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The Voodoo That They Did So Well: The Wizards Who Invented the New York Stage
by Stefan Kanfer
The Voodoo That They Did So Well: The Wizards Who Invented the New York Stage.
 
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Stefan Kanfer
Hollywood Gets It Wrong. Again.
Will self-congratulatory celebrities ever shut up?
11 April 2006

Good news: Sharon Stone was in Israel in March. That meant she wasn’t here. The blond actress, best known for abbreviated skirts and even shorter statements about George Bush—“I know I need someone in office smarter than I am to help me figure out what to do”—had traveled to the Jewish state as a guest of Shimon Peres’s Center for Peace. There, conceding that even a Hollywood star could not solve the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, Stone stated that she could use her sex, as it were, to help encourage peace efforts. After all, she added, “It’s time for women to be part of negotiations, because they have a different language. Imagine, ‘I was considering going to war, let’s discuss, let’s consider the other angles.’ ” A piquant idea, one that doesn’t seem to have occurred to the female suicide bombers. Perhaps Ms. Stone had used the wrong map and was addressing the wrong crowd.

Still, Stone is only one of a long parade of celebrities who confuse showbiz fame with political acumen. Also in March, George Clooney graciously accepted an Oscar for his performance in Syriana, and then went after critics who accused the studios of being out of touch with the average American. “We are a little bit out of touch in Hollywood every once in a while,” Clooney admitted. “I think it’s probably a good thing. We’re the ones who talked about AIDS when it wasn’t really popular.” Our industry “gave Hattie McDaniel an Oscar in 1939, when blacks were still sitting in the backs of theaters. I’m proud . . . to be a part of this community, and proud to be out of touch.”

Actually, Hollywood was and remains truly out of touch. The AIDS plague made the covers of Time and of Newsweek ten years before a major studio addressed the subject in Philadelphia. As for McDaniel: for decades, the movie industry excised portions of films that included black actors when those movies played in Dixie—though it was impossible to do so with the performer who played Mammy in Gone with the Wind, because she was too integral to the story. But an African-American woman did not win Best Actress until 2001, when Halle Berry took home an Oscar for her performance in Monster’s Ball, some 40 years after the civil rights struggle began.

Yet neither Clooney nor Stone has an exclusive on false claims or fatuity. Celluloid City is a font of such things. Here is a choice selection from the Bush era:

Jessica Lange: “It’s an embarrassing time to be an American. It really is. It’s humiliating.”

Julia Roberts: “Republicans come in the dictionary just after reptile, and just above repugnant.”

Margaret Cho: “George Bush is not Hitler. He would be if he f***ing applied himself.”

Susan Sarandon: “Let us find a way to resist fundamentalism that leads to violence—fundamentalism of all kinds, in Al Queda and within our government.”

Robert Altman: “When I see an American flag flying, it’s a joke.”

Barbra Streisand: “If ever there was a time to impeach a president, it would be now.”

One could go on . . . and on. In this time of plunging polls and negative reports still coming in about Katrina, Dubai, and Iraq, Hollywood denizens might have learned something since March 2005. That was the month a billboard went up, courtesy of a conservative group called Citizens United, showing a photo of the newly reelected President Bush, flanked by pictures of such outspoken anti-administration celebrities as Whoopie Goldberg, Chevy Chase, Michael Moore, Sean Penn, and, of course, Barbra Streisand. To their right was the line: 4 MORE YEARS. THANK YOU, HOLLYWOOD!

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même shows.

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More by Stefan Kanfer:
Summer Shorts in a Wide Range of Styles
Operatic Naiveté
Neanderthals on the Hudson
More . . .
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