by Steve Finefrock, founder Hollywood Conservative Forum
Charlton Heston must be weeping in his grave, as he spins in rage, and disappointment. That is, if certain representations made to me by his onetime publicist are true. A sad announcement is the capstone of that lingering denouement of a ‘relationship’ with a colorful HWD player.
It began with Dennis Prager interviewing an author of a summer 2001 Psychology Today article on the ‘frustration’ of being surrounded by endless, tempting beauty! Imagine having so much eye-candy serving one’s I-candy ego, that you just can’t settle on which woman to seek and acquire! The article was based on serious research by esteemed psychology professors, and ‘authored’ by a man whose HWD life epitomized that research.
A query letter led to a phone call from the publicist and soon I became acquainted with Michael Levine, a onetime facilitator of fame to Charlton Heston, whom he often told me had been both a client and a continuing friend. Heston was a periodic ‘attaboy’ communicator with my nascent effort to find a Moses for a Movement of HWD conservatives. I never met him, or talked with him, but received a few handwritten notes of encouragement, one noting his distraction with NRA responsibilities, thus he could not take an active role in my dream of coalescing conservative creatives.
Who can argue with that distraction! Not long after 9-11, two late-night phone calls rousted me at home on consecutive nights, one from longtime rightwinger Jay Bernstein, the Manager to the Stars in the 70s, whose career was on the wane well before that week. The ‘doppelganger’ phone call was eerily like that from Jay: lamenting the insanity of HWD, even as the smoke was clearing, that insisted the Bush team were vile and America was grossly flawed.
Both chats were lengthy, and mostly one-sided: I should have sent a therapy bill for listening to each caller ranting about the lefty hate by HWD for America, despite the obvious nationwide change in the zeitgeist. Both observed that it was wee little me who was the only person each could entrust with these feelings. Jay’s career was essentially kaput, but he hoped for a future turnaround. The doppelganger was Levine, whose PR career was still blossoming as a colorful, creative HWD publicist – who’d once been a protégé of Bernstein.
Each found only one person in thick rolodex pages who would listen and agree to a conservative view of national security realizations not grasped by the rest of the entertainment world each served. And which could hurt them if such views were known. At the time, I rented a single furnished room with three-quarter bath on the fringe of Koreatown: it was wee little me which the once-powerful and currently powerful figure sought in late-night phone chats, to unload such anxieties, and disdain the town where they sought fame and fortune.
Some years passed, Heston’s public persona retreated shortly after Michael Moore made mincemeat out of Levine’s ‘friend’ in a documentary that achieved new lows in Moore’s boorish film methods. Levine showed moxie for certain defense issues, as a partial conservative, touting his friendship with Heston and his admiration for Reagan. Not much more could be expected for my ‘movement’ to collect conservatives into a ‘club’ in HWD, for Levine had to traipse among the leftish crowd that was his bread and butter.
Notable among the Levines of the PR world is their reluctance to reveal current clients: their charges want the world to believe all that media fascination with their lives and careers Just Happens! In fact, rarely does any such ‘branding’ Just Happen – it’s the erstwhile effort of many methods, relentlessly sought by a professional PR champion to achieve public-appearance bookings and put together successful media events, for author or actor or other would-be public person.
Thus, Levine never told of any current clients, save for Dick Morris – one sleazy character who’s on the PNG list of all conservative consultants of any merit. PNG is ‘persona non grata’ – a list common to the guard kiosks of all the HWD studios, informing security staffs of which disdained or disgraced persons may not be allowed on the lot under any circumstance. So, knowing a Levine client of current paying status was not to be sought, save for the questionable Morris.
A sidebar: a brief e-mail communication was achieved by me with Morris some years ago, comprising six or so exchanges, one noting to him his PNG status with his onetime fellows on the right. He replied that he hoped to one day earn re-entry into that club. WRONGO, was my retort, and it still stands. Thus, the one current public client of Levine’s to my knowledge.
Until this week.
The shock of the month was reading Levine’s bragging announcement that his firm has signed its newest client: MICHAEL MOORE. A noteworthy preface is that Levine has often said to me that he’s eternally irritated by folks who don’t show gratitude and loyalty. Apparently the theme doesn’t apply to a dead victim of Alzheimer’s, whose character was assaulted by Moore’s ‘interview’ of Heston shortly before the actor’s retreat from public view.
A public announcement, of signing a new, current client of reprehensible irresponsibility – Michael Moore! The shock and awesome disappointment generated scathing e-mail and phone alerts to the conservatives in my own rolodex who’d often wondered why I was an advocate of Levine – oh, he’s OK, I often insisted.
One common acquaintance with Levine [introduced by me four years ago] replied to my APB, that I just don’t understand the full story and should learn all the ‘facts’ before going on a tirade; and another tells me that Moore is providing “Levine a bailout” – without any specifics.
Who knows. Levine hasn’t communicated with me in over eighteen months, apparently figuring I’m ‘dead’ in professional terms. That mistake has been made by others, including some erstwhile ‘fellows’ on the right with egos almost as gargantuan as Levine’s. Someday I will relish giving my own Mark Twain refrain on that issue – but I digress.
Recently, one of those assuming that this particular ‘Twain’ is dead published another writer’s article on John Wayne’s life’s work, ending with his last character’s motto:
I won’t be wronged. I won’t be insulted. I won’t be laid a-hand on. I don’t do these things to other people, and I require the same from them.
Of course, Wayne’s John Book brandished a sidearm and quick Winchester to back up his thematic statement, and died heroically at the end of that last masterpiece. But the theme struck a resonant chord when I first heard it, and forever since, as it serves as the best statement of the Good American, the Decent Human, that ever was said. Better than the Golden Rule: for it asserts that one is entitled to require the same of others as one practices it himself.
The Social Contract – stated many times in history by clever philosophers and leaders. Often touted, rarely applied. Many utter such thoughts, but few abide by them. Many display in their actions the philosophy of Oscar Wilde, who said he believed in duty, responsibility and loyalty – FOR THE OTHER PERSON!
Clearly there is a PNG list in several desk drawers, with my name upon them; Levine has often urged courage and speaking truth-to-power, and such words must have put me on his PNG listing, especially after a personal e-mail on the Moore matter, followed a phone call to his assistant to assure it had been noted. Ditto with others, who claim they believe such a motto, so long as it is not a truth which discomforts the Levine & Co. cabal. As John Book was ambushed by a petty bartender at the coda of “The Shootist” so might be a personal fate for little ole me, once in Koreatown, listening to Levine’s lamentations and Bernstein’s bellowing.
And now in Okie-Stan, watching the Movement take root, finding its Moses, as Heston’s mind faded and his body failed and now his good ‘friend’ has taken an embrace of Michael Moore as his newest professional best-friend.
The person most the Moses of the now burgeoning movement has arisen, and his assistant once e-mailed me, Why can’t everyone just get along? Hmmm, maybe Book had it right, as did Moses, and everyone in between who tried to make something happen. Quoting Barry Fitzgerald in another Wayne classic, “The Quiet Man” – “It’s positively Homeric.”
Looks like Michael Moore won this round. My question is, how many bagsful of thirty pieces of silver are being proffered as Levine’s bailout? Can Levine bring himself to visit Heston’s grave? How does his ‘longtime friend’ Dennis Prager view this association with Heston’s basher?
Ironically, on Heston’s death, CNN’s production assistant for Campbell Brown attempted to book me to speak at their studio, regarding the HWD conservative movement’s loss at Heston’s passing. Unable to appear, I promptly suggested a substitute representative of Heston’s role as a HWD conservative: Michael Levine. The timing failed, so they booked some lesser figure. But my First Thought was for someone I believed to be faithful to the Heston friendship.
Which brings another conservative adage, from our godmother, Clare Booth Luce:
NO GOOD DEED GOES UNPUNISHED.
copyright 2009 Steve Finefrock
Finefrock is founder of Hollywood Forum, a speaker-bureau and panel-discussion vehicle to “Bring the Potomac to the Palisades” on issues that overlap politics and culture with the Hollywood film-TV influence on such national concerns. His scripts have addressed politics [including a TV series pilot/bible package about state political combat, called “A State of the Union”], hazardous materials [from twelve years in emergency management, including six years managing FEMA’s Superfund curriculum for hazmat], terrorism, equestrian reincarnation, serial murderer killing journalists in the nation’s capitol, and fantasy about time-wasters. Finefrock is proprietor of PhoneBooth: The Smallest Space in Hollywood…