He was very lonely and extremely depressed about his struggling career.
JONATHAN BRANDIS : 1976 – 2003
The young Hollywood agent was at his regular table at Joss, a fashionable Chinese restaurant here, looking tanned and casually elegant in an Italian silk tie and a boxy suit from Barney’s New York. There was little to distinguish him from half a dozen young Hollywood agents and writers picking at $ 13 plates of prawns, sipping sparkling water and talking deals. Except one thing.
Deep in his heart, he said, he cheered when the convicted murderer Robert Alton Harris was executed in San Quentin last month. During the Senate hearings on the nomination of Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court, he felt certain that Anita Hill was lying. He even thought Dan Quayle might have had a point about Murphy Brown.
He is a closet conservative, who agreed to discuss his political views only on the condition that his identity be withheld. In Hollywood, he is not alone. There are many other people in the entertainment industry who say they do not feel free to express their views. They describe themselves as Hollywood’s only persecuted minority, victims of what one writer called “REVERSE MCCARTHYISM”.
“It is not socially acceptable to be conservative,” said LIONEL CHETWYND, one of the few filmmakers in Hollywood willing to speak openly. Mr. Chetwynd said he had been a virtual pariah ever since his patriotic film about Vietnam POW’s “The Hanoi Hilton” was dismissed as right-wing propaganda by Hollywood’s intelligentsia. ( The film was not a commercial success. ) In a business where judgments about talent and ability are often subjective, Mr. Chetwynd argued that “being liked and well thought of can be the difference between making a living and bone-chilling obscurity.”
For every outspoken conservative movie star — Arnold Schwarzenegger, Tom Selleck, Charlton Heston — there are any number of actors, writers and producers who say they dare not deviate from the liberal consensus that symbiotically binds studio executives and celebrity advocates, party-givers and deal makers. Contrary to an assertion made in Robert Altman’s new movie “The Player”, not all Hollywood deals are made at Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. Some are still conducted at Democratic fund-raisers and Oxfam benefits.
Los Angeles and neighboring Orange County may be home to some of the most conservative communities in the country, but Hollywood has always been a liberal enclave. There, charity begins at the studio, and benefits for the homeless or against apartheid are often viewed as places where agents and writers can buttonhole executives and actors who do not return their phone calls.
“I did go to a concert for the Christic Institute,” the Hollywood agent said weakly, referring to a recent star-studded benefit for the liberal public-interest law firm. To conservatives, the institute, like Jane Fonda and federal excise taxes, is a bete noire. He added sheepishly, “But I made my wife pay for the tickets.”
MICHAEL MEDVED, a film critic for PBS and a conservative, calls such people “Marrano conservatives”, likening them to Spanish Jews who tried to pass as Catholics during the Inquisition.
There are celebrities whose political views are gossiped about almost as much as movie star romances. They include Mel Gibson, Dennis Hopper, Kevin Costner, Steven Spielberg, David Lynch and even Denzel Washington, the actor who plays Malcolm X in Spike Lee’s latest film.
Rumors about Mr. Washington’s views being conservative apparently began circulating after he told an interviewer he did not wish to do nude scenes, his publicist said.
Mr. Costner baffles Hollywood because he supported George Bush in the 1988 Presidential campaign, he played golf with the President and has been a guest at the White House. On the other hand, he made “Dances With Wolves”, a paean to Native Americans, and investigated a right-wing conspiracy in Oliver Stone’s film “J.F.K.” Mr. Costner declined to be interviewed. Stephen Rivers, his agent, said, “Kevin is not doing anything political, and he does not talk about politics.”
In Hollywood, when people say they do not discuss politics, it is often seen as a tip-off that they secretly support right-to-work laws or once sent a check to Jonas Savimbi, the Angolan guerrilla leader. Trendy liberals, after all, never tire of airing their views.
Some conservatives complain that they are viewed with the same alarm and mistrust as leftists were in the 1940’s and 1950’s. And a few echo the furtiveness — and paranoia — of old-time Hollywood reds in the days of the BLACKLIST.
When asked to name other conservatives, one television producer took on the indignant tones of Lillian Hellman testifying before the House Committee on Un-American Activities. “It is wrong to ‘out’ people,” she said urgently. “It would only fuel the fire, particularly after the riots.” Reluctantly and only on condition of anonymity, she admitted that though she was not now — nor had she ever been — a member of the Republican Party, she had been to a few meetings.
Of course, these conservatives are not facing the risk of jail sentences for refusing to tell on their friends, and many in Hollywood are skeptical about the talk of discrimination and thwarted careers, suggesting that some might be using their politics as an excuse for failure.
“This is ridiculous,” said Pat Kingsley, a publicity agent, when asked if she knew of writers or actors who had not gotten work because of their views. Ms. Kingsley, whose well-known clients include Candice Bergen and Sally Field, said: “Studios just want actors who can bring money into the box-office. They could care less about politics.”
Many conservative celebrities declined to be interviewed. Charlton Heston was in the Middle East, filming another Bible epic.
TOM SELLECK said, “I don’t feel persecuted; I do feel frustrated.” The actor complained that even though he took fairly moderate stands on most issues, in Hollywood he was thought of as a political Neanderthal. “If you fit outside the narrow parameters of political correctness, they question your compassion,” he added. “That’s why a lot of people don’t speak up.”
MORGAN PAUL, a former character actor, said he became a talent agent because he stopped getting parts after he joined Charlton Heston in opposing political activism by the Screen Actors Guild under Ed Asner’s leadership in the early 80’s.
LIONEL CHETWYND put it this way: “If you want to stand with the Sun King at Versailles, then you have to think like Versailles.”
One writer who demanded that he not be identified said that the atmosphere in Hollywood was less like McCarthyism than like “anti-Semitism in the 40’s”.
“When they need you, they’ll use you. But behind your back, you will be disdained or trivialized,” he said.
There could not have been a more poignant illustration of conservatives’ lament that they are “socially unacceptable” than a recent debate on the power of the Los Angeles Police Department. The debate was sponsored by the American Forum, a conservative group in Hollywood that was founded by David Horowitz, a writer. Despite the timeliness of the topic, fewer than 150 people gathered in a ballroom of the Bel Air Hotel below Sunset Boulevard. Most of them were older, suburban and distinctly lacking in Hollywood mystique.
“We’re second-thoughters,” said LOWELL CHEYETTE, an aspiring songwriter, meaning that he and his wife, Roxanne, were 1960’s radicals who later repented. Under his tan, he looked gloomy. “The left is in our face all the time,” he continued. “It is like a fraternity; if you’re not part of it, you don’t exist.” He added that he would have had a more promising career if conservative artists and executives had been willing to be mentors to other conservatives. “They’re afraid to speak up or stand out,” he said.
The most recognizable face at the event was a character actress who refuses to be identified as a supporter on American Forum’s mailings lest her association with the group affect her family’s real estate business.
This weekend, the Show Coalition, a nonprofit liberal organization that mobilizes celebrities on behalf of social causes, planned to hold a daylong conference at the Sony Studios on racism and domestic issues. More than 300 people were expected to turn up, including several studio heads, top agents, Gov. Bill Clinton, Kevin Costner, Patrick Swayze, Alfre Woodard and Jimmy Smits.
“I think it is a little tough for conservatives,” said Patricia Duff Medavoy, who founded the coalition and whose husband, Mike Medavoy, is chairman of Tristar Pictures. “It’s not that their views will not get them work or a certain part,” she said. “But they may not feel they are in like-minded company. They can be tarred with the brush of not being compassionate.“
Ms. Medavoy, one of Hollywood’s more prominent and glamorous people active in politics, suggested that Hollywood can at times lack compassion for people suspected of not being compassionate. “Even I sort of feel it”, she said. “If views are not in line with what is considered liberal, there is a small sense of being disloyal.”
She gave an example of the “clash” between protecting freedom of expression and her concern about excessive violence in movies. “You can’t deal with those issues from the right; you get rejected from the outset,” she said. “If you are inside the circle, people are more willing to listen.”
If you are successful all the time, “you can be a member of the S.S. and nobody will care,” said JOHN MILIUS, a writer and director whose screenplays ( “Apocalypse Now”, “Dirty Harry” and “Magnum Force” ) have proved more popular than some of his recent directorial efforts ( “Flight Of The Intruder” ).
He said he has been effectively “BLACKLISTED” as a director. His box-office flops were not forgiven, he claimed, while those of directors whose films had leftist messages were.
“It weighs 10 times heavier against me,” he said. “If you don’t share the politically correct vision, then you are an outlaw. You are hunted. There is a price on your head. And if they catch you, they will hang you.”
Mr. Milius said he felt slightly avenged during the recent Los Angeles riots when liberal colleagues ( “people who hadn’t spoken to me in five years” ) began calling and asking him to lend them a gun. “I said, ‘Sorry, they’re all being used,’ ” he recalled with relish.
There are also those who thrive on martyrdom. ROBERT CARNEGIE is the director of Playhouse West, a small acting school in the San Fernando Valley. He says that Hollywood has branded him as a “fascist” for his troupe’s most recent play “Welcome Home Soldier”, a three-hour drama illustrating the callous way soldiers returning from Vietnam were treated by hippie leftists. The play has a huge following among veterans but has not caught on as well with the public at large.
Mr. Carnegie said he structured his play on Clifford Odets’s “Waiting For Lefty” and insists that it’s pro-military message is as controversial in today’s Hollywood as Odets’s pro-labor drama once was. “It’s the same mentality that gave birth to the BLACKLIST,” Mr. Carnegie said of his critics. Yet reviews of his play have mostly been favorable. And in Hollywood, Mr. Carnegie mainly seems to have been overlooked. Nevertheless, he appears determined to do Hollywood battle. His next theatrical production is entitled, “Cop Is Not A Dirty Word”.
Conservatives, like high school pariahs, tend to gather together in small groups and obsessively study signs of politically correct behavior at the studios. Several are still fuming over the fact that in 1990, writers at Lorimar Studios demanded that the Robert Taylor building be renamed because the actor had cooperated with the House committee in 1947.
A common lament of conservatives in Hollywood is that it is impossible to make a serious movie with a conservative bent ( Rambo and Steven Seagal don’t count ). “You could not get a movie made today about a white kid who charges Reverse Discrimination to get into law school,” says BOB GALE, a screenwriter who wrote “Back To The Future”. “But look at all the movies that get made with liberal themes,” he added, citing three recent flops about the rain forest and two about apartheid.
LIONEL CHETWYND likes to illustrate the Hollywood mindset he deplores by acting out a meeting he had with a young network executive on making a television movie about Canadian soldiers who undertook a suicidal raid on the French city of Dieppe during World War II.
After he outlined the plot, she responded: “I get it! It’s about bloodthirsty generals who send the men to their deaths.” Mr. Chetwynd said, “Actually, the soldiers wanted to go and their officers grieved.” The executive look puzzled. “So who is the enemy?” she asked, When he replied, “Well, Hitler,” she shrugged impatiently. “No, no!” she said. “I mean the real enemy!”
( “HIDDEN HOLLYWOOD” by Alessandra Stanley, The New York Times : May 31, 1992 )
THE HOLLYWOOD LEFT IS THE REAL ENEMY TODAY. ALWAYS REMEMBER THIS.