“About five years ago ‘I came out of the closet. In Hollywood. I certainly understand that’s dangerous,’ Clint Howard, the conservative brother of liberal director Ron Howard told attendees at a California GOP convention this weekend, as quoted by the Hollywood Reporter:
“If the entertainment industry should turn on me, I’d say, ‘well fine.’ But for young conservatives, you may hear me speak out but let me tell you: Be careful,” he said.
Howard was joined by Morgan Brittany, one of the stars of the 1980s nighttime soap opera Dallas. The pair have more than 100 years of acting experience between them (Brittany’s first job was as a child in the late 1950s), and they’ve noted a leftward slide in the industry and an intolerance for political dissent over the decades.
“I’d go out on location with the Dallas crew,” she told members of the California Congress of Republicans in Valencia on Saturday. “Everybody in the van was bashing (President Reagan). I never said anything because I thought I’d lose my job. And I probably would have lost my job. I got to a point later on, after Dallas was over and I had my two children, that I said, ‘enough is enough. I’m not going to be silent any longer’,” she said.
“If I’m silent then I’m enabling these people and I’m letting them win. They need to know that we’re out there. That we’re strong and that we have ideas and solutions.
The reaction to her newfound political courage back then wasn’t pretty.
“Oh man, the flack I took from the people, the agencies — ‘oh, you can’t say that. You can’t do that. Casting people might see you. And directors!'”
“What is this, the blacklist?” she said. “They’re not going to hire me because I have an opinion? That’s the way Hollywood is and, unfortunately, I got that. But I still wasn’t going to back down.”
Why yes it is a blacklist — it’s merely self-enforced, making it, in a way, even more insidious than the version from the 1950s, as Roger L. Simon noted in his book, Blacklisting Myself, recently retitled, “Turning Right at Hollywood and Vine: The Perils of Coming Out Conservative in Tinseltown:”
You see this new faith in practice at the average Hollywood story meeting. These are ritualized events and have been for the decades that I have participated in them. You wait an inordinately long time for your appointment, often longer than at a doctor’s office, but with nowhere near the legitimate excuse on the part of the executive keeping you waiting. They are definitely not in surgery. The intention is merely to confirm your lower place in the pecking order. (I have personal knowledge of an instance when John Huston and Jack Nicholson were kept cooling their heels in a tiny room by the now-forgotten head of ABC Motion Pictures for nearly two hours—I assume he didn’t realize they’d come to pitch him Prizzi’s Honor. Or maybe he did and this was a form of envy or vengeance.)
Once inside the executive’s office, the pecking order of talent and management thus confirmed, it’s instantly waved off in a burst of small talk and a call for the requisite mineral water—originally Perrier, now something more exotic like an obscure Welsh brand in a blue bottle whose unpronounceable name you can barely remember. But the small talk is what’s important. It usually revolves around the freeway traffic (a perpetual subject), the Lakers (depending on the year), and, over the last half-decade or more, a ritualized Bush bash. (What will they do without him?) Fucking Bush did this or that … Did you hear the stupid thing Chimpy the Idiot said? You didn’t even have to hear Bush referred to specifically— the word “idiot” sufficed. You knew. The subtext was that we were all together, part of the secret society, the world of those who know as opposed to those who don’t.
If you didn’t agree with this particular Weltanschauung, if you dissented from its orthodoxy just a tiny bit, you had but three choices: One, you could argue, in which case you would be almost certain to be dismissed as a fool, a warmonger, or a right-wing nut (all three, probably) and therefore have had little or no chance at the writing or directing job that brought you there. Two, you could shut up and ignore it (stay in the closet), in which case you felt like a coward and experienced (as I have) a dose of nausea straight out of Sartre. Three, you could stop going to the meetings altogether—you could, in effect, blacklist yourself.
I don’t know the size of that self-selected blacklist, but I suspect it’s substantial, though certainly not as large as the number of those in the closet. People have to make a living, after all, as in the days of the old blacklist. Only there are no “fronts,” as in the Woody Allen movie of the same name.
More from the Hollywood Reporter:
Brittany told of building a friendship with actor Ed Asner, a sometimes activist for progressive causes, when the two starred in a stage-play together during the infamous Florida recount that put Republican George W. Bush in the White House over Democrat Al Gore. And she told how she lost Asner’s friendship due to politics.
“Every night he just loved me and came in and gave me a big hug,” she said. “Then one night he was going crazy about Gore and Bush and stealing the election. I’m backstage and I said, ‘Ed, chill, not everybody thinks the way you do’.”
“Well, where do I begin?” I swear. It was like a light switch,” she said. “He turned to me and said, ‘you’re not a Republican?’ I said, ‘yep.’ And he said, ‘I can’t even look at you. I can’t even talk to you’.”
“From that moment on, he never spoke to me again, except on stage,” she said. “This is what we’re dealing with. The intolerance of the left.”
Our to put it another way, I can’t believe I’m acting next to a Republican!