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My L.A.: Hollywood’s New Counterculture

Here’s an idea for the next installment of the Saw torture-porn series: Set it in ancient Rome, with early Christians ousted from their underground chapel and put through a myriad of sadistic deaths.

It’s a marketer’s dream. Not only can ads declare it “a true story” but in terms of casting, prominent actors who’d otherwise be above this sort of dreck might actually be attracted to playing characters they can identify with. After all, these are people who have to keep a dark secret to avoid becoming lion chowder.

What they’re hiding isn’t drug abuse, narcotics peddling, child molestation, shoplifting, drunken driving, Scientology or even egregious face-lifts, which all at one time would have exiled them to the lunch shift at Hamburger Hamlet. No, their secret is they don’t believe George W. Bush is the Antichrist or America the nexus of evil. Worse, they don’t believe in Barack Obama.

There’s a word for these people--conservative--and they dare whisper it at the risk of ridicule and career suicide.

Meet A, B, C, D, E and F, actors and writers and producers--many well known, including women and an African American--who agreed to fess up about their politics and refer me to others of like mind, only after promises of the kind of anonymity granted Deep Throat before grand-jury testimony. All say they know conservatives who lost social and professional standing after making their opinions known. Some admit it’s happened to them. And most trace their rightward shift to--which, they say, barely left a mark on Hollywood and has since produced a plethora of antiwar films in which the U.S. is adjudged the villain…and the box office tanks.

“Hollywood is high school,” says A. “The above-the-line people are the populars, and what they say goes. You’re a retard for not thinking the way they do. If you keep your mouth shut, everyone’ll assume you’re one of them.”

Which drives B crazy: “Pop culture and the mainstream media are liberal, that’s the only world they know. Someone actually said to me, ‘I like you so much. How can you be conservative?’ ”

Last month while on a set, C overheard some commotion between takes%#8212;several actors “shrieking” at someone who had kinda, sorta happened to mention he kinda, sorta was thinking about voting for John McCain.

“They were like coyotes on a carcass,” says C. “And then one of them turned to another actor, ‘Can you believe it? He likes McCain. What an a--hole.’ Unfortunately, that guy said something about how he’d rather not talk politics.” Big mistake. “The first one shouted, ‘Hey, he’s voting for McCain!’ And the rest came running over to attack him, too.”

It does not go unnoticed that such intolerance for dissent seems less liberal than hypocritical and is anyway ironic given Hollywood’s ongoing love affair with anyone who opposed McCarthyism six decades ago (see George Clooney’s Good Night, and Good Luck).

Meanwhile, Sean Penn, for one, has worked steadily (including winning an Oscar) since he began calling out Bush, befriending Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez and equating Iran’s “corrupt regime” with America’s “corrupt regime.”

A quick Google of “conservative actors” yields some big names: Eastwood, Voight, Duvall. Of course, they are immune to blowback--winning an Oscar will do that. But are they of the Newt Gingrich/Sarah Palin strain? No.

“To people in red states, I’m a flaming liberal,” says D. “Pro gay marriage, pro civil rights, pro choice. Only in Hollywood am I a fascist warmonger and only because I want us not to lose and to keep extreme sharia from America.”

“I have no idea why anyone is interested in anything actors think about politics,” says E. “We don’t ask politicians for opinions on movies. But reporters are always sticking a mike in your face. If you’re conservative, you have to calculate whether you want to risk saying what’s on your mind. But if you’re liberal, there’s no grief for spewing garbage.” Remember Cameron Diaz’s immortal recommendation to Oprah: “If you think rape should be legal, then don’t vote.”

Even in Hollywood, there’s a good chance the political chasm will narrow once the polarizing figure of President Bush leaves office--but only, predicts F, if Obama replaces him. “If McCain wins, they’ll be more vicious than ever.”


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