One of the best screenplays I ever wrote came extremely close to getting made into a film 15 years ago. It had been cast with two Academy Award nominated actors and was “supposedly” financed. Until it wasn’t. And then the whole thing fell apart.
However, when we were casting and having difficulty finding a bankable “name” who was up to the demands of handling the lead female role I distinctly remember one producer saying to me, “too bad you couldn’t have an all-black cast – you’d have your pick of the best actors in the business.”
Um… say what?
I was sort of stunned at the stark admission of a fact that, when I thought about it, felt racist and yet I knew to be true. The pool of “bankable” actors, especially among women, was mostly limited to white people.
This is not to say it is easy to get any film made in 2015, especially the romantic drama kind we were pedaling. On the other hand, these days it has less to do with race and everything to do with the fact that your project has either too much dialogue that doesn’t translate overseas; contains no special effects or chance of a sequel; and has no tent pole potential – or even aliens.
My, times have changed.
This week Deadline Hollywoodran a news story about the upswing in the number of ethnic actors (Note: A euphemism for non-white) being cast in the current TV pilot season. The story quoted one talent rep who complained:
…Basically 50% of the roles in a pilot have to be ethnic, and the mandate goes all the way down to guest parts.
To make matters worse, Deadline’s Nellie Andreeva, who wrote the article, led into that quote with the pronouncement that while it is nice to have diversity on TV, some suggest that the pendulum might have swung a bit too far in the opposite direction.
Say that again now?
I was not so much outraged, as some were, but amused and unsurprised. Because I was already hearing the following dialogue in my nasty little writer brain:
I mean, how dare there be such a sea change that allows the majority of available roles for actors to go to non-whites, especially when the only people on my client list are WHITE!It’s not fair! We have to nip this in the bud. And fast!
In some ways it felt like a scene out of the Mad Men pilot when WASP advertising agency partner Roger Sterling had to scour his office high and low for a Jew in order to land an important Jew account. (Note: He eventually did find one named David Coen – in the mailroom).
It was before my time
Now television is not the movies but there is no denying that the recent popularity of such fine series as How To Get Away With Murder, Empire, Black-ish and Jane the Virgin has caused some degree of white panic in the mostly white offices around town. Forget that many of these people are, like myself, liberal Democrats who don’t consider themselves at all to be racist.
What if this is a trend – and one that doesn’t limit itself to actors? What if…I mean, could it possibly spread to our writer and director clients, and then down to the below-the-line crew clients, and then up to… perish the thought… the executive suite? I mean, are they coming for OUR jobs???
I couldn’t help but wonder if this line of thinking isn’t much different from what happened in Indiana this week with the “religious freedom” bill signed into law by its governor, Mike Pence. That new law would allow any business owner in the state to not serve, sell or hire any person if it would impose a substantial burden on their religious beliefs. The law was proposed as a result of federal courts overturning Indiana’s ban on same-sex marriage last year and is generally seen as a way to discriminate against the LGBT community.
I mean, those people can do what they want but don’t force me to participate in it. I don’t want them in my restaurant, I ain’t gonna bake them a cake and I am certainly for sure not gonna have anyone force me to hire one. Or two or three!
No wonder six-time Tony Award winner Audra McDonald – the Black (or ethnic, if you prefer) actress who at just 44 years of age has more of Broadway’s top honor than any other performer in theatre history – went apoplectic on Twitter in reaction to it. Realizing she was soon scheduled to play several concert dates in Indiana, she tweeted directly to Gov. Pence such statements as:
.@GovPenceIN Some in my band are gay & we have 2 gigs in your state next month. Should we call ahead to make sure the hotel accepts us all?
In a follow-up statement she announced she will be spreading the wealth and giving the money she earns in Indiana to the Human Rights Campaign Fund, Freedom Indiana and other charities fighting back against the new law.
One does not have to be part of one minority to fully understand the depths of discrimination, marginalization and general hatred the majority can feel for another minority but it certainly does help. As a Jewish gay guy I always felt a little different – even growing up in NY and working in Hollywood – so it was pretty easy for me to see at an early age that when other people were being bullied or treated unfairly because of who or what they happened to be that, well, it could easily be me. In short, it made me apoplectic and I had far less power (and still do) than Audra McDonald.
And I don’t just mean lung power!
Luckily, as I grew older and the world began to change I was able to become less angry and strident interacting with the world on that score and far more effective (in a limited power sort of way) in standing up and being adamant. Yet I am also far more adept at sniffing out the inequality and prejudice which is now continually coming to my attention daily and often from thousands of miles away on the other side of the world. I guess it is a double-edged sword.
Of course, all of these experiences can also cause a person of my tribe(s) to completely go the other way. For instance, when I was growing up there was a great deal of anger and resentment among middle-class Jews towards the Black community (Note: Why, I never quite figured out), making the thought of something like inter-marriage one of the worst shondas (Note: The Yiddish word for disgrace) in the world. What they would have thought about a man marrying a man or a woman marrying a woman? I can’t even…. And let’s not even get into the transgender community. If for nothing else than for their sake.
I have a feeling I wouldn’t find any of these in Indiana
The bottom line is this:
If a few white actors, or even writers, directors or studio executives, have a few less opportunities because we are moving towards a more balanced racial representation on television – and perhaps the movies – TOO FREAKIN’ BAD.
And if a bunch of religious people have their sensibilities offended because they have to sell a cake to a same-sex couple – who for all they know might be buying it for their parents and not for their big fat gay wedding – BOO FREAKIN’ HOO.
You’ll ALL get over it.
Just make sure to move your cans over before you get trampled by history.
a. An elected member of Congress who recently resigned due to charges he indulged in an over-the-top lavish lifestyle – both personally and professionally – illegally financed by his supporters, the U.S. government and yes, you, the taxpayers.
b. A bachelor congressman that many in both his own hometown and in Washington, DC believe is a closet homosexual who has consistently voted against or voiced opposition to every single piece of key gay rights legislation – e.g. marriage equality, hate crime bills and the abolition of the military’s Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy – since he was first voted into office.
c. The fact that both a. and b. are the same person and that in the last week he has hired two very high-priced attorneys that he will largely and legally pay for from leftover campaign contributions in excess of $3 million dollars.
d. The blogger who decides that ALL of these above issues, but most especially b., are irrevocably tied together and writes a opinion piece addressing this hypocrisy despite the fact said congressman has most especially denied being gay — a statement the blogger most especially, in his heart of hearts, believes is a total and unadulterated lie – and at the root of this whole thing to begin with.
I’m going to have to think about that…
Well, see what you think. For what is the point of a blog, or public service for the matter, if you can’t follow your conscience.
To all of the above points —
One of the youngest people ever elected to the U.S. Congress, four-term, 33-year-old Rep. Aaron Schock (R-ILL) – and the politico in question in all of the above – literally shocked Washington, DC wags last week by resigning the office he has held for the last six years amid accusations of misappropriation of campaign money, ethics violations and a general recklessness of unnecessary luxury spending on the taxpayer dime.
This all started a mere month ago with the revelation that he shelled out $100,000 on a Downton Abbey-themed Congressional office – complete with deep red painted walls, period mirrors and numerous arrangements of pheasant feathers – paid for by donor contributions. (Note: He has since repaid $40,000 or more and yes, I did mention this last month). Though this in itself is not confirmation of being gay, I don’t even know of one American straight guy who watches Downton Abbey – nor is there a single one of of my myriad of gay friends who do that would be gay enough to duplicate Lady Mary’s sitting room with one of their own at their place of business.
Who you callin’ Lady Mary?!
Be that as it may —
These actions then led to investigations into Rep. Schock’s numerous international trips to places like Saudi Arabia, India and Argentina that were either gratis or passed off as official business, not to mention other extravagant excursions to Las Vegas and New York where he and sometimes his staff and/or guests flew to in private jets, and then stayed in at some of the finest hotels in the world. Again, I can’t confirm or deny Mr. Schock’s sexuality as a result of this but let it be known that in the case of the hotels he stayed at in Vegas and the Big Apple – well, I’ve stayed at both as have many of my fellow homosexual and/or entertainment industry friends. If the Congressman were in the biz he might get a hetero pass from me but since he isn’t – at least not at this writing – like me he’s guiltily gay as charged on the matter and I’m not giving him an inch, so to speak, of wiggle room.
The Chair has spoken!
Anyway, to continue —
On closer examination of his personal records it was then revealed Rep. Schock had recently sold his lavish Peoria house to one of his largest campaign donors, receiving as much as 30% or more over its fair market price value. Granted he gains some straight points here since not too many single, gay or even metrosexual guys I know from Indiana have chosen to stay there but there is also the fact that we gays have tended as of late to do pretty well in real estate. So let’s call this one a wash.
Oh…. hey guys! Didn’t see you there
Which brings us to the latest revelation —
It was several days ago revealed that the Congressman was reimbursed for the more than 172,000 miles he put on his car over his years in Congress at the government rate of approximately 50 cents per mile. The only problem with that is that recent sale records state his SUV had only a mere 82,000 miles. If true, this means he double-billed and double-charged the taxpayers (via the government) for twice the amount of miles, and money, he travelled and made out with a personal pretty penny. Then, once the latter story leaked out, Rep. Schock quickly resigned without even informing Speaker of the House John Boehner – a fellow Republican who is the titular head of his party. The latter, more than any of the ethics violations, was among the rarest of the many unusual details about how he conducted his daily political life. But as for his sexuality, which let’s face it, is all I and you really care about or makes his story particularly unusual, well it’s another wash. Sexual persuasion has absolutely nothing to do with double dealing – ask any straight man or woman or gay, lesbian, bisexual and/or transgender person you know and I promise you they can regale you with lots and lots and LOTS of those of similarly Schocking stories about people in their own individual tribes.
Tell me more!
More pertinent, or at least prurient, is the following —
The often shirtless, buff, well-groomed and uber color-coordinated Schock two years ago graced the cover of Men’s Health magazine in a half-naked photo that prominently featured his extremely well-defined six-pack abs. Until recently he was also a relentless poster of selfies via a very public Instagram account that featured him surfing, sky-diving, traveling the world and attending everything from a Katy Perry concert to country club cocktail parties sandwiched in-between countless trips to and images of him working out at the gym. During many of these activities he was not only accompanied by various young staffers but more recently on several international and nationwide trips, photographed alongside a handsome and very hunky young male wedding photographerwhose job it was to accompany him and serve as the Congressman’s personal chronicler of all things Aaron.
That would be Mr. Schock and Mr. Photographer on the right
Now I’m not saying he is and I’m not saying he is, but, uh…
As they say on RuPaul’s Drag Race…
Okay, yes – it is a cheap shot. Then fine – use your own logic, think about it for a bit, weigh the information, do your own research via Google info and images, and then you DECIDE. And if you choose to lie about the results to us – do not lie to yourself. Please.
The mainstream press has been careful to sidestep the gay issue thus far where Mr. Schock is concerned. Even my current news hero – Rachel Maddow – has most especially avoided the issue because she is, after all, a real journalist and an Oracle, not a blogger.
Ya got that right!
I however, a blogger, former journalist and gay person who is a decade and a half her senior and thus old enough to have lived through every horrible moment of the Plague Years of AIDS under the reign of a US government controlled by a Conservative president and any number of closeted gay politicians, don’t have the patience or, well, time, to be that nice when we get on this subject. The best I can do is periodically insert a few jokes when discussing Mr. Schock’s personal and professional ethics because to write about him straight (so to speak) and by the rules would well, make me about as honest here as he has been during his past six years in Congress. Which is to say — not very. Because I’ve seen this kind of behavior before – and all too often.
Every weaselly, self-involved action this guy has indulged in reminds me of every stereotype of every overachieving, over-exercised, over-paid gay guy – but especially gay Republican of a certain age I’ve encountered in my entire life. The willingness to preach personal responsibility as one privately and publicly profiteers from the “system,” the rationalization of working for change from the inside while knowing full well all you’re doing is greasing whatever wheels necessary so you can hang worldwide with anyone who you perceive to be the “A” crowd; and the Narcissus-like obsession with your outside, rather than your inside package so you can be publicly admired and even envied by as many human beings as possible in any given point in time or moment of the day – not caring much in the end about any one of them as much as yourself, or at least the admiration that projected image of yourself that is being admired, well, it’s all so very early 1980s. Which is ironic since that’s around the time Mr. Schock was born. Well, go figure on that.
That does look like work
The truth is I’m one of those gays who hopes to the Goddess that soon-to-be ex Congressman Schock is not gay. We have enough problems without having to claim one more materialistic, entitled, morally questionable queen with muscles, colorful clothes and an attitude as one of our own. (Note: And yes, I confess I’m guilty at times of at least half or more of the above traits – though certainly not all). There are so many civil rights issues to fight for: marriage equality, hate crimes legislation, and the general warding off of the ultra-right wing religious zealots who now want the legal right not to serve us in their restaurants or deny us service in any sort of business that they own, that frankly his brand of corruption is simply both tiring and draining. Not to mention infuriating.
Plus – people of Schock’s ilk – those we are quick to physically admire and who, at a very young age have achieved quite a bit but have exhibited very little modesty about it while managing to seem very, very entitled to it – are a turn off to me and more and more are becoming so to many others – including those in the gay community. In short, he is a fading “type.”
All the time and energy he devoted in his 33 years to a perfectly chiseled body and coordinated outfits have some core constituency but are fast becoming more like a generic mosquito repellant to the vast majority. While we gays enjoy nice clothes and are often in relatively good shape I and most of my gay friends have dated one or two hyper-handsome and hyperly dishonest guys like AS over the years and they almost always disappoint. Granted this could be as much about us than them because, really – how could any breathing human being live up to the expectation of the ideal of a human Ken doll? It’s like dating a movie star who plays a superhero and expecting them to rescue you form a burning building or sleeping with Bradley Cooper, Cary Grant or Marilyn Monroe in their heyday and expecting them to look and/or act like that when they wake up next to you in the morning or not annoy you in the middle of the night when you find they’re snoring.
How many times do I have to tell you I wake up like this!
On the other hand, people like Congressman Schock have some culpability in this also. He has devoted an enormous amount of time to his physicality and after 25 years on and off at the gym – and having dated those one or two guys I mentioned, which don’t include the dozens of other versions I’ve befriended and met in passing conversations – I know for a fact that NO ONE looks like that without putting in a great deal of pre-planned, budgeted and very specific effort. It takes an enormous amount of time and energy which takes away from time spent serving the public good – not to mention your job, your community, your friends and yes – your boyfriends. This is not to say that staying in shape is not valued hard work and important. Only to say that as every working Mom knows there are so many hours in the day and at the end of it something has to suffer. And this goes double if you have as demanding a job as being a U.S Congressman.
That’s a cute idea, Mr. Chair
Which brings me to the real point of what is going on – what we all choose to do with our time. I’m all for fitness and wish I had started earlier. But I also am all for honesty, being informed and a certain benevolence of equality and morality which Mr. Schock’s actions seem to clearly lack.
Quite frankly, his behavior is an embarrassment to straight, gay, bi-sexual and even asexual men worldwide. I can’t prove definitively that he’s the type of gay guy I’ve known, and in my younger days, very fleetingly loved, but let me tell you if Quinnipiac were to take a survey of gay men nationwide to this question the ex-Congressman would have poll ratings higher than Hillary Clinton’s in the Democratic Party. How do I know? I’ve taken a survey of about 50 or so of my closet gay friends and this is one of our few absolute areas of expertise. (Note: Not to mention I’ve asked almost as many straight male and females who, in my separate survey, also concur).
I mean, who do you choose to believe about global warming – Bill Nye the Science Guy and the 85-degree weather outside your window in the middle of winter, or Sarah Palin and Ted Cruz?
And that’s why of all of Aaron Schock’s public indiscretions I believe that b. is the greatest sin of all. Because if you cannot be true to yourself and be who you really are at your core – it will color ever decision and every action you take in your personal and professional life. To live dishonestly means – more often than not – to vote and to act dishonestly.
Of course, that’s only my opinion. But I am a Chair. As for Aaron Schock, at this point he doesn’t even have a seat.