Skip to comments.Some stars have GOP stripes (Lynyrd Skynyrd, Kid Rock, Britney Spears, Ted Nugent, Steve Tyler)
Posted on 08/12/2004 2:29:19 AM PDT by Liz
The Dems may have the Boss and Babs, but Bush has his celebrity backers, too. Expect to see some in the spotlights at the Republican convention.
Just because Republicans deride Hollywood as an out-of-touch bastion of liberalism and perverted values doesn't mean they don't like rubbing elbows with celebrities.
So, yes, there will be stars when the GOP convenes in New York starting Aug. 30. They may not have the wattage of Ben Affleck, Natalie Portman or Michael Moore, to name a few who roamed the convention floor with the Democrats in Boston last month. But, as the GOP showed when it invited wrestler-turned-actor The Rock to address its 2000 convention, Republican entertainment no longer means safe and boring.
Caustic comedian Dennis Miller and actress Angie Harmon are expected to wing in from Los Angeles to mingle with delegates at Madison Square Garden. Headliners, according to CNN, will include country stars Sara Evans and Lee Ann Womack, with blues-rocker Jonny Lang and Texas alt-rock band Dexter Freebish joining more established acts the Gatlin Brothers and Blind Boys of Alabama.
The Republicans will even showcase an action star in prime time, as California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger takes the podium on Night Two.
Why does this matter? "Celebrities are interesting, and voters care about them," said Alan Schroeder, author of Celebrity-in-Chief: How Show Business Took Over the White House.
Last year a CBS News poll found that a majority of Americans believe celebrities "can offer a new perspective on political issues."
Politicians like them because "they've already been certified as popular by audiences, and candidates can tap into that," said Schroeder, a journalism professor at Northeastern University and former TV producer. "For someone like John Kerry, who doesn't have a lot of star presence himself, hanging around with them is a way to pick up some stardust."
Likewise, it wouldn't hurt President Bush if actor Tony Sirico, who plays mobster Paulie Walnuts on The Sopranos, stops by the Garden during the GOP convention. "I am a far-to-the-right Republican," Sirico declared last month at a fund-raising party on Long Island.
Other actors who've been in Bush's corner include Freddie Prinze Jr., Jason Priestley, Bo Derek, Shannen Doherty, Kelsey Grammer and bohemian right-winger Vincent Gallo, who once called left-wing author and radio talker Al Franken a "commie crawfish."
True, Bruce Springsteen, Bonnie Raitt and the Dixie Chicks are raising money for Kerry with a series of highly publicized concerts. No such venture has been planned for Bush.
But Lynyrd Skynyrd, Kid Rock, Britney Spears, Ted Nugent, and Steve Tyler of Aerosmith are fans of the President. So is punk-rock guitarist Johnny Ramone of the Ramones, who urges musician pals to donate to Bush's campaign. "I try to make a dent in people when I can," he said in a March interview with the Washington Times. "I figure people drift toward liberalism at a young age, and I always hope that they change when they see how the world really is."
The merger of politics and entertainment is nothing new, said Schroeder. John F. Kennedy kept company with the Rat Pack, and Franklin D. Roosevelt cozied up to the top actors of his day. "They not only campaigned for him but raised money for his charity, the March of Dimes," Schroeder said. (Roosevelt's White House guests included Rosalind Russell, Veronica Lake, Gene Kelly and Dorothy Lamour.)
"It's nice for a candidate to get publicity and face time, but it's really about the money the entertainment community can raise," Schroeder said. "In a year like this, when the election is so close, that could make the difference."
Hollywood gives $7 to Democrats for every $3 to Republicans, reports the Hill, a Washington newspaper for political insiders. The Federal Election Commission's July 5 report shows the TV, movie and music industries donated $17.5 million to federal candidates and political parties in the current election cycle. Sixty-six percent of contributions went to Democrats and 34 percent to Republicans, according to a nonprofit research group, the Center for Responsive Politics (www. opensecrets.org).
"The entertainment industry is led and driven by liberal Democrats, but the majority of us are mainstream people with traditional values," said comedian Dale Davidson, who heads the Las Vegas chapter of Entertainers for Bush.
In Hollywood, conservatives suggest, Republicanism is the sin that dares not speak its name.
"There's a lot of pressure in the film and recording industries for people to fall in line," Davidson said. "If you're not a liberal, you keep your mouth shut if you want to work."
A few celebrities, including Wayne Newton and Bruce Willis, are outspoken conservatives, said Davidson, but most with similar views are in the closet.
"Coming out in this industry has been very difficult to do," said actor Mark Basil Vafiades, president of the Hollywood Congress of Republicans. "Nobody says anything for fear of being ridiculed."
John Rhys-Davies, who played Gimli the dwarf in The Lord of the Rings trilogy, said recently, "You introduce a Republican to another in Hollywood, it's like a meeting between two Christians in Caligula's Rome."
President Bush found out just how uncool it was to be a Republican while planning for his 2001 swearing-in festivities, as reams of A-list performers declined invitations to perform.
"Booking entertainment for a Republican inaugural is like trying to push a wet mattress up a spiral staircase," a Hollywood publicist noted at the time.
Ricky Martin swiveled in at the last minute to save the day. Soon after, a White House task force was formed to ferret out GOP celebrities and dragoon them into performing at state dinners.
Among the finds was ditzy conservative Jessica Simpson, who's become a frequent White House visitor. Upon being introduced in March to Gale Norton, secretary of the interior, Simpson gushed, "I love what you've done to the place."
Since the Inaugural celebrity-shortage scare, Bush has been publicly endorsed by actors Dennis Hopper, Lara Flynn Boyle and Ron Silver, and has apparently caused a Baldwin brother to defect.
Candidate Kerry has two Baldwins, Alec and William, in his camp. Both were at the Democratic convention, where Alec railed that the GOP had been "hijacked by fundamentalistic wackos."
Meanwhile, Stephen, the youngest Baldwin, who became a born-again Christian after 9/11, is touring the country promoting his movie about God and skateboarding, while urging young evangelicals to register and hinting they should vote for Bush.
MTV has its Rock the Vote campaign; the Christian right has Redeem the Vote, promoted by the thriving Christian music industry at festivals with names like Lamb Jam, Jamming for Jesus, and Godstock.
In Hollywood, 9/11 and the antiwar protests that followed influenced conservatives to speak out, said actor Vafiades, and Schwarzenegger's election further emboldened them.
For years conservatives had sought others of their kind at the Wednesday Morning Club, a policy discussion group that has met since 1992 at the Beverly Hills Hotel. Actor Robert Duvall is on the steering committee, and speakers have included Newt Gingrich and then-Texas-Gov. Bush.
Now other groups are springing up as well.
Actor Robert Davi belongs to one that has grown from eight to a hundred members in a year. Another group promises anonymity and invites people to gather via last-minute e-mail invitations, Vafiades said.
Entertainers for Bush, a grass-roots group that started last month in Maryland, has members from 18 states.
And high-powered executives from Disney, News Corp., Time Warner, Univision and Universal formed a group they call Entertaining Republicans, Variety reports, whose purpose is to boost GOP influence in Tinseltown.
"There are a lot of conservative entertainers out there," said Vafiades. "We just haven't been organized before."
Contact staff writer Beth Gillin at 215-854-2917 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
I am SOOOO happy to see Steven Tyler on that list......I am a BIG Aerosmith fan.
Didn't even bother reading the article...but I *DO* know this...Ted Nugent rockS!
i wonder if Zakk Wylde is a Republican? He was pretty vocal about supporting the troops and killing terrorists at OzzFest.
I was shocked too after such a convincing portrayal but I've seen and heard several interviews with him myself which bare this out.
there playing detroit augest 22nd
already in thanks brah
I think they are "Scoop Jackson" Democrats, who finally woke up to the fact that Democrats don't want their kind anymore.
Glad to hear this. Thanks for the info.
No, he said in an interview a couple of years ago that he thinks the government should go house-to-house and seize every single gun.
gosh i thought michael j nelson was a mega-liberal too (based on the show's jokes)
i was happy to hear he isn't. unless he is lying