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Screenwriter Asks Peers to Withhold Gore Support

CAMPAIGN 2000

August 29, 2000|DANA CALVO | TIMES STAFF WRITER

In an open letter expected to be published in today's edition of a widely read entertainment trade publication, screenwriter Joe Eszterhas, whose credits include "Basic Instinct" and "Showgirls," asks his peers not to donate money to the Democratic presidential ticket until the "veiled threats" of censorship are clarified.

Eszterhas refers specifically to vice presidential candidate Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman's crusade to make Hollywood accountable for excessive sex and violence in its movies and television shows.

In the paid advertisement in Daily Variety, Eszterhas asks Lieberman to sit down and speak with the writers and directors of movies with sexual or violent content.

"Let's make Joe Lieberman accountable for his rhetoric," Eszterhas writes. "Not a penny more until he 'clarifies' his positions to the satisfaction of our creative freedom."

Speaking from his Malibu home on Monday night, Eszterhas added: "If you look at [Alfred] Hitchcock's work or [Martin] Scorsese's work, does that exist within a strict Lieberman context of no sex or violence?"

But Gore spokesman Douglas Hattaway said the entertainment industry and parents share the responsibility of protecting children from inappropriate content. Gore and Lieberman "are not advocating censorship, and all they have proposed is voluntary guidelines for the industry and tools for parents such as the V-chip," Hattaway said.

But for some, Hollywood is not the culprit at all.

"There is excess violence, excess sensationalism, excess sex. We are looking at an excessive culture, and to see the excess only in Hollywood is a mistake that lifts a branch to block out the entire forest," said political activist and longtime television producer Norman Lear. "The endemic problem is the excess that flows from the corporate need to deliver a profit statement this quarter larger than the last at the expense of every other value. You see that clearly in Hollywood."

Director and actor Rob Reiner, who campaigned with Gore this month, would not comment on the letter, but through his spokesman, Chad Griffin, he advised Eszterhas "to look beyond his own parochial interests."

On Sept. 18, Reiner; WB President Allan Horn; and Haim Saban, head of Saban Entertainment, which owns the Fox Family Channel, will hold a fund-raiser for the Gore-Lieberman ticket at the home of grocery magnate and investor Ron Burkle.

Saban is one of the single largest donors to the Democratic ticket. On the issue of funding, Variety's standard price for today's ad is $7,000, but Eszterhas said his artist discount knocked the fee down to $5,600.

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