racialization of American life is a fact, and no amount of griping
certainly by a lousy web columnist will change that.
Every nook and cranny of our national existence has been tainted
by race; no area that I can think of, at the moment
is safe. A few years ago, I wrote about a concert series of the
Baltimore Symphony Orchestra that was titled Classically Black.
This included concerts that had anything whatever to do with black
people. For example, if the Beethoven Ninth was on the program,
and the mezzo-soprano in the vocal quartet happened to be black,
that concert went into Classically Black. It was that
crude Im not talking about evenings of William Grant
Oscars, of course, were heavily racialized, as I predicted they
would be, and as anyone could have done. Great pressure had mounted
to crown Halle Berry and Denzel Washington (although Will Smith,
another Best Actor nominee, was curiously forgotten except
to the extent that there was concern that he and Washington would
cancel each other out). Its hard enough to live
a life as a single human being; its staggeringly hard to bear
the burden of Race.
was hard, to be sure, for the other nominees the non-black
nominees as well. I predicted that there would be booing
if either Berry or Washington lost. Booing in the hall. Since they
both duly won, we will never know. Imagine, though, the guilt that
a white winner would have had to bear: My victory has deprived Berry
or Washington no, all American blacks of their rightful
moment. (Again, would go the implication.)
identification of herself with her race or rather, with her
fathers race (her mother is white) was complete. When
she had gone on too long, and someone or some mechanism
was obviously trying to get her to wrap up, she cried, No,
74 years! meaning that she was the first black woman
to win Best Actress in Oscar history. She clearly linked herself
to racial pioneers in the past. Yet one of the things that the racial
pioneers had in common was immense dignity: Their dignity, in fact,
was crucial to their success. They were not emotionalist wrecks.
This may shock
Halle Berry, but I speaking for myself do not view
her as a black woman, as a racial emblem. I view her as someone
lucky enough to be one of the most bodaciously beautiful babes on
earth. If she thinks shes disadvantaged . . . I will show
her a little disadvantage.
In a documentary-montage
devoted to Sidney Poitier who received an honorary award
only black actors, directors, etc., spoke. One of them
I think it was Halle Berry, actually said at the end, Sidney
Poitier is not just an African-American treasure, he is an American
Well, if thats
true, why have only black Americans in the film?
To cry against
the extreme racialization of our national life is futile
one might as well cry against the sunrise (or taxes, or death).
And to want to utter such a cry is not to deny the importance
of race in the American saga. But, gosh, it does rather spoil things,
and it does get rather tiresome.
to say, Oscar hostess Whoopi Goldberg did an Ashcroft joke or two.
Wrapping a cloth around an Oscar statuette, she said (something
like), John Ashcroft insisted we do this.
The idea is
fixed, you see, that the attorney general ordered the draping of
a half-nude statue in the Great Hall of the Justice Department.
The media have spread it around and not just ABC, which started
the story, but David Letterman and so on. Everyone believes it.
It is ingrained already in our culture and in our
But it just
isnt so. An advance woman in the Justice Department bought
a standard pipe-and-drape blue backdrop for press conferences
and the like. Such a backdrop is said to make for better visuals,
as they say in the TV business. The advance woman thought it would
wiser to buy the thing rather than rent it every time.
And the word
got out in a typically twisted and nasty way that
Ashcroft, intolerable and intolerant Christian prude that he is,
ordered the covering up of a breast, which offended him. As I wrote
in a piece for the last NR Ashcroft with Horns
this story, though untrue, is unkillable. It will live forever.
It has entered the bloodstream. Ashcroft will forever be the boob
who draped the boob even though the charge is completely
The Oscar people
boast of having a billion viewers (which is preposterous, of course)
and now all of them have imbibed the Myth of Ashcroft. Too
attorney general of the United States is nothing compared
with being able to host the Oscars, and disseminate cherished left-liberal
to race for a moment: How miserable it must be not to know
to be unsure whether you got something on the merits
or because of race. Or did not get something on the merits
or because of race. It may not be what the old Swedish sociologist
had in mind, but this is the American dilemma, now.
usual, the most pro-American moment in the Oscars came from a foreigner,
as is probably appropriate. Julian Fellowes, the Englishman winning
for his (marvelous) Gosford Park screenplay, said, I
want to thank the Academy and all of you for your tradition of kindness
to foreigners like myself. [He must not know that the word foreigner
has become verboten in PC America. He should have said, an
international person like myself.] I think you must be the
most generous nation on earth. Thank you very much, and God bless
statement reminded me of another award-ceremony moment one
that was perhaps the most astounding I can remember. It occurred
at the Tonys a couple of years ago, and it came courtesy of the
British actor Roy Dotrice, who won for A Moon for the Misbegotten.
Dotrice got up there and said so help me; I have just looked
it up I was in a German prisoner-of-war camp, and it
was there that I had my first contact with Americans. I found that
they had a unique ability: the ability not to envy, but to applaud
other peoples successes. And it was then that I fell in love
with Americans and America, and that love affair has gone on through
the years. I would like to think that it is epitomized by this gift
from you tonight, which I would like to think of as a token of mutual
affection. I hope you will allow me to share whatever talent I have
with you in the years to come in this country this wonderful
country. God bless America.
I almost fell off my chair when I heard this, and I immediately
editorialized about it. I can only say again No, God
bless you, Roy Dotrice.
of my great failings in life is that I have never perceived the
greatness the wit, the intelligence, the brilliance
of Woody Allen. I have tried to like him; I have just never been
able to see what all the fuss is about.
pleased to report that I thought his few minutes at the Oscars were
delightful: funny, canny, pitch-perfect. I enjoyed his little monologue
more than I ever have any of his movies.
Oh, this gives
me an opportunity (and I know you know how Im prone to jumping
around) to air one of my favorite weird facts: that André
Previn is Woody Allens father-in-law.
joke about tragedy, but . . .
the Oscars, we heard a lot about 9/11 victims, grieving
but very little about the war. In fact, almost nothing.
Which was bizarre,
given that this nation is engaged in a worldwide war, meant to protect
us from terrorism, and from weapons of mass destruction, such as
those that Saddam Hussein is busy developing.
that, at the end of the evening, Whoopi Goldberg paid tribute to
the firemen and policemen who fell on Sept. 11. It is perfectly
politically correct to honor these men.
But did you
notice? Not a word about the soldiers who are fighting and dying
for us overseas fighting and dying to protect our behinds,
so that we dont have to.
One gets the
sense that it would not have been politically correct for the hostess
of the Academy Awards ceremony to hail and thank those men.
I hope I am
wrong. But I doubt it.
The New York Times Magazine yesterday, Frank Bruni had an
interesting piece on the actresses Kathleen Turner and Alicia Silverstone.
(We are in a Frank Bruni Moment, by the way: Not only does he have
a successful book on the George W. Bush campaign out, he had two
pieces in the Times yesterday: this one on the blond chicks,
and a review of David Brocks new book which is a whole
nother Impromptus, by the way.)
What are Turner
and Silverstone doing? (By the way, isnt Silverstone
a peculiar name?) (By the way: Forgive all the by the ways.)
They are starring in a theatrical version of The Graduate.
Turner, as Mrs. Robinson, is showing herself in the altogether (where
was she when I was interested in her?); Silverstone is not, I gather.
Why do I mention
this article? For one reason, only. Bruni describes these women
now turned to the stage as onetime screen sensations.
That is accurate. And then I read that Alicia Silverstone is 25
Sort of sad.
Silverstone, as you may have read, is a mega-vegan and no
matter how screwed up she may be (and no matter how pristine her
innards may be), shes still cute as all get-out. Im
very sorry that she allowed all those who knocked her for not remaining
twelve-year-old thin to turn her into a body nut.
Collins is old-fashioned in many ways, and one of those ways is
that she continues to call herself an actress
not an actor, but an actress. All the cool
actresses, of course, insist on referring to themselves as actors.
(Whoopi Goldberg is one such performer; Julia Roberts is another.
Actress has become insulting to them, which is perverse.)
Did you know
that Collins can write (and, yes, Im talkin Joan here,
not Judy)? You can read her from time to time in The (London)
Spectator, and she offers a wonderful combination of tartness,
insider knowledge, and esprit. If you doubt me and,
if so, how dare you go to
the Spectator website and do a little searching.
bit of mail. A reader writes, apropos of yesterdays Impromptus,
It almost sounds as if shakedown artist Jesse Jackson and
his rent-a-riot crowd were at the U.N. summit chanting,
No money, no peace! Poverty and Israel are convenient
covers for the determination of fanatics to wage war on those who
do not think like them. No amount of money will fix that.
from another reader: I have a recurring thought every time
I hear somebody, usually on the left, say that we need to drop missile
defense because we havent achieved it yet. Theyll go
on and on about how difficult it will be to stop an incoming missile,
and theyll imply that the military has falsified test results
and so on. I think, Okay, by that logic, we might as well
stop trying to find a cure for AIDS. We havent found one yet,
so obviously we never will its an impossible situation.
Thats probably really uncharitable of me, and maybe a little
bit homophobic, but I guess my mind goes straight to
something the Left may understand.
a word from California governor Gray Davis. He blasted his new Republican
opponent, Bill Simon Jr., as pro-life, pro-gun, pro-voucher,
pro-a crazy deregulation scheme, and pro-privatization.
Are you as
amazed as I am? That a pro-choice person referred to
an anti-abortion (or anti-choice) person as pro-life?
A breakthrough, perhaps.