The armies of confrontation are gathering in San Fernando Valley.
On one side are the God-fearing folks and their clean little children who live in Moorpark, U.S.A., and on the other, the drooling, money-grubbing, dog-kickin' forces of Sylvester Stallone.
The problem, as usual, involves the abuse of us little people and, quite obviously, requires objective examination. So guess who's going to examine it?
The situation is this: Cannon Films wants to close the Simi Valley Freeway for five consecutive weekdays from dawn to dusk in order to shoot a movie about a barely articulate, arm-wrestling truck driver.
Well, I don't actually know that the main character will be barely articulate, but since "Over the Top" will star Sylvester Stallone, one must assume something less than bell-toned clarity and Harvard-level syntax, right?
The people in George Deukmejian's California Film Commission, bouncing off the walls in their effort to please the man who created Rambo, said yes, of course he could close the freeway and, in fact, was welcome to shut down the entire city of Los Angeles if it would facilitate the production.
The only problem anyone could foresee, and it was really not a problem at all, is that the freeway closing would prevent about 20,000 decent citizens from getting to and from their jobs for five days or from visiting their dying mothers in the hospital.
What we do, the commission decided, is re-route the simple folks up cow trails and country lanes, down back alleys and through vacant lots until the shooting is complete and the freeway reopened to those less important than Mr. Stallone.
When a brash outsider suggested that perhaps Cannon could, you know, maybe film on weekends rather than on weekdays, a studio spokesman replied that wasn't possible because it would cost $100,000 in additional wages.
Forget that Stallone's efforts, from "Rocky" to the modern Western classic "Cobra," have earned about a billion dollars, it's the principal, I mean principle, that counts here.
The Moorpark and Simi Valley city councils, naturally upset at the studio and the Film Commission's uncompromising attitude, voted Monday to oppose the original freeway-closing plan, and there it sits, as we used to say, stewing in its own juices.
Well, God knows, I don't want to be the one to come between America and Sylvester Stallone.
Though his movies are less than art, Sly is, after all, the intellectual folk hero of people like Ronald Reagan, and the president ought not be deprived of whatever intellectual stimulation he can get.
Stallone admittedly spills a little blood in his movies but, what the hell, he mostly kills foreigners and, at that, only those who quite obviously have it coming.
No one's going to give him two ears and tail for the grace of his faena de la muleta, but we might name an airport after him when he's gone.
What makes one uneasy is not so much another movie that celebrates the kind of man whose knuckles scrape the ground when he walks, but the emergence of a film maker powerful enough to shut down a Southern California freeway during commute hours in order to make that movie.
Given the immensity of the achievement, if Stallone can do that, what's to stop him from getting anything he wants?
I'm not saying that what he wants is to rape your sister and kill your puppy, but I am saying that kind of power does something to a man.
I speak from observation, not experience, since I have never had total control over anything that I can remember, though, if I did, your sister and your puppy dog would have nothing to fear. Well, your sister anyhow.
What's going to happen to Stallone if he wins a whole freeway to play with during commute hours is that he is naturally going to assume that he can do whatever he wants, the usual temporal restraints notwithstanding.
He is going to rise some morning, observe the bright sun through the droopy-lidded eyes that have charmed a nation, decide he is not ready for morning and intone with Biblical resonance, "Let der be darkness."
Down will go the sun, I mean da sun, and Sly will discover that he has achieved a kind of mastery over the elements unseen since Moses parted the Red Sea.
Then what? Well, it's one thing to mess with the sun, but what worries me is that the Italian Stallion may then decide he wants to tamper with the forces of creation itself in order to satisfy an ego already out of proportion to his size.
That's where we part company.
Because, sure as hell, Stallone is going to want to re-create mankind in his image, and that's too much for even a fun-loving guy like me to take.
I don't mind giving him the Simi Valley Freeway for five working days, but I'm just not ready for a world full of mumbling short muscular people in camouflaged undershirts carrying Uzi rifles.