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Hollywood Conservatives Taking a Stand : Summit: This weekend's meeting is aimed at changing perceptions as well as tackling such issues as whether censorship is needed to preserve 'decent family shows' and the role of politics in art.

October 07, 1994|IRENE LACHER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Not everyone thinks of "Magnum, P.I." when they think of Tom Selleck. For some people, the key Selleck medium is the National Review, the conservative journal he touted for free in a commercial in the early '80s.

"I grew up with the magazine when I was in college, and it kept me thinking three-dimensionally," Selleck said. "I also subscribe to the (centrist-liberal) New Republic. But when you do a movie and you see a review where the lead paragraph is 'This National Review pitchman . . ., ' you realize someone has confused things."

And even though Selleck said he has attended only three political events in the past dozen years, he said he's consistently described as conservative and even ultra-conservative.

"Have I been persecuted? No. Has it affected hiring? I'm not sure. Probably with some people. I don't think it helps."

Partly to help change such perceptions, Hollywood's not-so-silent minority and their supporters are banding together this weekend for a conservative summit on the entertainment industry, "The Dream Factor and the American Dream: Hollywood and American Culture."

A couple of hundred participants are expected to attend two days of seminars at the Century Plaza Hotel, co-sponsored by the National Review Institute and the L.A.-based Center for the Study of Popular Culture, both of which hold events advancing conservative thought.

"It bothers me when I meet conservatives (in Hollywood) who are afraid to use their names and be conservatives in this town," said David Horowitz, president of the study center, who originated the idea for the conference. "I remember (people) being marginalized as a leftist, and now you're marginalized as a conservative."

Panels will include conservative activists Arianna Huffington and Bruce Herschensohn, performers Pat Sajak and Gerald McRaney ("Major Dad") and writer-director Lionel Chetwynd ("The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz" screenplay), as well as columnists, critics and academics.

They will ponder whether censorship is needed to preserve "decent family shows," the role of politics in art, Hollywood's impact on the world and "the difficulties in presenting goodness and decency to an audience that is cynical and sophisticated." Hollywood's conservative elder-statesman Charlton Heston will be feted at a tribute dinner Saturday evening hosted by Rush Limbaugh.

While the organizers say they were hoping for a spirited exchange of ideas with members of Hollywood's liberal community, they may find themselves mostly preaching to the converted. Several have turned down invitations to speak for various reasons, although a sprinkling are expected to attend, including producer and panelist Lynda Obst ("The Fisher King").

Horowitz said some have declined to participate out of concern with being linked to conservatives who are stigmatized in Hollywood. "I tried to get a friend of mine and she was reluctant to be associated (with the conference), which is unfortunate," he said.

The conference is the latest salvo in the conservative tussle with Hollywood, along the lines of Dan Quayle's speech attacking TV's "Murphy Brown" for lacking "family values." Some organizers are hoping to send a message to Hollywood to make more films "honoring the family as the building block in society," as National Review Institute Chairman and former Delaware Gov. Pete DuPont put it.

"We're trying to encourage some fresh thinking about America," he said. "I'd want to see a different culture portrayed on the screen of high moral values instead of no values at all. We'd obviously like to see less murders and less violence. We'd like to see some heroes that are ordinary people."

But organizers are also concerned about being perceived as self-righteous naysayers.

"The conference isn't intended to be an assault on Hollywood by people who are presenting themselves as virtuous," said National Review editor John O'Sullivan.

"Forrest Gump" also surfaced in conference materials as the conservative mascot movie emblematic of "a new breeze in Hollywood" celebrating "conservative values of loyalty, decency, honor, duty." "Gump's girlfriend follows a countercultural path through radical politics, drugs and a generally disordered life until she dies of AIDS," the organizers' promotional letter said.

O'Sullivan says, "Loyalty, honor, courage--I would think people would see them as conservative virtues. What makes any virtue conservative or liberal is: Does a virtue imply hard decisions, self-reliance, the things you have to do for yourself and other people, rather than have state institutions do them?"

"Gump" co-producer Steve Tisch, who is not attending the summit, said the film wasn't intended as a conservative statement. "These are more than political values, and they're more than American values. They're human values. . . . I don't want any political group to feel they have an ownership of 'Forrest Gump.' "

And not everyone involved with the conference deems such qualities as necessarily conservative.

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