BEN STEIN -- PORTRAIT OF A HOLLYWOOD REPUBLICAN
by Thomas M. Sipos, L.A. bureau chief.
[September 28, 2003]
While Republicans and conservatives often complain of job discrimination
in liberal Hollywood, being a vocal conservative opened Tinseltown's doors
for writer/actor Ben Stein of Win Ben Stein's Money fame!
That was Stein's shocking
confession to the Hollywood
Congress of Republicans, which hosted Stein at L.A.'s Maggianos eatery
on August 20, 2003 -- and the Hollywood Investigator was there!
* His Big Break
an economist and lawyer, Stein's Republican creds go back to when he was
a speechwriter for Presidents Nixon and Ford! He began freelancing
for the Wall Street Journal while still a Nixon scribe, joining the paper
full-time soon after Nixon resigned, to write about movies and Hollywood. (Stein suspects the Ford people were glad to see him go).
WSJ articles eventually caught the attention of Hollywood. "I wrote
several pieces very critical of Norman Lear," said Stein to the Hollywood
Republicans, "saying specifically that Lear was the biggest racist on television
because his portrayal of The Jeffersons was such a stereotypical, nasty
portrayal of blacks. And he apparently became very upset about that. He didn't want me writing those pieces anywhere. So in a roundabout
way, he arranged to meet me, and he tried to persuade me not to write any
more pieces. And he said, 'You're the only funny conservative I've
ever met, and I'd like to offer you a job writing for me.'"
Lear silence a conservative critic -- by hiring him! Lear made Stein
a staff writer on the CBS sitcom All's
Fair. "The job, by Hollywood standards, was a miserable pittance,"
said Stein. "I got paid $600 a week in 1976. I thought I was
But despite pulling the big bucks, Stein's input was ignored
at creative meetings. "I learned not to bother to show up at those
meetings." Heartbreakingly, Stein also endured nasty public remarks
at tapings. The warmup comic would introduce Stein to the studio
audience by announcing: "Here's our resident fascist!"
mind it because I was paid so much," said Stein. "But it lingered. I was the only Republican there in the whole Norman Lear enterprise."
* He Pays a Price
the cruel taunts, Stein bravely continued writing teleplays and screenplays
-- some of which were produced! Along the way, he says, "I had a
real super-good insight into Hollywood's view about Republicans. I had written a book called The Boost, and I wrote the first draft screenplay
film]. The second draft screenplay was written by the producer."
happens in Tinseltown, the film's writing credits were settled by a Writers
Guild arbitration. Credits are important because they help scribes
get future writing gigs -- and because only credited writers collect residuals! (Not to be confused with profit participation, residuals are a royalty
payment mandated by union contract).
point during the WGA arbitration, Stein was in the men's room when one
of the judges entered. Not knowing Stein was in a stall, Stein overheard
the judge say to a colleague: "I couldn't give any credit to any son-of-a-bitch
who worked for Richard Nixon."
when announcing their decision, that same judge shamelessly told Stein, "Well,
we thought about this really seriously and decided you don't get a credit."
were typical of my experiences as a Republican in Hollywood," said Stein. "But it changed considerably when I became an actor. The first work
I did of any significance was for John Hughes, who is an avid Republican
and a great guy. He put me in Ferris
Bueller's Day Off. My career got off and running."
modestly adds, "I'm really not an actor. I just play myself."
* Hollywood Politics
Hollywood's historic liberalism, Stein says the times, they are a changing. "When I came to Hollywood, there were still a lot of diehard Marxists that
had gone to City College or Brooklyn College, and grown up in this sort
of first-generation Jewish Brooklyn Communist [milieu], and then moved
out to Hollywood, and were still avid Communists. I mean real, card-carrying
" That's all gone now. Those people are either dead
or retired. What you have now, in place of the kind of ethnic and
class-based Marxists, are what I call personality-disorder Marxists. A significant
cause of people being anti-American, in Hollywood and in universities,
is that they have an infantile personality disorder.
"They are fixated,
and in denial, on entitlement, dissatisfaction, weakness, fear, and envy. And their weakness, fear, and envy compels them to be extremely uncomfortable
with people who actually go out in the world and succeed. And also
compels them to be extremely fearful -- because fear is part of [being]
infantile -- of what I would call mainstream America. They're terrified
of America between Beverly Hills and West End Avenue. They think
out there are a bunch of racists and Klansmen that are going to kill them."
had previously said much the same in his 1979 book, The
View from Sunset Boulevard, an analysis of the sociological background
and psychological outlook of TV writers and producers. Despite the
changing times, the book remains shockingly relevant to this day.
their motivation, today's Marxists have far less influence in Hollywood
than some may imagine. Stein said, "I was a guest star on Seinfeld,
and the producers and writers did not want to talk about the class struggle. They wanted to talk about Warren Buffett. They wanted to talk about
investing. And I actually wrote a piece at that time for the Wall
Street Journal called 'The Now of the Dow.'
this is a very big change. I see more and more conservatives in Hollywood. I did a guest part on King of the Hill, and the people who run that
show are very politically conservative, and are very disdainful for Hollywood
liberals. And I see more of this.
who are seriously ill are not going to change. But we are getting
an influx of people who come to Hollywood not because they think they're
artists, or because they think they're going to lead the demise of the
bourgeoisie or intensify the class struggle, but people who know it's a
very good way to make a living and wind up on top of the heap. And
they have a much more pragmatic attitude about America. They're often
not from New York, they're from other parts of America. And they
are often Republican. I hear a lot of people saying to me, 'I'm
a Republican too,' or 'I'm a great fan of George Bush.' By no means the majority, but plenty of them. Hollywood is changing. As some measure of maturity spreads, we will get a more mature and pro-American
group of people.
a book on this subject called The Illness of Politics."
* Noble GOP Principles
California's recall election, Stein reiterated what he'd told Chris Matthews
on MSNBC: that he favored Bill Simon to be California's next governor. "And if Simon drops out," Stein had added, "I'll support Tom McClintock. I think Tom McClintock and Bill Simon are pretty much the same, but I've
long been a friend of the Simon family."
asked, "Well how would you feel if you woke up the morning of election
day and Cruz Bustamante would have won because you voted for Bill Simon
instead of voting for Arnold Schwarzenegger?"
bother me a bit," Stein replied. "Because I think Arnold Schwarzenegger
is what a person would call a RINO -- a Republican in Name Only. He is an interesting and rising personality, not stupid, made good investment
decisions. Obviously very muscular. But the key, absolute bedrock
principle of the Republican Party is right-to-life. This is what
makes the Republican Party not just a machine to get elections won and
get patronage, but something noble."
passionately expounded to the Hollywood Republicans: "I would not be a
Republican if I didn't think there was something noble about being in it. I have no interest in holding political office. I'm never going to
get any patronage. But the Republican Party was founded on a noble
principle, the eradication of slavery. That was the most important
thing facing the Western world in those days, to make the promise of the
Declaration of Independence and the Constitution come true by saying that really all
men are created equal, and it didn't matter if you had dark skin. This was noble. It led to a terrible war. I feel terrible all
the time about how many people died in that war, north and south. But it was a glorious principle -- and I think right-to-life is the same
principle for our era.
Party has distinguished itself by being a right-to-life party since the
days of Ronald Reagan. Right-to-life is about protecting the lives
of the innocent, blameless, and vulnerable. This is the bedrock of
the Republican Party: respect for the individual's dignity, whether the
individual is in the womb, whether he's in Eastern Europe, whether he's
in China, or she's in China, whether she's in Angola. This respect
for the individual. Democrats have no comparably noble principle. They're Me! Me! for taking taxpayer dollars, bribing voters, and
getting re-elected. Taking more tax dollars, bribing voters, getting
re-elected again. They do not have a single noble principle in the
Mr. Schwarzenegger does not believe in that principle is very disappointing
to me. That he has selected as one of his main advisers, Warren Buffet,
who to be sure is a very successful investor, is extremely dismaying to
me. I'm a correspondent friend of Buffett's, and he is one of the
most pro-abortion people in America, and actually pays with his own money
for the suction machines used in abortion clinics."
from the issues of slavery and right-to-life, Stein believes the principle
of "the lowest possible taxation" also ennobles the Republican Party. "And we know what Buffett thinks about that," said Stein, "They are well
known views. And I don't think that a man [Schwarzenegger] who is
betraying two of the main principles of the party, is a party man. I don't want to introduce as a main player in the Republican Party another
person who's going to go against the principles that make the Republican
Party a noble entity. I would like to see a candidate who is a friend,
as Mr. Bush has been, to the right-to-life, and who has religious principles,
as Mr. Bush's are pretty strong. That is my humble view."
* Road Map to Peace
his admiration for Bush, Stein is "shocked" by Bush's proposed Road Map
to Peace for the Mideast, and by its "lack of understanding of the craziness
and rage of the terrorists." Stein qualifies by adding, "Mr. Bush
is a person of extreme goodwill, extreme decency, a really fine human being,
but naive about the Middle East. He thinks that you just put everybody
at a table and they'll all get together and be friends. It'll never
work. Mr. Nixon, in one of the last conversations I had with Mr.
Nixon, said that the one truly intractable conflict that he was aware of
in the whole world was the Middle East."
* Bill Stein Loves Rap
of noble issues, one of the black Republicans in attendance challenged
Stein about the party's disregard for minority issues, stating, "Whenever
the GOP singles out morality, it leave the general public questioning how
sincere we are in our morality when we don't have the same commitment and
compassion for the high unemployment rate of black men between the ages
of 18 and 35 in the inner city. Officially, the papers have it at
19%. Being from the inner city, I know it's at least 50%. Of
course, that means that I count those that have dropped out of society,
and perhaps we shouldn't. But even on the high end, abortion impacts
4 million people a year."
"It kills them," Stein replied.
"Absolutely. And so does the high unemployment rate in the inner city."
I don't know about that," said Stein. "It certainly doesn't kill
them. As a matter of fact, most of that unemployment is transitory. But I agree, there is a serious problem of a permanent underclass that
seems to resist moving upward on the scale, and what is to be done, I don't
"Any suggestions you may have on how to improve that condition
are very welcome in the Bush White House. They're just as eager to
get that situation solved as you are. Certainly, Mr. Bush's commitment
to African-Americans is dramatic. It just stuns me that people question
his commitment to African-Americans given the makeup of his inner circle,
and the makeup of his cabinet."
recalled a black woman who'd asked him, following his speech at Pepperdine
University, how people were to get an education after cuts in the school
budget. "What I said to her was, no public school system has ever
been invented that is so poor that a really well-motivated, well-disciplined
student cannot get an education. There's libraries, there's internet,
there's newspapers, there are inexpensive books. Some of the problem
of the unemployment among inner city African-Americans is due to their
own inability to educate themselves, to get themselves marketable skills.
huge fan of rap. I'm floored at the incredible creativity and discipline
and hard work of some of these rap stars who make themselves into giant
sensations. I keep thinking to myself, the inner city is an enormous
reservoir of talent that has yet to be tapped by America -- but it has
to tap itself first of all."
* Immigration & Ann Coulter
immigration remains an issue to many California Republicans. When
asked for his views, Stein replied, "We're not doing anything as far as
I can tell to keep out illegal aliens. By the way, talk about something
that has devastated the black community. They take all the entry
level jobs, and they undercut the wage system. And you might say, Well
why not? They're incredibly hard-working people. But it
is very hard for domestic-grown people to compete with them.
know. This country will either become a province of Mexico on the
borders, or it will not. On the other hand, Hispanic-Americans are
an incredible resource. They are hard-working. Often very religious. Often very good family values. I'm impressed. I wake up this
morning, there's a whole bunch of Hispanics gardening around my house. There's one at my pool [cleaning it]. There are two inside the house,
my maids. Of course they're gonna take over the country. My
wife and I are sleeping. They're working.
dinner with Ann Coulter the other night. She said she hates California
and wishes we'd give it back to Mexico. I said, don't worry."
Copyright 2003 by HollywoodInvestigator.com
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