NEW YORK – Leave it to Charlie Sheen to upstage the Oscars.
A day after Hollywood's biggest show, the troubled actor dominated the headlines with threats of a lawsuit, two riveting morning show interviews, a rambling live stream on an Internet website. And by midday Monday, his veteran publicist had quit.
It was just another day for the self-described party animal whose use of drugs, alcohol and prostitutes combined to shut down the top-rated comedy on television, "Two and a Half Men." www.wdalaw.com In Sheen's interviews with ABC's "Good Morning America" and NBC's "Today" show, he boasted about his "epic" partying, said he's fueled by "violent hatred" of his bosses, claimed to have kicked drugs at home in his "Sober Valley Lodge" and demanded $3 million an episode to return to work.
"The more he does, the more insane he looks," said Michele Cohen, a technical editor from Cary, N.C., and occasional viewer of the CBS sitcom who has been watching the offstage drama with interest.
What may be amusement for fans is serious business in Hollywood. There's a strong likelihood that "Two and a Half Men" will never be back, putting fellow cast and crew members out of work and costing producers Warner Bros. Television tens of millions of dollars.
"I'm supposed to be out there all humble and asking for my job," Sheen said during an interview at his home with Mike Walters and streamed live Monday on TMZ.com. "No, I don't do that. I don't understand what I did wrong except live a life that everyone is jealous of."
Sheen's publicist, Stan Rosenfield, resigned shortly after the TMZ interview. Rosenfield has been with Sheen through three hospitalizations in three months related to the star's wild behavior. In the interview, Sheen implied that Rosenfield had lied to the media by saying he had been hospitalized for an allergic reaction after trashing a room in New York's Plaza Hotel.
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"I have worked with Charlie Sheen for a long time and I care about him very much," Rosenfield said in a statement. "However, at this time, I'm unable to work effectively as his publicist and have respectfully resigned."
In a strange twist shortly before he quit, a prankster on Monday issued a "news release" under the name of Rosenfield's company saying that Sheen was quitting acting to run a vineyard in New Zealand. Rosenfield quickly said it was a hoax.
Both the ABC and NBC morning shows carried excerpts of Sheen interviews conducted over the weekend in each of their first two half-hours, and promised more on Tuesday. ABC aired the interview excerpts before even wrapping up the Academy Awards results, which had aired on ABC the night before.
Monday's New York Post's front page blared: "Sue & a Half Men," with Oscar coverage a mere side of the page.
Sheen told NBC interviewer Jeff Rossen that he's spent years trying to be the "nice guy" on his show and get along with everybody, and now that's over.
"I'm tired of pretending I'm not special," he said. "I'm tired of pretending I'm not a total bitchin' rock star from Mars."
Rossen appeared startled when Sheen said he wanted to be paid $3 million an episode to return to the show. He's reportedly paid $1.8 million an episode now, one of the highest-paid actors on television.
"You want a raise?" Rossen asked.
Replied Sheen: "Yeah, look what they put me through."
On ABC, Sheen said to correspondent Andrea Canning that he planned to sue his bosses.
"Wouldn't you?" he said. "I've got a whole family to support and love. People beyond me are relying on that. I'm here to collect. They're going to lose. They're going to lose in a courtroom, so I would recommend that they settle out of court."
Sheen said that he's bored now with cocaine. But he said he "exposed people to magic" when they partied with him and that he loved doing drugs.
"What's not to love?" he said on ABC. "Especially when you see how I party. It was epic. The run I was on made Sinatra, Flynn, Jagger, Richards just look like droopy-eyed armless children."
ABC and Radar Online had Sheen's blood and urine tested for drugs over the weekend.
The results were "a big win for Charlie Sheen, no question," said Radar's Dylan Howard. He said the dual tests revealed Sheen hadn't had drugs in at least 72 hours.
"I am on a drug," Sheen said. "It's called Charlie Sheen. It's not available because if you try it you will die. Your face will melt off and your children will weep over your exploded body."
The interviews heightened the competition between the network morning shows. Sheen gave his interview to ABC on Saturday, and the network said it was under the impression he wouldn't speak to any other network over the weekend because it planned a "20/20'" special on Tuesday, but Sheen spoke to NBC on Sunday.
"I don't think it's really fair to compare the two," said James Goldston, senior executive producer of "Good Morning America." "NBC got a short interview. It's really not the same thing at all."
Jim Bell, executive producer of "Today," said Rossen had been working hard for a long time to get the interview. He dismissed any suggestion that the morning shows were being enablers for Sheen.
"It's a great story," he said. "We don't have this much interest when we have a big interview on Libya or a powerful, smart series on the brain.'