TO BE a Hollywood Republican, you’ve got to be one of two things: very stubborn or very optimistic. Harry Sloan is the latter, and that has made him not only the Republican Party’s major entertainment industry cheerleader but also Sen. John McCain’s go-to guy as this year’s election enters its final stretch.
Sloan, who is chairman and chief executive of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc. (his contract was just renewed for another three years), was busy Wednesday evening rallying McCain’s Hollywood supporters at a gala in Century City. The event, which raised about $3.5 million for the McCain-Palin coffers, drew mostly a business crowd, with a sprinkling of stars, including Jon Voight, Gary Sinise, Kelsey Grammer and Dennis Miller.
For the gregarious Sloan, the highlight of the evening was introducing guest of honor McCain’s wife, Cindy McCain (who was introduced by Todd Palin, husband of the VP nominee Sarah), yet again, to the hometown crowd, a group he has cultivated and sometimes cajoled into giving the Republicans a chance over the years.
It hasn’t been easy. Hollywood’s creative community is overwhelmingly Democratic in sentiment, and the men and women in suits tend to give to both parities, as executives in most industries do these days. To be a Republican in Hollywood, therefore, means that you have to be pretty sure of what you believe and why. You also have to be a bit of a diplomat.
Cindy McCain was warmly received. And -- as is typical -- so was Sloan, a man whose Republican convictions have been one of the constants in a career that began at UCLA followed by Loyola Law School, then through a series of entertainment industry successes. He helped build New World Pictures into a major production/distribution company, acquired Marvel Entertainment and served as chairman of the board for Lionsgate Entertainment.
In this overwhelmingly liberal milieu, Sloan has remained a steady part of what used to be called the Barry Goldwater brand of politics: conservative on foreign policy and fiscal issues, and libertarian on the social questions.
President Reagan quickly identified him in the 1980s as an industry star and key ally.
Sloan, a native Angeleno, still recalls the encounter.
“I got a call from one of Reagan’s aides saying they wanted to appoint me to the president’s trade commission,” he said in a recent interview. “I said, ‘Why?’ He told me, ‘Because we can’t find another Republican in Hollywood.’ All the major studios were run by Democrats. . . . So it all started with that. Rupert [Murdoch] showing up added a little bit of support, but it’s still pretty lean for Republicans in Hollywood. It’s even leaner on the celebrity side.”
Recently, some McCain supporters suggested that Hollywood execs are “blacklisting” celebrities who don’t support Obama. Sloan doesn’t buy it.
“I’ve known the heads of the other studios for 25 to 30 years,” Sloan said. “Every one of them are run by 55- to 60-year-old guys like me. I talk to them every day. It’s not going on.”
But, certainly, those who support Republicans in largely liberal Hollywood have to endure a fair amount of teasing.
“I got a hard time for supporting [Bob] Dole, and certainly a hard time would be an understatement with regard to [President George W.] Bush,” said Sloan. “But it’s been different with McCain for a lot of reasons. Although people here may disagree with him on many of the issues, they have a lot of respect for him. Some members of my community have gotten to know him. Actually, quite a few have gotten to know him. There’s a reservoir of good feelings for him here.”
But Sloan is practical: “I know that won’t necessarily translate into votes, but people are open-minded about him.”
He added: “My narrow interest is trying to get our message across in the Hollywood community.” In short, Sloan said, McCain is a candidate who “is very tolerant of those who don’t agree with the platform 100%.”
“Look at his record,” said Sloan.
John McCain may or may not be back in Hollywood four years from now as an incumbent, but if he isn’t, it’s a sure thing that the next Republican hopeful will be on the phone to Harry Sloan.
Bruce and Billy for Barack
The “Boss” and the “Piano Man” are on board to support the campaign of Sen. Barack Obama.
Bruce Springsteen and Billy Joel have agreed to perform at an Obama benefit in New York City on Oct. 16, according to the campaign.
But tickets might be a bit steep for the working-class Joes who are the typical subjects of Springsteen’s and Joel’s songs. Admission will cost $500 to $10,000 per person.