- The Washington Times - Friday, August 16, 2002

The news that Charlton Heston may have Alzheimer's disease saddens, but his announcement, when I saw it, brought a smile which caught my tears. I had seen this man at his brilliant best once before.

It was July of 1992. Reed Irvine, chairman of Accuracy in Media, enabled Mr. Heston, myself and others to address the annual Time Warner shareholders meeting in Beverly Hills. This was in the midst of a law-enforcement boycott of the communications giant for its sale of rapper Ice-T's "Cop Killer" album, which advocated the murder of police.

Minutes before the shareholders showdown, I was ushered into a breakfast hosted by Mr. Irvine, who said, "Jack, this is Charlton Heston." "It is an honor to meet you, Mr. Heston," I said, shaking a hand stronger than my own. "Please," followed by a dramatic pause, "call me Chuck." I would rather have called Moses "Moe."

For the next half hour "Chuck" discussed the entertainment industry's assault upon America. His insights were not canned. They were fresh. Mr. Heston was a thinking man.

His demeanor was just as remarkable. He was not a star putting up with lesser lights. His mindset was that of a humble foot soldier eager to put his shoulder next to ours to nudge the giant stone that had drawn us there. He was a nice guy, a common man with an uncommon touch. More surprises were yet to come that day.

We marched down the street to the Beverly Hilton, site of the shareholders meeting. A block away we saw the police officers, holding boycott signs. When the officers spotted Charlton Heston, a cheer went up. I looked up at him, next to me. His face hardened in an instant, his pace quickened. He waved regally, as we entered the hotel, his set jaw crowned by a tight grin. Chuck was no longer Chuck. Moses was in the building.

Out of our pockets we pulled our shareholder papers to show the guards posted at the doors, but they proved unnecessary. One man's fame parted security like water.

When Mr. Heston entered the meeting hall, filled with what must have been 3,000 shareholders, a din spread. His stature extended to more than his height. On the stage was the new Time Warner Chairman Gerald Levin, who, after a few preliminaries, announced the first agenda item Ice-T's "Cop Killer."

Mr. Heston stood. Derisive cries of "Sit down, Moses" rang out, followed by much laughter. This was a tough crowd, in a tough town. Mr. Levin said into the microphone: "The chair acknowledges Mr. Heston."

He began: "I'm here as a shareholder, but I speak as a private citizen and the public artist I've been most of my life. I think I understand the rights and responsibilities of both identities. I'm here to condemn this company's response to the growing clamor across the country. I condemn the responsible officials of this company … In the end, of course, the buck stops at the top. At Gerald Levin …"

Mr. Heston was making this personal, man against man, reprising his role of Moses, but this time confronting a first-time pharaoh. The catcalls stopped. Drama had sucked the air out of everyone's lungs but Mr. Heston's.

He quoted, verbatim, Ice-T's graphic descriptions of killing police officers, regardless of their race. Mr. Heston in his brilliance knew that the lyrics were the most effective indictment of the album, and that few in this room had ever heard them. He then read at length the words of a song on the same album called "KKK Bitch" which described the anal rape of Al and Tipper Gore's niece.

Mr. Heston understood that targeting cops may be one thing in Hollywood; targeting a liberal Democrat's female family member for rape, a politically incorrect crime, is quite another. Rhetorical genius.

An audible gasp filled the room. The shareholders realized, in the twinkling of an eye, that they had been ready to defend an album they had never heard. Now they were on Mr. Heston's side.

Knowing the crowd had turned, Mr. Heston then concluded by skewering Mr. Levin with an echo from Senator Joe McCarthy's Army hearings. "Have you no decency, sir?" Mr. Heston had an ear for history as well.

Finished, he started to walk backwards, exiting the hall, facing Gerald Levin, staring him down. This bit of athletic adroitness was the capstone on the most stunning oratorical performance I had ever witnessed.

The crowd agreed, as they went crazy, breaking into wild applause, many of them standing. Charlton Heston had convinced them he had come not to take their money but to safeguard both it and their honor.

Charlton Heston, in that summer of 1992, lit the fuse on the "culture war" with an overdue response to the entertainment establishment's assault upon, among other things, law-enforcement. With the heroics of New York's "finest" and "bravest" then years later, Mr. Heston's defense that day of our defenders seems a prophecy worthy of Moses.

Jack Thompson, a Miami lawyer, has secured decency fines levied by the FCC and was a "friend of the court" in the 2 Live Crew federal obscenity trial.

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