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Heston was always a man of his words

April 08, 2008|John Horn | Times Staff Writer

CHARLTON HESTON, who died Saturday at age 84, was an avid newspaper reader, eager to share his opinions. In addition to writing dozens of letters to the paper over four decades, the "Ben-Hur" star often would telephone Los Angeles Times editors with his comments.

While his political views were typically conservative, they were not always dogmatic. Equally distinctive was the way the Oscar winner sometimes read the paper: He would have an assistant spread sections around his pool, and Heston would peruse different stories between laps. By the time he'd completed his workout, he also had finished the day's news.

Here are excerpts from some of Heston's letters to the paper:

Spike Lee's threat

IN a fit of pique at the Cannes Film Festival, Spike Lee said I should be shot "with a .44 Bulldog" (the handgun used by the serial killer Son of Sam). In response, I feel some irony. In '63, when I was marching for the freedom of black Americans, I was threatened by white men. In '99, active now for the freedom of all Americans, I'm threatened by a black man.

June 1999

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Elia Kazan's Oscar

SO the Oscars came off smoothly, with good work rewarded. Early anxieties about the [honorary Oscar presented to director Elia] Kazan . . . went unrealized. There was some scuffling by street protesters but inside the hall the presentation was vigorously applauded; only a few sat silent. It seems that the fierce and relentless attack on Kazan, lasting many weeks, was in fact the last hurrah of the Hollywood left. (Mind you, the Hollywood liberal is still with us, but that's a different breed of cat entirely, alive and well, content to be the arbiter of taste, political correctness and the search for the next Great Restaurant.)

March 1999

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Well, whatever

THE cultural and social fabric of the country is fraying around the edges as we split up into separate little Gypsy camps, each with a different agenda, heading in different directions. A while ago, I was at one of those silly "A-list" parties and fell into conversation on all this with a stunningly beautiful, famous star (not a bad actress, either) who said, "Well, look what it says on the dollar bill: 'e pluribus unum.' From one, many." "Actually, you've got the Latin backward," I replied. "It translates, 'From many, one.' As in one nation . . . indivisible?" "No kidding?" she said, amazed. "Well . . . whatever." And there you have it. We live, increasingly, in a "well, whatever" nation. God help us all.

February 1999

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Lincoln no Clinton

I am offended by the preposterous characterization of Abraham Lincoln as a sex-crazed clone of Bill Clinton. Lincoln is generally judged to be one of our finest presidents (who also freed the slaves). To imply that he in any way resembled our current president is an outrageous and shameful insult.

October 1998

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The bomb was best

I'VE read most of your reviews on the books reexamining the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki that ended World War II. Each condemns the action without reservation as an insanely murderous choice. Several respected intellectuals are quoted, some no doubt qualified on the subject. It's too bad none of them was there. . . . The bomb ended the war, and its nuclear successors won the Cold War without firing a shot, on either side. I call that a worthwhile achievement.

August 1998

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Titanic tanking?

FOR the past 20 years, the most serious and apparently insoluble problem facing Hollywood is the runaway inflation of the cost of making and marketing movies. . . . The prime culprit this year is "Titanic," replacing "Waterworld" and eclipsing "Heaven's Gate" in several unwelcome categories: over schedule by several weeks and over budget by many millions, with many weeks of added post-production yet to come. Plus interest. Still, all may yet be well.

April 1997

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Justice for Ice-T

Iwas bemused to read in Calendar that Dick Wolf, producer of the superb "Law & Order," has hired the rap "artist" formerly known as Ice-T to star as the criminal hero of a series in which the baffled police employ bad guys to catch bad guys. Wolf is one of the best producers in television; if anyone can bring this concept off, he can. Ice-T deserves the right to make a living. I wish them both well, not least because I helped get Ice-T fired four years ago by Time Warner, the largest entertainment conglomerate in the world. He was then under contract to Warners, which had just released a disc called "Cop Killer," obscenely celebrating the murder of policemen. August 1996

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In defense of Kato

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