He was very lonely and extremely depressed about his struggling career.
JONATHAN BRANDIS : 1976 – 2003
The look hits you like a laser. It’s coming from your friend across the table. The friend who can no longer tolerate you. It’s the kind of look that greets you if you’ve recently been exposed as a serial killer. In Hollywood terms, it’s the look you see if you’re responsible for the biggest flop of the weekend. It’s the look you get if you reveal that you are a REPUBLICAN in the 310 area code.
It’s a look I know well, since I am surrounded out here by very, very angry left-wingers. I explain that I’m a moderate Republican. I favor gay marriage. I’m pro-choice. That’s when they scream, “Well then how the f#%$ could you be a member of that fascist party?!?!?!”
Liberal sympathies in Hollywood have been taken for granted for decades. The establishment has always been willing to put up with a few renegades ( Clint, Arnold, Bruce ) but lately, what with Michael Moore and the culture wars stoking the fires, that detente is fading away. Voting for Bush is, as Janeane Garofolo put it on a recent Daily Show, a “character flaw”.
I explain that I don’t feel the federal government spends my money wisely. I’d rather see fewer ( and lower ) taxes and more private sector charitable contributions. I’d rather see school vouchers than an entire generation of inner city kids written off. I’d rather see a strong national defense than a reliance on the corrupt and ineffectual U.N.
My liberal friends quote Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn. I quote William F. Buckley and William Safire. Their volume goes up before mine. They scream about the environment before they hop onto their private jets and blow 8,000 pounds of fuel getting to the Hamptons.
Maybe the anger stems from the fact that the left is ( currently ) out of power, or maybe it’s because creative people are passionate by nature and prefer emotions to facts. Either way, that passion gets channeled into what passes for debate out here: cursing and yelling. At least these days.
The conventional wisdom about Republicans in Hollywood is that we’re pariahs, but that’s not true ( ? ). This is a company town. And we make a product. Like most products, it’s supposed to turn a profit. Frankly, you could be a member of the Nazi party and probably sell your screenplay if it read like the next Titanic ( Mel Gibson? ).
But it does get a bit lonely when you try to have a civilized or educated debate on the issues. The country may be polarized, but Hollywood is in lockstep behind Babs and Whoopi and Kerry. So you switch topics; you talk about the weekend grosses. That’s where we all find common ground – at least until the next election.
( “Why I’m Different” by Mike De Luca as part of “Young And Republican In Hollywood” by Ruth Shalit, DETAILS Magazine : September 2004 )
UNANSWERED QUESTIONS :
1. What is the difference between getting treated like a pariah and getting treated like a serial killer in liberal Hollywood?
“You introduce a Republican to another in Hollywood and its like a meeting between two Christians in Caligula’s Rome.”
( John Rhys Davies, veteran character actor in movies and television )
2. If a member of the Nazi Party can probably sell his screenplay in Hollywood, why is Mel Gibson still ostracized by Tinseltown’s leftwing cultural elites and powerbrokers?
“If you’re a conservative in Hollywood, you’re going to be on a list of people who need to be ‘put in their place’. If you’re Woody Allen, you do what you want. If you’re Spike Lee, you can go ahead and tweet out the address of the guy who the New Black Panthers put a bounty on and there’s no repercussions because Hollywood will decide who’s guilty and who’s not guilty. Now if Tom Selleck tweeted out the address of a black guy who the New Klan had put a bounty on, there would be repercussions against Tom Selleck. That much, I can promise you.”
( Adam Carolla, comedian and humorist )
After declaring himself tired of the “venom and filth” that marred a celebrity-crammed Democratic fundraiser at Radio City Music Hall this summer, Rick Santorum decided to take matters into his own hands. The Pennsylvania senator, whose stiff-collared opposition to all things gay has made him a darling of the Christian Right, staged his own mini-rally at the Capitol. To counter the Democrats’ A-list talent - Jon Bon Jovi, John Mellencamp, Whoopi Goldberg – Santorum offered his own roster of “pro-family entertainers” : a gospel singer, a former Disney star, and Pat Boone, resplendent in an orange sports coat. “No one can accuse the GOP of being out of touch with the 1950s,” sneered blogger Andrew Sullivan.
Twas ever thus. As far back as the Hollywood BLACKLIST, Republicans have been made to look like milquetoasts in the face of the Democratic celebrity juggernaut. Ronnie and Nancy were no match for Bogie and Bacall. Today, the Dems have Brad, Jennifer, Leo, Cameron, Julia, Gwyneth, Larry David, Sarah Jessica and an armada of soft-money studio heads serving mini grilled-cheese sandwiches off solar-powered canape heaters. And the Republicans counter with. . . .Pat Boone?
But the times may be changing. In recent weeks, the Republican National Committee has been circulating a list notable for the number of young, pillowy-lipped celebrities who also happen to vote GOP. The list, a copy of which was obtained by DETAILS, features an impressive roster of bubblegum star power : Freddie Prinz Jr., Mandy Moore, Jessica Simpson and Nick Lachey, in addition to the usual under-35 suspects – Angie Harmon, Rick Schroder and Shannen Doherty.
And that’s just the beginning. “You should do some digging,” whispers one Culver City deep throat. “Supposedly, the whole Dennis Miller phenomenon has tentacles that include Jay Leno. Now, Leno won’t campaign around the country for Bush or do anything that might put him crosswise with advertisers but he’s pretty obviously, quote-unquote, on our side.” ( For the record, Leno claims to have no dog in this fight. “It’s all about the jokes,” says his publicist. )
Other names are bandied about on deep background. 7th Heaven star Barret Swatek. Adam Sandler and his entire production company! The mind boggles. Is this baby-con brat pack aware of its own existence? Do they hold secret meetings followed by Jell-O shots? Do they swap first editions of Charles Murray’s “Losing Ground”? Who will introduce Henry Hyde at the convention?
“Mandy’s a Republican?” exclaims her publicist Kelly Bush at ID PR. “Are you sure?” Told of the list, she promises to look into it and get back to me. Within 10 minutes, she phones back. “We need to get her off that list!” she declares. “Mandy is not, nor has she ever been, a Republican.” ( The RNC ignored requests to explain how Mandy turned up in their files. )
Okay, so Moore is no stealth supply-sider. Still, there seem to be more young Cheneyphiles in the 310 area code than one might imagine. “There’s a huge number of closeted young actors in the industry,” murmurs a well-known director with GOP stripes. “It’s an evolutionary process for them. Out of all of us, they’re the ones who are most at risk. They have to be really careful about alienating decision-makers who hire them for jobs. Directors and producers have a little bit more latitude. A very little bit. The director asked that he not be identified as a Republican in this story. “It‘s not something I wear on my sleeve,” he says apologetically.
There’s no denying that the predominantly liberal power people in Hollywood these days are of a certain age and generation. Those executives – think Spielberg, Geffen, Diller – formed their core values in the sixties and seventies. They are ambivalent about conspicuous consumption ( as they apply for coastal permit waivers to build their 40,000 square foot dream homes ); believe that power corrupts everyone but them; and think that it is an artist’s job to question authority, in the vein of sometime Malibu resident Bob Dylan. The young strivers, on the other hand, grew up in the shadow of Reagan. They’ve no guilt about money and excess and think power is cool.
Say what you will about the talent represented by the List, the difference between these kids and the antediluvian crooners of yesteryear is that some of them can open a movie. Jessica Simpson may really believe that the Secretary of Interior is in charge of decorating the White House, but that didn’t keep her off MTV. Young Britney, meanwhile, may have sounded a tad jejune when she was caught lisping by Michael Moore, “I think we should just trust our president in every decision he makes,” but she looked cute saying it.
Surely these Bright Young Republican Things could aid the cause of the dour Messrs. Bush and Cheney, if only by funneling media attention away from the Democratic ticket’s Breck-girl vivacity. Yet you don’t see the president inviting, say, Freddie Prinz Jr. down to Crawford to go quail hunting. And therein lies the problem, GOP insiders say. “This White House has not fine-tuned its celebrity management mechanism,” laments one high profile Hollywood Republican. “You don’t get the rides on Air Force One or the behind-the-scenes tours at the Smithsonian.” Could it be that the Bush-Cheney ticket needs a celebrity wrangler? “There are young stars out there who are philosophically supportive,” says Michael Harbert, a TV and movie writer who has consulted for the Republican party. “But unfortunately, there’s no mechanism in place to take advantage of them and bring them to events. And so their visibility is significantly muted.”
Elizabeth Hasselbeck, the outspoken conservative Survivor finalist turned co-host of The View, said at press time that she was still waiting to hear what her role will be at the convention. “They’ve talked to me about maybe introducing a speaker, but nothing has been finalized,” she says. She frets that the GOP is blowing its chances to use her celebrity powers. “I think the Republicans need to get loud,” she says. “Time is ticking away.”
In the meantime, Hollywood conservatives are taking things into their own hands. There’s the Wednesday Morning Club, a cozy nest of Bel Air true believers who pay $ 500 for monthly receptions at the Beverly Hills hotel. At a recent luncheon for former congressman James Rogan, I sat next to Whitney Smith, a former personal assistant to David Arquette. “I never revealed my political affiliation in 13 years in Hollywood,” Smith told me. “Finally I said, ‘Screw it. I’m going to come out.'” Smith looked around the room happily. “I love being in this loop,” she says.
Those who actually employ personal assistants gravitate to the Sunday Night Club, an informal conservative political salon run by veteran character actor ROBERT DAVI. “Actors are frightened,” Davi told me. “They need a safe place to talk about politics.” In June, the group trooped over to the Peninsula hotel for a private meeting with Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist. “We talked about the liberal media and their bias against conservatives,” says Julie Bloom, a 30 year old agent with Art/Works Entertainment who attended the meeting.
Conservative cuties can also find succor at the home of Emmy nominated producer LIONEL CHETWYND. The writer of more than 30 TV movies, Chetwynd acts as informal counselor to young actors easing themselves out of the closet. “Most of them are looking for advice,” he says. “‘What will this really do to me?’ They must understand there is a price to be paid.” His advice to querulous young righties: “Recognize that you’re not one of the actors who can throw a fit. Always say yes. Always be cooperative. Recognize there’s no margin for error for people like you in the community.”
Some say the reflected glory of Governor Arnold has improved life for the baby-cons. “There’s this moral glow of associating yourself with a leader of whom you can be proud,” says Harbert. “Here’s a governor who has maintained his star power. There’s now this fascinating schizophrenic aura in the industry where you have a hard time saying you support Bush but it’s okay to say you’re a Schwarzenegger Republican.”
Others see selective support as a bit of a cop-out. “There’s a saying that in Hollywood, the dash means not,” says one conservative scriptwriter who wishes to go unnamed. “So a co-producer means not a producer. Similarly, the term Schwarzenegger Republican means not a Republican. There’s this group of WB types who go around saying they’re Schwarzenegger Republicans because they know it’s a safe way of describing their politics. “Let’s see one of those pretty young things say: ‘I’m a Dick Cheney Republican.’ And then let’s see how many benefits they’re invited to.”
Producer Mike De Luca, the 39 year old former New Line Cinema president of production who just signed a three year deal at Sony is not afraid to call himself a Republican. “I’d describe my politics as fiscally conservative, socially liberal,” says De Luca. Could his ascent at Sony augur the dawn of a new center-right Hollywood counterestablishment?
“It’s funny,” says De Luca. “Right now, I’m in the process of interviewing candidates to come work with me. And sometimes, some of these candidates will launch into an anti-Bush or anti-war riff. And when I very politely and very respectfully offer a counterargument, there is a little shock value to that.”
De Luca is loath to volunteer the names of industry pals who share his pro-Bush views. He notes that someone close to him has had her car vandalized three times because of a Bush-Cheney bumper sticker.
“The first time, the sticker was just ripped off. The third time, somebody ripped off the sticker and covered the whole top of the car with flour and cold cuts! And the Democrats are supposed to be the peace-loving party.”
Despite the retaliation, De Luca says he doesn’t think that coming out as a Republican will hurt his career. “Things here are very egalitarian,” he says. “Everybody wants to make money so badly they would never let anybody’s personal anything get in the way.”
Perhaps DENNIS MILLER puts it best. “I don’t think it’s about McCarthyism in Hollywood,” says the born-again Bushophile. “It’s about a distant strain called Andrew McCarthyism. When you cease to open movies, you’re probably doomed.”
( “Young And Republican In Hollywood” by Ruth Shalit, DETAILS Magazine : September 2004 )
“When their pet notions crater, zealots ( a.k.a. The Hollywood Left ) can get extremely nasty about it.
Where do I invest my money these days? On guillotine futures and time-sharing catacombs.
Republicans in Hollywood and elsewhere better stock up on thick-skinned, rhino-armored clothing. Because it is going to be a really long nuclear winter for all of us during the next several years.”
( Dennis Miller, comedian and satirist )