Some people believe in God, and some people don’t, but surely we can all agree that God, should He or She exist, must be an extremely exasperated All-Knowing Being.
God sent us COVID-19, in my interpretation, so that we should all wear masks across our mouths because God, in my interpretation, thinks we all talk way, way too much. God wants us to pipe down a bit. God wants us to muffle ourselves. God wants us to have a harder time speaking and being understood.
I am aware that this is an idiosyncratic point of view, but that doesn’t make it wrong.
Keeping my mouth shut about incendiary topics such as politics is easy for me. I’ve had a lot of practice. Early on in my career in Hollywood, I discovered that my political views weren’t really in line with those of most of my colleagues.
Talking politics in Hollywood can be tricky. I’ve heard stories from like-minded people of being denied jobs or shouted at on movie sets, but my experience has been conflict-free.
At best, I’ve been ignored. At worst, I’ve been the object of a hilariously condescending curiosity, like, “Um, you’re conservative? But, how can that be? I know you. And you’re not, like, a terrible person.”
So, no complaints. And no whining and no victimhood, either. I’ve always said that Hollywood is a more tolerant, open-minded place than the faculty at any Ivy League university. Maybe that’s because the driving force behind everything in show business is greed rather than ideology. Greed may or may not be, as a wise Gordon Gekko taught us, good per se, but we can all agree that it’s a lot better than Intersectional Activist/Warrior for Sustainable anti-capitalist action, pronouns Xe, Hem, Shur.
It’s quieter, too, and that’s not nothing.
Not too long ago, I was producing a pilot and casting around for an older male lead. We were looking for a guy about 50, maybe a little older, who could play the part of a rakish, fun-loving character who was old enough to have a son in his early 30s but still sexy and stylish enough to have a young girlfriend.
There was, in fact, a perfect choice. So one night, we took this actor out to dinner. And of course, because dinner was on us, his manager came along.
Small talk, flattery, some more small talk, a lot more flattery — you know how it works. But at some point, as the dessert plates were cleared (I had nothing, the actor had nothing, the manager had the creme brulee with berries and a glass of late-harvest Riesling), the conversation turned to politics.
The actor, you see, was a passionate supporter of a certain candidate for president in the Democratic Party.
“How interesting,” I said.
“And who do you like? Because this guy,” the manager said, nodding to the actor, “is a huge supporter of …” and here he named the candidate.
“I mean,” continued the manager, mouth full of the $27 dessert I was paying for, “they’re like, close friends. And we’re all giving the max to this guy.”
“I’ve given the max. We’re all giving the max,” he said, taking a sip of the $32 glass of Riesling.
All of this was said with the kind of suggestive intensity that pretty much means this: Get out your checkbook if you want to do business.
“You know what?” I said, and here I had the opportunity to be both cowardly and truthful, which doesn’t happen often. “I never give money to politicians. I just, you know, I just hate the system so much.”
We all nodded sadly. Eventually, the dinner ended, the bill came, and I paid it. And eventually, the actor passed on the project.
But what I most remember about that dinner was the “we’re all giving the max” comment because later that night, I went home and got on the web and went to a site called Fundrace.org, which lists all the contributors to campaigns. Sure enough, the actor was listed, along with his wife, as having given the maximum allowable contribution to his candidate.
The manager, though, was nowhere to be found. He hadn’t given the max or the min, or anything, according to Federal Election Commission records. He had done something a lot smarter: He said he would, ate the dinner, and made the right noises, but when it came time to write the check, he, metaphorically, put on his mask.
And those are Hollywood politics that are worth emulating for all of us, no matter the party.
Rob Long is a television writer and producer and the co-founder of Ricochet.com.
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