Friday, March 25, 2005

GUEST POST: Hollywood Conservative Proudly Proclaims: There Are More Than Three of Us . . . Really!

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[Cheryl Felicia Rhoads, pictured above, posted the following comment deep down in this earlier post. I thought it deserved a little more prominence than it is getting way down there, so here it is. Ms. Rhoads is an actress and writer in Hollywood.]

By Cheryl Felicia Rhoads
Posted Mar 25, 2005

For 20 years I have been an actress and writer in Hollywood. I wrote guest columns, worked phone banks and walked precincts for the re-election of President Bush. I eagerly traveled to Washington for his second Inauguration. Then, at various festivities, upon informing fellow conservatives that I was from Hollywood, I was often greeted with, "A conservative in Hollywood? There must be only three of you." (Or six, but this bemused assertion never reached double digits.)

This presumption is just not true, however. Like other minority groups, conservatives in show business have steadily been coming out of the closet. But let's be honest, a million men won't march down Sunset Boulevard chanting, "Down with Michael Moore, we say out loud . . . we voted for George W. Bush, and we are proud!" The latter, however, isn't really necessary or even desirable. It is not that we need to indulge in a left vs. right war as artists. The point is that we have sought to be truly honest craftsmen, while also being allowed to enjoy a diversity of opinion without retribution.

Yet it is still important for those in the conservative movement itself to understand and appreciate that many in Hollywood share their revulsion for the ranting of Cameron Diaz, Whoopie Goldberg and Chevy Chase. And now, for a variety of reasons, not only conservatives, but also libertarians and non-leftists in the entertainment industry are broadening the artistic spectrum in Hollywood.

There are celebrities like Kelsey Grammar of television's "Frasier" who hosted an inaugural salute to the troops in Washington. Gary Sinise of television's "CSI: NY" and the hit movie Apollo 13 participated as well. (Sinise has also been active in building schools for Iraqi children.) Former "Law & Order" star Angie Harmon spoke at the Republican National Convention, while comedian Dennis Miller has aggressively supported Bush to the dismay of some fans of the former "Saturday Night Live" star.

The list goes on. Behind the cameras there are those like writer and director Lionel Chetwynd, who countered Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 with the more factually accurate Celsius 41.11. Political pundit Dick Morris presented yet another film disputing Moore's theories with Farenhype 9/11. The latter was co-produced by celebrity Ron Silver, who is not strictly a conservative or even a Republican. But the actor describes himself as a lifelong Democrat of the Truman mold. Silver broke with Democrats over the War on Terrorism and made a passionate speech at the 2004 Republican National Convention. On a lighter note, David Zucker, director of Airplane, produced an anti-Kerry, pro-Bush commercial during election season.

Some celebrities are open about their "otherness" by Hollywood's political standards. But there are groups and events that encourage those emerging writers and actors who don't yet have the safety of stardom or prestigious credits to share their conservative ideology.

Conceived the morning after the 1992 elections, activist David Horowitz's Wednesday Morning Club (WMC) blazed the trail. Horowitz brought a variety of authoritative speakers, mostly conservative, to the Beverly Hills gatherings. Horowitz's group provided a needed balance to those who had been bombarded by the pontificating of those in the Barbara Streisand crowd. The WMC has long been a solo port in the Hollywood storm, an oasis that provided intellectual diversity. Now other outlets also serve as a healing balm to conservatives on the left coast.

The grassroots Hollywood Congress of Republicans (HCR) and a chapter of the California Congress of Republicans formed in 2001. HCR is a welcome haven to many actors, writers and others affiliated with the entertainment industry. It also has guest speakers who discuss their common goals.

Radio hosts Dennis Prager and Larry Elder both promoted a revue of comedians billed as The Right Stuff. This group was the brainchild of Eric Peterofsky, a former staff writer on "Murphy Brown." I went to a local comedy club to see Peterofsky's show. Surrounded by conservative patrons enjoying hilarious conservative comedians was really a revelation for someone like me. The very existence of this show signaled the stars in heaven were mystically coming into alignment, even if some stars in Hollywood like Sean Penn may have felt a disturbance in "the Force."

Euphoria really set in the first weekend in October, however. I participated in the Liberty Film Festival in Beverly Hills, founded by director Jason Apuzzo and his wife, actress Govindini Murty. About 18 conservative films were showcased. We attended panels featuring people like actress Morgan Brittany, film critic Michael Medved, Hollywood, Interrupted author Andrew Breitbart and director David Zucker. The festival was preceded in Dallas by the American Film Renaissance Festival, founded by the husband and wife team of Jim and Ellen Hubbard. As a member of four entertainment unions that openly promoted activities, like those of MoveOn.org, I was thrilled to be with a multitude of like-minded artists in Hollywood. Many of us felt we had come home.

Conservatives should know about this political "counter culture." More importantly, as artists, it is simply a good idea to broaden the dialogue. And it has been happening, slowly but surely over the years.

Contrary to many conservatives' beliefs, Hollywood is not a political monolith. Many refuse to be intimidated by the "politically correct" in their industry anymore. It is essential, in order to be the artists we set out to be. Winston Churchill said, "Arise and take our stand for freedom as in the olden time." His admonition is being heeded in the nick of time, not only for the sake of American culture, but also--due to Hollywood's influence--that of the world.



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