It's not easy being a Republican in Hollywood, even if your brother is an A-list director and producer. That's what actor Clint Howard told attendees at a California GOP convention over the weekend.
Howard, an actor since 1961 and the younger brother of filmmaker Ron Howard, said that while he is comfortable speaking publicly about his conservatism, his advice to Republicans looking to break into the industry is to keep their political opinions to themselves, even though Hollywood liberals seldom do.
About five years ago, "I came out of the closet. In Hollywood. I certainly understand that's dangerous," said Howard, an MTV Movie Awards lifetime achievement honoree.
"If the entertainment industry should turn on me, I'd say, 'Well fine.' But for young conservatives, you may hear me speak out but let me tell you: Be careful," he said.
Howard was joined by Morgan Brittany, one of the stars of the 1980s nighttime soap opera "Dallas." The pair noted a leftward slide in the industry and an intolerance for political dissent over the decades.
"I'd go out on location with the 'Dallas' crew," she told members of the California Congress of Republicans in Valencia on Saturday. "Everybody in the van was bashing (President Reagan). I never said anything because I thought I'd lose my job. And I probably would have lost my job. I got to a point later on, after 'Dallas' was over and I had my two children, that I said, 'enough is enough. I'm not going to be silent any longer'," she said.
"If I'm silent then I'm enabling these people and I'm letting them win. They need to know that we're out there. That we're strong and that we have ideas and solutions."
The reaction to her newfound political courage back then wasn't pretty.
"Oh man, the flack I took from the people, the agencies -- 'oh, you can't say that. You can't do that. Casting people might see you. And directors!"'
"What is this, the blacklist?" she said. "They're not going to hire me because I have an opinion? That's the way Hollywood is and, unfortunately, I got that. But I still wasn't going to back down."
Brittany, who was one of the most visible celebrities supporting the McCain-Palin Republican ticket during the last presidential election, has a daughter in her 20s who is a struggling actress. Her advice to her is: "Don't tell them you're my daughter."
Brittany told of building a friendship with actor Ed Asner, a sometimes activist for progressive causes, when the two starred in a stage-play together during the infamous Florida recount that put Republican George W. Bush in the White House over Democrat Al Gore. And she told how she lost Asner's friendship due to politics.
"Every night he just loved me and came in and gave me a big hug," she said. "Then one night he was going crazy about Gore and Bush and stealing the election. I'm backstage and I said, 'Ed, chill, not everybody thinks the way you do'."
"Well, where do I begin?" I swear. It was like a light switch," she said. "He turned to me and said, 'you're not a Republican?' I said, 'yep.' And he said, 'I can't even look at you. I can't even talk to you'.
"From that moment on, he never spoke to me again, except on stage," she said. "This is what we're dealing with. The intolerance of the left."
She said that while a starlet in her 20s she met with the late Jay Bernstein, who managed the careers of Farrah Fawcett and Suzanne Somers back in the day, but the meeting went awry after Bernstein noticed the cross Brittany wore around her neck.
She said Bernstein told her: "You're going to have to lose that, honey.
In this town, you can't be religious, and you can't be conservative."
"He was a star-making manager, but I couldn't sign on with him," Brittany said.
As for Howard, he said he avoids talking politics while on the set, even though the other side shows less restraint. While shooting "Frost/Nixon," for example, he got so sick of an outspoken liberal actor (whom he wouldn't name) "spewing venom" that he finally told him to "knock it off."
"I had to listen to a lot of it, but I never thought the workplace was the right time to get into it," he said.
He also said politics never comes between him and his liberal brother Ron.
"I have a wonderful older brother. It's a shame he sits on the wrong side of the dinner table," he said. "It never gets uncomfortable with Ron and I. We just differ politically and that's okay. He's just wrong and I'm right. I believe that in my heart of hearts."
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