s we move inexorably closer to The Son of the Mother of All Wars, one question has weighed heavily on the minds of all Americans; "I wonder what Barbra Streisand thinks about all this?"
At last that question has been answered.
I haven't done a scientific search, but by my informal count over the past week there have been roughly 411 stories in the major news media about Barbra Streisand's courageous stand denouncing President Bush's Iraq policy. "Streisand Denounces Bush!" followed by "Streisand Explains Misspellings In Her Denouncement Of Bush!" followed by "Streisand Denounces Bush Again!" Clearly there is something irresistibly newsworthy about a major Hollywood star and lifetime supporter of the Democratic party publicly voicing her disagreement with the policies of a Republican administration. Stop the presses!
On the other hand, the nation's top movie star, Tom Cruise, and top movie director, Steven Spielberg the elite of the Hollywood elite, both with impeccable liberal credentials, publicly state their full support for President Bush's Iraq policy and it's strictly a one-day story.
Of course when it comes to big-time celebrities publicly breaking with the official Screen Actors Guild Streisand Approved Position ("SAG SAP" for short), Cruise and Spielberg have exhibited real profiles in courage. When you're in show business, it ain't easy to stray from the party line. The peer-group pressure is immense. Think about it; there are 98,000 actors in the Screen Actors Guild. 97, 996 of them have imbedded in their DNA a core set of inalienable truths they hold to be self evident, beginning with the absolute belief that Alger Hiss was innocent (and even if he was guilty which he wasn't! hey, he meant well).
The remaining four actors are Arnold Schwarzenegger, Pat Sajak, Patricia Heaton, and me.
I'm an actor. In New York. I'm also a Republican. For years I was in the closet about my political beliefs a dark, scary closet filled with shame and back issues of Policy Review. To be a closet Republican in New York show business means spending a lot of time staring at your shoes, giggling nervously, and changing the subject. It means grinding your teeth, biting your lip, and holding your tongue often simultaneously. It means never having to say you're sorry (because nobody knows you're a Republican).
New York City is a liberal town. But there's no liberals like Show-Business Liberals (like no liberals I know). Not just the obvious characters you see slapping on the old red ribbon and heading downtown to The Performer's Black Box Experimental Theater for a deconstructionist production of Waiting For Godot (Godot shows up and he's a lesbian) to benefit the Third Annual Free Mumia And Legalize Medicinal Crack Artists Collective. Those are the reasonable ones. I'm talking true believers, people who think the only thing wrong with Castro is he's a smoker.
It's not so much that they're intolerant of any political opinion that isn't in direct agreement with their own, it's that they literally can't conceive of such a thing. If you find yourself in a political discussion with a New York Show-Business Liberal and you should happen to voice an opinion contrary to theirs (just for fun, try this one; "Gee, maybe we should drill for oil in Alaska, I hear they got a lot of oil up there") look out. They'll sputter and shake in spasms of outraged incomprehension, building up to one glorious burst of self-righteous indignation. Then they spontaneously combust.
I know. I've been there.
One of my earliest experiences with the indignant ire of the New York Show-Business Liberal came in the mid-80s. I was young and skinny and performing with a sketch comedy troupe. One night, after a particularly successful show, we retired to the local bar to get drunk and tell each other how great we were (this is also what young, skinny actors do after a lousy show). I was flirting with one of the young, skinny actresses in the troupe and she was flirting with me. The sly innuendo and double entendres were flying briskly until she innocently asked for my thoughts on President Reagan (the question was along the lines of, "Do you think he's evil and malevolent, or the other way around?") I responded just as innocently, "Well, he was awfully good in King's Row. That was the end of the flirtation, the end of the evening, and eventually the end of the troupe.
That was the first of many such incidents. I soon realized, no matter where I went, I was surrounded. At auditions, in rehearsals, on sets, hanging out in coffee shops, wherever I went for the rest of my life, I'd be with fellow actors who view Republicans not simply as people who subscribe to the principles of a political party but as really, really awful people who subscribe to the principles of a really, really evil political party and who ought to be ashamed of themselves, if not actually tarred and feathered (or at least subjected to much glaring, glowering, tongue clucking, and eye rolling, not to mention considerable exasperated sighing and a healthy dose of sneering and smirking). I had to make a choice. I could either stand up like a man and proudly assert my beliefs, defiantly disregarding the contempt of my peers or I could keep quiet and meekly go the way of the coward, the quisling, the collaborator, shamefully hiding my convictions in the closet (with my good Republican cloth coat). Was I a man or a mouse?
To quote that great Republican Bob Hope pass the cheese. Hey, I was young and skinny and I wanted to meet girls. I went into the closet.
For the next 15 years I led a double life. No one in show business knew my shocking secret. As they railed against Reagan, I nodded weakly. As they beat around the Bush, I giggled nervously. As they fumed and flustered over that #@!&@-damned Giuliani I talked too loud and changed the subject.
The years went by and I continued my deception. Year after year I hid my dark secret from my peers. I scurried around in the shadows, keeping my little Republican thoughts to myself.
Until, one fateful day a couple of years ago, I got booked as a guest on The O'Reilly Factor on FOX News. I was there as a comedian to crack wise on Hillary's Senate run. A nice gig. I would sit one-on-one with O'Reilly and we'd review the various gaffes that had occurred in Hillary's campaign (there were a lot of them) and I'd make with the funny one liners. It would be a seven-minute segment, I had plenty of material prepared, and I knew that Bill was no big fan of Hillary so I was secure that he'd set 'em up and I'd hit 'em out. A few moments before taping my segment, O'Reilly's attractive young producer led me from the green room onto the set. I was introduced to Bill. Large guy, very poised, good suit. We chatted amiably about nothing much, we checked our hair, we briefly discussed the segment we were about to tape, the cameraman reminded me to sit up straight and...we were on. Bill was talking into the camera, introducing me, I was thinking about my first joke, Bill turned to me and....
He asked me if I was a Republican.
I was knocked for a loop. What was this? He was supposed to be setting up my Hillary jokes, not giving me the third degree! "Why do you ask?" I stammered, seeing the whole segment crashing in front of me.
"We like to know where our guests are coming from." He smiled pleasantly the way Godzilla used to smile at Tokyo.
I tried being coy. "Well Bill, I'm in show business if I answer that honestly I may never work again in this town! Heh heh." I was starting to twitch like a left-wing civil rights activist at a dwarf-tossing contest.
"Well, are you?" He wasn't going anywhere until he got an answer.
I attempted the most pathetic dodge in the history of television; "Am I a registered Republican?" He just stared at me. I swallowed hard. This was it there was no turning back. "Yes, Bill, I am a Republican".
I'd said it! On national television! Heck, international! They knew it in Cleveland, Copenhagen and Kuala Lumpur: Dave Konig is a Republican. I was out of the closet. The rest of the segment went great. I riffed on Hillary with a newfound confidence. The big story that week was that Hillary had suddenly discovered she was 1/48th Jewish. I told O'Reilly; "This is an epidemic in the Clinton White House, first Madeline Albright, now Hillary. Believe me, Bill, I've been a Jew all my life when you're a Jew you know you're a Jew! You're not just suddenly struck Jewish!" I was a free man. It felt pretty good.
I write this as a public service. I know somewhere out there in this cold, hard city there's a young boy fresh out of Yale Drama School. He's taking acting classes in the Village, performing downtown in a deconstructionist production of Death Of A Salesman (Biff's a lesbian), and getting drunk in the White Horse Tavern. I know, I've been there (well, actually, just the part about getting drunk at The White Horse). He's scared, he's lonely he's a Republican. Son, don't make the same mistake I did. Don't waste years hiding in the shadows. Be brave, be proud, be like me!
Ah, who am I kidding? My secret's still safe. After all, no self-respecting New York Show-Business Liberal actually watches the FOX News Channel.
Or reads NRO.
Comedian Dave Konig starred on Broadway in Grease! and won a New York Emmy as the co-host of Subway Q&A. He just completed his first novel Good Luck Mr. Gorsky. Konig is an NRO contributor.