SAINT PAUL—On Monday night, Internet-guru turned right-wing messiah Andrew Breitbart arrived at the National Review party wearing jeans, a lime green, open-collar button-down and the beginning of a beard. For now, his wavy gray locks were tucked behind his ears.
Waiting in line for a beer, Mr. Breitbart said that at this point he was completely comfortable with his conservative transformation.
“The only thing that still bothers me is the dearth of artists in our party,” he said, looking around the room. He was the only one not wearing a blazer.
Two months ago, he began writing a column called “Big Hollywood” in the Conservative Beltway newspaper The Washington Times, which, among other things, addresses that dearth and more specifically the oppression of artists in entertainment industry whose views don’t conform to the “Hollywood left.”
His eponymous news aggregate site, breitbart.com, which gets an incredible amount of traffic – largely because many of the links on the Drudge Report wind up there – will soon add a new function, breitbart.com/bighollywood. It is his hope that members of the underground conservative movement in Hollywood will embrace it as a platform to vent their frustrations with the entertainment industry and voice their true opinions once and for all.
So, do the Republicans have more celebrity glamor than they know? And during a convention that tried so hard to transmit the message that Hollywood and the media (read: Democrats) are hostile to smalltown America (read: Republicans), isn’t Mr. Breitbart’s mission a little marginal?
“I’m excited to know that there are people that have been so intimidated deep into the closet that they exist out there to find out that singers and songwriters and writers and directors that I’ve long admired are holed up somewhere with their brothers and their sisters and a couple other people in the industry that quietly share their point of view,” he said.
His friends had finally gotten Mr. Breitbart to leave the National Review party, which was at members-only club in downtown St. Paul and where despite his self-proclaimed outsider status Mr. Breitbart seemed to know half the room. Next stop: the National Journal party in Minneapolis.
“It’s a really exciting thing to find out that they exist,” he continued. “And to then take on those people that created an environment that you had to be that hidden about your point of view in this country. You know this is America and to find out that the artists that don’t reflect the hard left are intimidated. There’s a parallel, and absolute parallel in American academic institutions. Try and find a conservative on a college campus. Try and find somebody who’s read Hayek on a college campus. There are provably false political tracks that are taught to this day. Marx, you know, to this day is read 100 to 1 over Adam Smith if that. So Academia and Hollywood, wherever you get the hard left you get totalitarianism, and wherever you get that there’s a great romance in the rebellion against it.”
He is not a big art guy – he and his wife did the Louvre in running shoes – but he does have a “solidarity wall” of rebellion art in the home they share in Westwood. “Whether it be anti-Castro art, all art that has been held down in totalitarian society or movements.” He lost track of his point. “I’m Mr. A.D.D.,” he said.
He allowed that his manic brain likely had something to do with his profound and immediate connection to the Internet when he first discovered it 15 years ago. He is known to be an early collaborator with Matt Drudge, and on some level he continues to work with him though he does not like to detail the exact mechanics of the arrangement, and a former collaborator with Arianna Huffington, about which he is similarly cryptic.
“I would love to romanticize it,” he says of his Internet bonafides. “I was at the right place at the right time. If I had been a lawyer or an accountant or any of these other things, I wouldn’t have had the free time and the energy to devote to what was in hindsight the beginning of a new era. I had nothing better to do. And what it was is that it became my unified field theory on everything. I’m A.D.D., it’s perfect for my brain.”
He has spent the last four years branding himself, and it was his brand that he was in St. Paul to represent. That and his cause, shaking up the “totalitarian” Hollywood left.
“To a person, when you start talking to these people. It’s amazing to see how few of them can even answer the contradictions that are inherent in their lifestyle. Not a single one. I almost admire it. I almost like the juxtaposition. It’s almost funny, the excesses of capitalism are so great that we can afford to have people caught up in such a bubble of contradiction…
“These people are like, ‘Hey more coke, more ecstasy, more this’ – these are the crass consumers that they themselves mock. And you go into a conservative party, the pro-capitalist people, the ones that are working, and they’re very moderate with their intake. I would argue that their behavior is more sustainable. Their ecosystem is more balanced.”
What has the reaction in L.A. been to Big Hollywood? His columns have addressed such topics as an active blacklist against anyone who publicly breaks from the party line.
“Nobody in L.A. knows that I do that,” he said. “You’re the only person that I know outside out of the conservative Hollywood crowd that I know or the D.C. crowd that would even think of reading what I have to write about. I don’t think my liberal friends would even indulge reading it, I don’t think they want to hear what I have to say.”
He said that while the stated premise of the column is to write about the nexus between politics and the entertainment industry, he is treading lightly on the pop culture stuff. He hasn’t been paying much attention for the last 15 years. Suffice it to say though that in that time he believes he has developed a keen understanding of the celebrity mind.
Earlier that day, he had watched as actress Wendy Malick made her way through the convention floor.
“I know her from 50 plus years ago, she played Brian Benben’s girlfriend on Dream On, OK, ‘cause I loved that show. But now she’s in tons of other stuff. And she had an entourage and she was walking through the convention with maybe 15 people following her – she was tall, thin, beautiful. And she was obviously a liberal, and you could tell that she was there as a member of the Creative Coalition and that she was indulging in an anthropological experiment. Like who are these freaks? Who are these crazy people? I bet you her mind can’t get around the idea that these people exist, thinks that they’re weirder than Aborigines living in her own outer territories.
”And that’s what it feels like in L.A. They don’t even want to listen to you, they don’t even want to have a conversation about a single – they’re uninteresting! They’re so uninteresting. I’m telling you if you were ever to go to a dinner party with some of these people, and trust me I’ve been there with the best of the best, the degree to which they’re uninteresting would shock the average American. It’s like they’ve scanned the DailyKos, they’ve gotten their conspiracy theory – I mean they’re the new conservatives” – he chuckled – “they really are.”
Awhile back there had been a dinner party at Arianna’s house. Meg Ryan, John Cusak, Nora Ephoron and David Geffen were there. Mr. Geffen had recently seen a documentary about Walmart. He was aghast at what an “atrocious” company it was.
“I guarantee you he has not applied his philosophy, his hatred towards a policy of ‘we won’t sell our stuff at Walmart because they don’t pay their employees $16.95 an hour or allow for unions.
“They throw around the term reactionary so lightly. But they’re the most reactionary people in the world – I’m telling you if I were single, I’m so cynical and I’m like the typical guy, if any of them were just lying there like the Maggie Gyllenhaals of the world, I wouldn’t. I’m like, ‘No!’ It would almost disgust me, because they couldn’t be more uninteresting if they tried.
“Tonight I talked to the Republican in Massachusetts that cast the final vote that allowed for gay marriage to happen, and to talk to him, and the thought process that he went through, and how proud he was and how his wife texted him five minutes before to say I’m so proud of you. And I’m sitting there and there’s a Republican next to him who’s worked for him as his legislative aide and this guy said, ‘Yeah and I was the one who did the signature drive that raised 315,000 signatures against what he was trying to do.’ OK? And there sitting they’re and they’re friendly with each other. And they’re like this” – he puts his fists together – “over something that’s so tectonic.”
“This is why I feel so comfortable in the conservative movement,” said Mr. Breitbart, who is 39, and a father of four children. “People are willing to agree to disagree. They’re willing to disagree on the fundamental issues of our time, argue about them, fight against each other and at the end of the day say, ‘Okay well we agree about these things and we disagree about these things.’ Compare that to the Hollywood left, they were on the forefront of dethroning Joseph Lieberman as the conscience of the senate. In 2000 he was the conscience of the senate and for disagreeing on one thing, he could not be more uniformly reviled by this group of people.
“I’m telling you they’re uninteresting, they’re vicious, they’re vitriolic, they’re really, really not good people. I’m willing to say that on the record. You could probe them scientifically and anthropologically and prove that they’re not good people. They’re not acting on sound judgement, and what they’ve done to those people that disagree with them, whether they be Leiberman democrats or Scoop Jackson liberals, whether they’re Blue Dog democrats – they’ve been shut out of the party as these people do cocaine off of everybody’s buttocks and tell everybody that they need to create a sustainable future. The level of hypocrisy, I go, I’ve seen Fellini movies where I feel like I’m watching Little House on the Prairie compared to these people.”
And so he’s decided to launch this Web site – it should be up sometime this week, he says – where he hopes to get conservative members of the entertainment industry to write a la Huffington Post. Though Mr. Breitbart is not comfortable with that comparison.
“Everything I do is amorophous,” he explained. We were in the taxi now. “I don’t have a set goal of saying like, ‘Jean-Claude Van Damme and Donny Osmond are going to be blogging on my site and you’ve got to come in.’ I just want to create a healthy environment where those brave conservative thinkers, writers, ones that are comfortable being out can exchange ideas. Because I guarantee you that the bigwigs will be reading it, and will be hoping that it grows into something that causes people to go, ‘Oh I finally realized I wasn’t alone, I wasn’t going crazy.’”
His musician friend Jude Christodal was in the backseat. He had come to town follow on Mr. Breitbart’s coattails and hopefully mingle with conservative pundits. Later, at the National Journal party he told me that he was going to be blogging on the new site.
“To be a conservative in Hollywood is not something that you can really do and maintain a career,” said the singer songwriter – he performs under the name Jude. His greatest mainstream success was a CD that was produced by Starbucks. “The only people that really do it are at a level of success that there’s no blowback for them, well there’s blowback but they can survive it.” Jude’s decision to come out the proverbial closet was motivated in part by his desire for a career change. “So there’s a lack of intellectual diversity in conversation because people don’t admit it.”
Earlier this year he met Mr. Breitbart who told him of an underground conservative support system in L.A. It sounded like a scene worth checking out.
“It’s the truth,” he said, loading up a plateful of hors d’oeuvres. He said he was reluctant to get into specifics. “There are conservatives in Hollywood that are closeted to the degree that it’s depressing. It’s one of those things that you can’t prove it – and people like to point the finger and say oh you’re whining — but it’s the truth, people really lose work over it.”
“Andrew’s nexus is that he knows people in Hollywood and he knows people in DC and in each place he’s kind of like a celebrity because people in Hollywood who are kind of like quietly political, meaning they’re on the right, are fascinated with him because he knows all these media pundits that we’ve been reading quietly, and he actually knows them! It’s incredible! And in D.C., he goes there and he’s Mr. Hollywood.”
Mr. Breitbart strode up. He had been talking to Republican Congressman Eric Cantor and publisher David Bradley, who had been thrilled to finally put a name to a face. “You’re Andrew Breitbart?” he exclaimed when introduced. I told the walking legend that Jude had just been talking about his celebrity status. He shuddered a bit, and joked that if anything he was more akin to a porn star.
Mr. Breitbart grew up in Los Angeles. His father owned a restaurant, mom was a bank executive. At Brentwood High School he watched administration types socialize with certain parents in the entertainment industry. He got C’s, played baseball, was a class clown, but hung out with the smart kids. He always suspected that school had been against him, a conspiracy theory that was eventually confirmed by a friend’s mom who confessed to him that the principal had called her into his office to turn her against the young Breitbart. This, he says, was the beginning of a lifelong crusade against bullies.
“Aren’t you the Hollywood guy,” said Williamson Evers, assistant secretary for the Office of Planning, Evaluation and Policy Development at the Department of Education. We had finally arrived at Weekly Standard party which was, Mr. Breitbart agreed, pretty Hollywood in its excess. Four floors, every kind of booze, flamenco dancers, a cigar balcony.
His current crusade is bigger than the industry, indeed he would argue that is the biggest story of our time, one so hot reporters don’t have the stones to touch it. This is a totalitarian leadership in Hollywood that “allows for a very parochial political sensibility in this town to be propagated around the world. And people just assume, well that’s Hollywood, that’s the voice of the American people. And to find out that people disagree with that point of view, that Hollywood acts like a bully, and asserts its political power not through any sort of electorate but through itself and its own power. And says, ‘This is who we are. This is what we stand for. These are the good people. These are the bad people. To hell with Red states, to tell with anyone who disagrees.’ And I just want to send a message to the rest of the country that something’s been at play for the last 40 years. That the same thugs and bullies that made it so that the left is dominant and monolithic on the college campuses, did the exact same thing to Hollywood, that it’s coordinated, that the likes of Jane Fonda, you know, when she was shunned by a lot of the country for what she did in Vietnam was embraced and celebrated in Hollywood …”
Someone tugged on his shirt. “Have you had a chance to take a shower yet?” joked Steve McEveety, who is Mel Gibson’s producing partner. Mr. Breitbart had got in early that morning after spending a weekend at his hippy brother-in-law’s wedding in Santa Cruz. He had indeed showered. He said that McEveety was the kind of person he hoped would be writing for the site.
He said he doesn’t see this Web site as his be-all-and-end-all moment on the Web. And yet, the reasons for doing the new Web site keep tripping off his tongue.“The actors have adopted a political sensibility that’s European leftist. So what’s American about that? … What’s fundamentally American about that? Nobody voted on that. Yet these people live here and then the lecture the American people on how politics should be done. A lot of people in Hollywood think, ‘Wait a second. How did this happen? It happened without anybody talking about it or voting on it. It just happened.’ And I think that if we write about it and reflect upon it and we show people that the water’s warm – it doesn’t matter if you’re rich or poor, if you’re known or not known in the industry. So people feel comfortable talking about what they really think. I think it’s gonna help the industry. There’s a reason why you have prequels of sequels of Freaky Friday. It’s because the competition of ideas has been limited. Everybody’s going how do I get that guy to sign me to a million dollar contract? What does he want me to think? That guy in that office, all I know is he’s a big Clinton guy, he’s a big Obama guy. So people are crafting the product to try and sate the opinion makers. Creativity is dying! Hollywood is fundamentally uninteresting,” he said.
“There was something exciting about the entertainment industry back in the 70s and 60s, there was a vitality – it’s dead now. It’s dead! They go to narrow places like Sundance and San Sebastian and Cannes, in order to convince themselves that they’re doing great things that they’re making heroic stances on subjects. And it’s like not only do I want to change the political culture in that town I want to create the creative culture. I want there to be, ‘Hey you remember you saw that movie? That’s interesting because the movie contradicts this movie.’ I want there to be excitement. And I gotta be honest with you there’s more intellectual vigor in the conservative movement right now. There are more idea makers, there are more Bobby Jindals out there that are saying ‘You know, let’s try and find a new way.’ There are more Dennis Millers, more Christopher Hitchenses who are coming to this side going, ‘Huh.’”
“[The Hollywood left] is a stale group of people who are recycling the same old bad ideas that don’t work. Why else would those people go to the stinky side? Why else would they go there, unless there was a there there?
“[Conservatives in Hollywood are] the last people – where it’s like ‘You can come out. The war’s over. We’re not fighting the Japanese anymore; you can come off the island.’ Those people are fighting a battle against leftists who I think are on their last breath.”
He estimates that about 50 percent of his rapidly expanding group of like-minded friends got in touch with him after reading his book, Hollywood, Interrupted. Of course, the movement is not exclusively entertainment industry people.
“I’m not actively seeking out entertainment industry people so I can be a quality star fucker of the Republican kind,” he said. “It’s not my goal. If I wanted to be a star fucker I’d be a leftist. But there’s nothing I want more than to coalesce firepower, strength, talent, confidence behind a deferring set of ideals and say, ‘OK, debate.’
“This is a typical leftist construct: Al Gore. Global warming. The debate’s over.”
He said that so far the media has not figured out what to make of him, but that there was nothing mysterious or ambiguous about his cause. He wants decency to prevail.
“My father-in-law’s mother committed suicide in the great depression. He said to me, ‘Movies saved me, every week I would see heroes winning and I thought I could be that.’ That’s a pretty powerful argument.”
“Why do you think people come to the United States of America? Are people smuggling the constitution under their pillow and reading it at night in Bangladesh? Or are they seeing things in American film? A movie could have a direct message with Maggie Gyllenhaal and the Gyllenhaal triumvirate of hate that says that America is horrible, and yet that message is overwhelmed by the proliferation of excess on the screen. They’re like ‘Did you see there were four different types of orange juice on the table? I’d rather go to that place where those people are complaining about how badly they have it.’ You know it’s like I think that people read between the lines, that America, despite the fact that our Hollywood class says ‘It sucks here. It’s horrible.’ People see it on the screen and go, ‘No it doesn’t. Look at all that shit you have! It’s so good there, I want a piece of it.’”
Of his own movement, he’s been amazed to see the egalitarianism in its ranks, high level people and low level people conversing, commiserating, plotting as one.
“I’m not trying to create a utopia in any sense or saying that these people are at the forefront of creating a better society but I’m just telling you that I know for a fact that the Hollywood left is scared about this. I think they hate the idea that it’s a mystery, that for every 10 people that are open there are a 100 that aren’t open about and that they know that we’re meeting each other that we’re seeking each other out, we’re seeking to find common cause with people outside of the industry in order to change the situation.”
He theorized that the average Hollywood player is getting nervous, that he looks around and thinks “is my assistant one of them? I don’t think they feel as comfortable.”
“I think they feel like their misbehavior their Joel Silver-esque tantrums that a lot of the time veer into the political realm, that we’re listening to you, and we’re going to report back to one another to say that we’re dealing with a totalitarian freak here, people are going to catch wind of this and eventually that persons chickens will come home to roost.”
He said that primarily these underground Hollywood nonconformists believe in and can all agree on at the dinner table or over cocktails at secret locations is American exceptionalism. “They think that this is a country that’s worth defending,” he relayed, “whose values are worth spreading, especially against Western European appeasement and ascendant radical Islam.”
“If America doesn’t hold strong, who else is going to stand up to the bullies? And that’s what these people think, they’re saying, ‘That’s what I got into this business to be a hero, I got into this business be a John Wayne but they don’t want John Waynes anymore.’”
A friend recently made the point that American film now goes to Australia to find its heroes, because the hero has been sucked out of the American actor.
“These people [the as of yet closeted conservatives] want they want to reconnect Hollywood to its initial successes. Not this sort of dark inverted, moral system, that expresses the darkness of these peoples’ spirits. They’re really dark people. They’re conflicted people and they want us to see how conflicted they are.”
He cites Woody Allen as an example.
“He’s a joyless son of bitch who jerks off to daughter-figures while he’s filming with the other hand. I go, it’s sick and you get over it. But that is being embraced over and over in Hollywood right now, the darker you can get the more cynical you can get. I’m like please explain to me how John Cusak still has a career, the guy hasn’t had a successful film in 30 years since he raised his ghetto blaster to try and win over Ione Skye. And because this guy indulges Hollywood with his democratic politics and with anti-war message and with his flirting with the Hollywood left the powers that be throw him coin. Same with Ben Affleck, these are guys who are running for office, instead of being a congressman they want to be leading men.”
He would love nothing more than to see the day when those guys admit that they came into town, read the tea leaves, figured out what they had to do to get hired and realized that feigning being a leftist was the quickest way to do it. Man that would be some sweet justice!
“That to me is how it’s done,” said Mr. Breitbart. “You just go out there and go, ‘Yeah, alright. Where’s the Creative Coalition party? Let’s go have some mojitos!’”
As I was leaving, D.C. insider and television producer Tammy Haddad caught my attention to confide, “He’s one of the 10 most important people in the media who nobody’s ever met.”
Care for an introduction, Mr. Spielberg?