Sunday, November 9, 2014

Casting a Ballot in Movieland

Cindy Crawford phoned me last evening. Yes, I’m talking about Cindy Crawford the supermodel. But I can’t pretend that she and I are close chums. She was phoning to tell me that she has kids in my local school district (who knew?), and that I should think about voting for the school board candidate of her choice. Personally, I have little interest in Cindy’s preferred school board member. The Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District serves my city and also the much tonier enclave up the coast. I’m not much inclined to give Cindy and her beachfront neighbors their own handpicked representative.

All across the country, elections bring out superstars, whether political stars like Bill Clinton or showbiz celebrities. Pop music icon Carole King, for one, has shown up in my email in-box, urging me to donate on behalf of several candidates for the U.S. Senate. Here in California, singer-songwriter John Legend is stumping for Marshall Tuck, who hopes to be the next State Superintendent of Public Instruction. And such movieland insiders as Matt Damon and Norman Lear are backing with serious bucks a candidate for State Assembly with the unlikely name of Prophet Walker. Walker, who hopes to represent a blue-collar district encompassing Compton and Watts, has a life story seemingly made for Hollywood. The son of a birth mother who succumbed to heroin addiction when he was still an infant, he grew up in South Central L.A. At sixteen, he was convicted of armed robbery, then sentenced to six years in prison. It was while behind bars that he began an unlikely turnaround that led him to graduate from college and embark on a career as a community activist. If he wins his race, his story will have a true Hollywood ending.

But Hollywood is more than superstars and the intriguing underdogs whose up-from-the-gutter stories would make for a great movie-of-the-week. There are also those unionized behind-the-scenes crew members who are worried that their jobs are being outsourced to New York, New Mexico, and Canada. My good friend Ben Allen, an outstanding candidate for State Senate, has circulated a mailer that trumpets his endorsement by all Los Angeles-area locals of IATSE, the international union representing film and TV production folk. He’s also won the support of Councilman Paul Krekorian, author of the first California bill to establish an entertainment tax credit for the Golden State.

Similarly, one would-be L.A. County Supervisor, Bobby Shriver, has sent out flyers emblazoned with a vintage photo of a movie premiere on Hollywood Boulevard. The text reads: “We Founded the Movie Industry. Let’s Bring Our Jobs Back.” He also lets it be known that among  his staunch supporters is Steven Spielberg, along with several Kennedys. Shriver’s opponent, Sheila Kuehl, likes to play up her own Hollywood connection. Back in the day (before law school and years of service in the California State Senate) she was Sheila James, who memorably played plucky little Zelda Gilroy on The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis.       

Over the years, Hollywood has had its own fun with movies about politics. Among the best, of course, is Frank Capra’s Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, in which idealism triumphs over the schemes of corrupt politicians. Much more cynical is Preston Sturges’ The Great McGinty. I loved Alexander Payne’s wicked high school satire, Election, in which a campaign for student body president ends up laying bare what can happen when a candidate who will stop at nothing (Reese Witherspoon) takes on her high-minded civics teacher (Matthew Broderick).

As for Election Day 2014, may the best man (or woman) win. Go Ben!


  1. Well, for good or bad - and probably a good smattering of both - the Republican party seems to have prevailed across the country.

    I am not a politically minded person at all, as I truly believe all politicians are the same - although I will exclude Ms. Kuehl, who does seem like a civic minded and very smart cookie.

    I got a robocall from my friend Nick Searcy - who plays Timothy Olyphant's boss on the FX channel series Justified. When the message started I immediately recognized the voice - and he started "Hello, this is Nick Searcy..." and I wondered why my pal - who does occasionally leave messages on my answering machine - would be fully identifying himself to me. Then I realized I was listening to a computer assisted recording. Nick bought himself a few months of grief with that call - I don't know exactly how I'll get him back - but I will get him back!

    Those are terrific movies you cited - I will also mention 1979's Almost Summer - another high school election movie - with the late great Bruno Kirby Jr as the campaign manager ready to go too far to win. I'd like to see that movie again - I remember it as entertaining - but that memory may be getting a little rose colored after thirty years....

  2. I don't know "Almost Summer" at all, but I'll definitely have to check it out . . .