IXTAPA, Mexico — “There is no such thing as a blacklist anymore,” George Clooney declared in 2005 while promoting his black-and-white hagiography of Edward R. Murrow, “Good Night, And Good Luck.”
One eternally optimistic showman who has endured the Red Scare as well as the current Hollywood political disorder (let’s not call it the “b-word” and upset Rosemary Clooney’s nephew) is actor-raconteur - and my father-in-law - Orson Bean, who last week took our entire family to Mexico for his 80th birthday.
Orson was the young, hot comic on “The Ed Sullivan Show” when Mr. Sullivan told him he could no longer perform on the show owing to his 1956 outing in the anti-Commie newsletter, Red Channels. Today, Orson is a conservative Republican and once again on the wrong side of the censors.
Timing is everything.
“Aside from the inconvenience of having a career ruined, being blacklisted in the ‘50s was kind of cool,” Orson recalled over watered-down dark rum pina coladas poolside at Club Med.
“You were doing ‘the right thing.’ Hot, left-wing girls admired you. You hadn’t ‘named names.’ The New York Times was on your side. And you knew it would pass. Things always do in America. The glory of this country is that it’s a centrist nation. The pendulum swings just so far to the left, then it swings back to the right. You have to have lived a long life to experience this. It has a calming effect.”
Unfortunately, this time around the New York Times and the left-wing girls play an integral role in keeping the pendulum right where it is - and that is far to the left. But hope springs eternal.
Even while Mr. Clooney contradicts his bold statement that there is no blacklist in Hollywood (apparently because only a small minority practices it), he basically gets it right.
For ignoring the crimes of brutal dictators while ripping our democratically elected president during a time of war, Mr. Clooney probably wouldn’t be hired by one Hollywood producer - and I think I know him. And he wouldn’t hire Vanessa Redgrave, Sean Penn, Tim Robbins, Woody Harrelson, Jessica Lange, John Cusack or Danny Glover, either. Bias happens.
The problem occurs when the 50-to-1 ratio is flipped and Mr. Clooney and his allegedly egalitarian allies are doing most of the hiring. Remember his pal Julia Roberts’ slurs against Republicans? “Repugnant” Reaganites and “reptilian” Bushies planning to work on the “Ocean’s 14” set have mastered a code of conduct: silence.
And when like minds aren’t meeting each other at work, and they aren’t schmoozing Monday morning at Hugo’s, and they aren’t talking about what they care about, then they aren’t making projects they believe in.
That’s hardly a free and creative environment. But maybe Hollywood stopped being that a while ago.Sorry, George.
When a big star like Bruce Willis sees his New York bar protested for his being a Republican, and his Hollywood pals don’t rally to his defense, it’s no wonder Mr. Willis doesn’t talk openly about politics anymore.
It may not be a blacklist. But it is opaque and effective. And it is repugnant, Julia.