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FINEFROCK "The View" from the Towers
Look back before marching ahead
by Steve Finefrock - Hollywood Forum [scriptwriter] 10/5/06

FROM THE PHONE BOOTH: The Smallest Space in Hollywood

In The Beginning, there were none who dared utter "I'm a conservative" -- not in Hollywood.

Their world was without form, there was rarely any light, and like mushrooms they subsisted on scraps of crap.  Only if one first made-his-bones as a non-political star could that nasty C-word be uttered without losing a career.  Charlton Heston was one, then came another -- Bruce Willis -- and then Kelsey Grammer.  None spoke while rising, but once ensconced at the top of the heap, a louder voice was heard.  Some light and form came into this wee tiny creation.


Founder of Hollywood Forum, a speaker-bureau and panel-discussion vehicle to "Bring the Potomac to the Palisades" on issues that overlap politics and culture with the Hollywood film-TV influence on such national concerns. His scripts have addressed politics [including a TV series pilot/bible package about state political combat, called "A State of the Union"], hazardous materials [from twelve years in emergency management, including six years managing FEMA's Superfund curriculum for hazmat], terrorism, equestrian reincarnation, serial murderer killing journalists in the nation's capitol, and fantasy about time-wasters.[go to Finefrock index]

Along came Lionel Chetwynd, more outspoken while less known to the masses, a career growing slowly but not a meteorite.  Surviving and striving and making a living, even while known as one of "those conservatives" and befriending many on the left -- which one can't avoid when surviving in an all-liberal, all-the-time world.  Lionel teased out a few of his own kind, who met and hoped and wished -- Someday we will be "out" of the closet.  Even conservative queers admitted it was easier outing their sexuality than their politics.  Queer Power was growing, but red-state power was a simmering, quivering thought of the future. A very distant, imperceptible future indeed.
The "groups" and "societies" were few, and small, and of course very, very quiet.  Below the radar, flying low and slow and waiting to grow.  Isolated from one another, most knew nothing of the others.  The assumption: We are few and far between, never more than a single-digit percentage in this all-left workplace.  'Twas not true, but yet to be appreciated.
These Quiet Conservatives were ignorant of how many like-minded souls were scattered all around the towne, perhaps even in the same workplace; but, all were silent, quiet for fear of a 'whitelist' that would deny them work if their co-workers knew there were 'nazis' in their midst.  The first overt hint of their significant numbers was Paul Bond's story in the Hollywood Reporter, in 2002.  Soon, this revelation led some to route thru Bond to find others he'd interviewed.  Larry Elder helped with a few radio guests who spoke out.  Bit by tiny bit, the wee tiniest bit, some heads were popping out of their dark foxholes. Another radio host, publicist Michael Levine, put two advocates in political contact, and thus was born the first fragments of the future Hollywood Forum.  Small incremental steps illustrating a football adage, Life is hard by the yard, but a cinch by the inch.
Inchworms, Onward!

Bond's article came after 9/11 flushed out some earlier timid conservatives, as "9/11 democrats" came forth, most notably Ron Silver, as Chetwynd and his chums recruited Hollywood players to confer with Rove.  But a prediction in late autumn '01 by Chris Matthews, appearing on John McLaughlin's "One on One" came true: Just wait until the 911 intensity subsides, and you'll see the Hollywood left return to form.  And so came MoveOn.org, "Fahrenheit 911" and all the "Syrianna" output to date.  But once you're out of the closet, the door closes behind.  From when Sharon Lawrence was erroneously "outed" during the 2000 republican convention week, mistaken to be a republican and suffering all that entails to one's career, to the present good news of "Path to 9/11" the trend has been upward.  These little inchworms are making progress, even if sometimes measured in millimeters.
Lawrence told Bond that after recovering her career -- by emphatically assuring all in H'W'D that she most certainly was not a republican -- "If one is even perceived to be a republican in Hollywood, there can be an excluding reaction and people genuinely resent you."  Bond's HR story in '02 noted that the younger generation taking the production reins were more right-leaning, and less intimidated by the hostility that bitch-slapped Lawrence.  "For 25 years if you didn't have a liberal point of view, you didn't talk about your view" observed Chetwynd chum, Craig Haffner, who also helped the Rove conclave come together.  Haffner added, "People are more open to discussing their true feelings nowadays, more so than I've ever experienced in this town."
All this comes after a long string of milestones, at least as far back as "The Day The Earth Stood Still" gave us a 1951 Klatuu spouting leftist leviathan solutions to world conflict, thru 1983's anti-war "The Day After" -- originally a comparison between two communities affected by a nuclear exchange.  One town had prepared, the other had not, but the liberals got their firm grip on the story's production, and the preparations of civil defense advocates were excised, and the story was one of absolute hopelessness.  And cheered by anti-Reagan activists challenging the placement of missiles in Europe.  More recently was 'The American President" in 1995, Aaron Sorkin's pen giving us an oh-so-perfect widowed president, played by Michael Douglas [with future "West Wing" president, Martin Sheen, as the best-friend chief of staff].  And of course, the latest entry in the pop-culture debates, "The Path to 9/11"on ABC less than three weeks ago. A different critter from all those gone before.
Ragged Edge: Many Milestones To Go Before We Rest....

Matters progressed amidst these aggravations, with "Celsius 41.11" proving there were funders for the talent that was spring-cocked to leap into action as 2004's retort to Michael Moore's election-year screed.  Chetwynd observed to PBS lefty, Tavis Smiley, in promoting "Celsius" that when it comes to popular culture, "liberals are on the leading edge, and conservatives are on the ragged edge -- falling off."  How gratifying to know now, that there was a pathway opening just a few months ahead, for "Path" to be led into ABC greenlight funding at $40 million.  The long dry season after "Celsius" and its lesser twin companion that year, "Fahren-Hype 911" was to end in 22 months.  Other small milestones marked tiny achievements, such as Rob Long's regular articles in National Review, a rare conservative in TV sit-com show-running, who also penned a piece in Variety's "V-Life" periodical about his life as a republican in LaLa Land.
And such stalwarts as Evan Sayet kept climbing the greasy pole of political comedy, as a conservative Jewish stand-up comic, his show tested and tethered at the Friars of Beverly Hills, to a room packed with conservatives [many Jewish, including the rapidly growing LA chapter of the Republican Jewish Coalition].  This week in the national capitol, Evan showcased his yeoman work to the nation's political nerve center, at George Washington University, a mere six blocks from Dubya's digs.  Doubtlessly he had a few "Path" jokes on the menu, for an audience including the cream of le creme on the right.
Leaving the Ragged Edge

Now in this coming winter of their discontent, and contentment at dissing our growing presence, liberals are shocked, shocked to find there's politics going on in H'W'D -- conservative politics, as those once-lonely conservative are slowly learning they are not alone.  Perhaps a third, but certainly at least 25% of the working creatives endorse their paycheck with a conservative cursive signature.  They're learning they are not alone.  American Film Renaissance began in Dallas as a conservative or tradition-themed film festival, its founder finding quite a crowd eager to meet him when the Hollywood Forum arranged a conclave at the famed Formosa Cafe in spring of '05.  Less than a year later, AFR founder Jim Hubbard had hosted a second Dallas festival, and another AFR-affiliated event in Michigan [an in-your-face simultaneous event with Moore's local festival], and then brought AFR to Hollywood own hallowed halls. Now Hubbard is producing documentaries himself, adding one more combat captain to our corp of cultural warriors.
AFR's foray into the Mann Chinese Six, next door to the original Mann's Chinese Theatre and part of the new Kodak Center complex [home of the Oscars] showed maximum cojones.  The Conservative Cinema Combat Corps was growing -- in size and chutzpah, an appropriate appropriation of a Yiddish term, considering how many Jewish supporters there were for AFR and other elements of The Movement. They are distinctive symbols of a sea change, and a see change as well, as some can now see their ideas finding expression.  Not just the rare exceptions, such as "Law and Order" episodes taking a swipe at a clone of Earth Liberation Front in an accidental-arson death, or the L&O episode titled "Kingmaker": a  nasty political operative for a democrat congressman commits murder, and we see the vilest political attitudes demonstrated on millions of TVs, by a liberal politico.
From "Day After" to "Path": Shades of "Pleasantville"

Cyrus Nowrasteh penned an elaborate script from an even more elaborate tale of trickery and indifference, to be directed by David Cunningham's style first shown in his direction of "To End All Wars" [shameless plug: rent it!] and thus directing our views to the national eyeballs.  Liberals had a fit, Clinton had his fit on Fox News, with E.J. Dionne quickly scribing a defense and justification in WaPo before week's end.  Suddenly, liberals in H'W'D felt deja vu from the film "Pleasantville" when that perfect-place's ever-victorious and smug basketball team actually loses a game.  They are perplexed: WE LOST? Indeed, H'W'D is Pleasantville, where all roads lead to the same ever-liberal, ever-comfortable, ever-comforting paradise of all-liberals all-the-time on every job site.  Then Cyrus and David shook 'em up, the Toby McGuire twins entering the previously pleasant place heretofore preserved for liberal sentiments.
"Path" is the first serious pathway to an opening in the heretofore closed-to-conservatives network indoctrination machine.  Clinton knew well, as did his minions in HW, and in the MSM, thus his aggravation at even the tiniest fragment of TV's powerful box-with-wires potential being claimed by rightwingers.  All around 'em, liberals are seeing the demise of their decades-old Pleasantville: "Mr. Conservative" on HBO, a documentary on Goldwater by his granddaughter [albeit a bit skewed], in which none other than Al Franken admits 1964's famous "Daisy" commercial was "unfair"!  Southpark conservatives is now part of the lexicon [the creators recently hinted they might take a nasty whack at atheists!], "Brothers and Sisters" gives us Calista Flockhart as a conservative radio host [albeit rather diss-functional and whiny; can't shake that typecasting, eh, Cal, baby?].
Even a panel in California this June, examining "24" as a tool to fight jihad, via its 'educational' value, complete with Rush Limbaugh hosting, after introductory remarks by DHS Secretary Chertoff [could HW feel his ego threatening their Pleasantville dominance?].  Imagine, academic legitimacy rendered to a rightwing gathering, examining the power of TV, with homeland security maven, Dr. James Carafano of the Heritage Foundation.
Yes, there have been many tributaries to the success of "Path" and more will add heft to what is coming.  Like young, wide-eyed Oliver Twist, we want MORE!
Who shall give us More?

What has yet been served has been puny gruel, not even decent table scraps.  "Path" was a good entree, one step better than the antipasto served to date.  Our appetite has been whetted, our hunger growing, the digestive juices awaiting a full-course meal.  Nowrasteh and Cunningham are the newest Cojones Medal winners [plus producer Marc Platt, I've since been informed]. Let's plan on the casting plant for those medals soon going into extra shifts.  We have met the enemy in the cultural wars, and they have suffered their first big bite in their arse.
Don't look back, liberals -- we're gaining.  
However, as the Forum and PhoneBooth have decried for some very lean years, we still have miles to go before we sleep.  We've got a country to save, a cultural Pleasantville to invade, a mission to serve cultural pie to an eager audience waiting for our bakery to get its ovens fired up and cranking out more tasty muffins -- tasty for our constituency, bitter pills for theirs.  Most creative conservatives are yet to believe the atmosphere is improving.  Even a tough-as-nails political consultant dares not endanger a relative's HW career with the tiniest revelation of political leanings.  And Sharon Lawrence likely still trembles whenever any faintly suggests she might again be mistaken for a republican.
Our Daniel Boone pair have chopped down a few trees on this cultural frontier.  The settlers will come later; for now, the recruiting posters are being plastered loud and proud: WHO SHALL BE NEXT?  There are many walls in our opponents' Pleasantville mansion, awaiting more knights to shatter their errant ways.


copyright 2006 Steve Finefrock





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