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Roger L. Simon

A Night at the Los Angeles Public Library

November 4th, 2011 - 11:37 pm

We live in times when the different sides in our country speak languages as far apart as Chinese and Italian.

Witness what happened to me earlier this week when I was a panelist at the Los Angeles Public Library’s ALOUD Program on the subject of “Hollywood — Left and Right.” With me on the panel were Mike Farrell — actor and left-wing activist — and Steven Ross — a USC history professor who had just published a book on the topic.

I imagined I had been drafted to play the reverse of liberal Bob Beckel on Fox’s The Five and approached the evening with trepidation. I didn’t know the half of it.

The moderator, film critic Ella Taylor, kicked things off by asking Ross about one of the main theses of his book — that although the movie business was dominated creatively by liberals, it was the Hollywood conservatives that ran for office and exercised political power. Ross cited Louis B. Mayer, George Murphy, Reagan and Schwarzenegger as examples.

Taylor then turned to me — as “house rightie” — and asked if I agreed. Ignoring the reference to mogul Mayer who never, to my knowledge, ran for office, I responded that I largely did, but noted that without Ronald Reagan it didn’t mean that much. Only Reagan had had a genuinely influential political career – after all, I added casually, he “tore down that wall.”

Suddenly, the audience erupted in boos.

I stared out nonplussed. Naive me — I had assumed that regardless of political stripe most people in the US of A regarded the downfall of the Soviet Union as a plus. Not so evidently the near full house at the LA Public Library, many of whom were apparently still unfazed by the Stalin-Hitler pact. And that wasn’t an idle reference, since, a quick perusal of the audience revealed, many sitting there were in their eighties and up. I even recognized a few of them, old CP fellow travelers, from my left-wing days.

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