, owner William “Rick” Singer oversaw a full buffet of collegiate chicanery. In some cases, school officials were bribed to mark certain students as super-athletes, often in sports the student didn’t even play. In others, students’ SAT or ACT test results were rigged, with proctors who provided the correct answers or simply impostors who took the test in the student’s place.
On Tuesday Singer pleaded guilty to money laundering, obstruction of justice, racketeering and conspiracy to defraud the United States. Prosecutors also charged 50 people with being knowing participants.
One of them was Felicity Huffman.
She allegedly chose the proctor-with-correct-answers option.
She and Lori Loughlin (Google her, non-“Full House” fans) led the headlines. Loughlin’s husband, popular fashion designer Mossimo Giannulli, was also charged though Huffman’s husband, “Shameless” star William H. Macy, was not.
Huffman was not the richest nor most powerful person on the list, but she was certainly the most famous.
And the most shocking.
Look, we all know that the rich and famous are different. Their houses are bigger, their clothes are nicer, they never fly coach and their kids go to schools like Crossroads or Harvard-Westlake.
This doesn’t make them bad people or an alien race; money and fame are often well-earned and for years Huffman seemed proof of that. She was a serious character actor, and though she came to Hollywood via David Mamet at the height of his powers (which is a pretty good way to come to Hollywood), many people felt the need to root for her. She was so good, people would say, in “Sports Night,” in “Magnolia,” in “Frasier,” for God’s sake, but for years she seemed destined to play the best friend or older sister.
Then “Desperate Housewives” and “Transamerica” made her a big star. But still she seemed normal, which was even more endearing. She and Macy have been together forever, and married for 22 years. They talked about their kids the way everyone talks about their kids — equal measure adoration and exhaustion, with some charming bewilderment on the side.
When I interviewed Huffman almost 15 years ago, we discovered we had daughters of the same age and she really did seem like every other working mother I knew. Even if she could afford more help and spent a bit more time on the red carpet.
“I am very cognizant of the shelf life of the spotlight,” she told me then. “If I start feeling I was anointed, all I have to do is remember how many times I’ve been fired.”
She was very convincing, and it might even have been true. Even as her fame grew, she maintained a down-to-earth image, especially when it came to motherhood. After “Desperate Housewives” ended, she started the website whattheflicka.com, where women — some famous, some not — could share their experiences and seek advice.
“There’s no conversation for parenting, no one to say ‘it’s hard’ to,” she told Mashable in 2013, adding that motherhood “is a heroic profession.”
Uh-huh. Tell it to the jury, Felicity.
According to prosecutors, Huffman knew what she was paying for, which included getting extended time for her daughter to take the test and providing a proctor who would ensure she scored well by changing wrong answers to correct ones.
Look, everyone knows how insane the college application process can get, especially for parents who cannot afford to live in areas with good public schools or send their kids to private schools, parents unable to provide legitimate tutors or take time from their jobs to help fill out the voluminous application, parents who really can’t pay for their kids to take the test multiple times or the application fees to the 12 colleges the guidance counselor recommends.
For people like Huffman and Macy? Please. Imagine the references that kid had. The fawning tour guides. The possibility of large donations and naming opportunities.
But fame and fortune were not, apparently, enough. Huffman allegedly had to pay for someone to guarantee a slot that should have gone to a student who maybe actually earned it.
So much for the woman so many of us rooted for over the years, most lately in “American Crime,” which is nauseatingly funny. The splendid actor who knows how hard it is to balance work and family doesn’t live here, at least not anymore.
Instead the curtain was pulled back to reveal someone so used to wealth and privilege that it seemed acceptable to pay someone to cheat for her daughter so she could get exactly what she wanted.
A young woman who not even the most debt-laden student at the smallest community college can possibly envy now.
The scheme, which allegedly began in 2011, centered on the owner of a for-profit Newport Beach college admissions company that wealthy parents are accused of paying to help their children cheat on college entrance exams and to falsify athletic recor
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