Burt Prelutsky

Because California, and Hollywood in particular, have been the punch line for so many jokes over the years, I suspect that people who don’t live out here assume we can’t possibly be that wacky. They don’t know the half of it.

In order for you to better understand what conservatives in this neck of the woods have to deal with, I’ll relate a few typical incidents. The first took place about 10 years ago. My wife and I were invited to a dinner party by the widow of a screenwriter who’d been my longtime tennis partner. We were one of six couples. Which meant that, counting the hostess, there were 13 of us sitting around after dinner. I recall thinking at the time that this is how superstitions come to be perpetuated.

All the men in the group were in show business. As we were all either writers, directors or producers, it was probably inevitable that somebody would bring up Charlton Heston’s name, and in a negative manner. At the time, after all, Mr. Heston had just become the president and spokesman for the NRA, and was garnering a great deal of national attention.

Although I had never met Mr. Heston, we had exchanged a number of congenial letters. So when one of the guys at the party made an insulting remark about him, I naturally took umbrage. But knowing that my wife is always nervous about my ability to turn a minor skirmish into an all-out war, all I said in Heston’s defense was, “Well, whether or not you agree with him, you have to admit he’s got guts.”

The way the other guests reacted, you’d have thought I’d said something along the lines of, “For all his faults, you have to admit that Hitler dressed well and had good table manners.” They were simply outraged.

As I wanted to be certain I hadn’t been misunderstood, I added, “I’m not saying you have to agree with Heston’s point of view. All I’m saying is that, as a working actor, it takes a great deal of courage to be openly conservative in a town where most of the people in a position to hire him are obviously liberals.”

In the end, I could not get a single person, aside from my wife, to acknowledge that, whether or not you agreed with the man’s politics, you had to grant that he had the courage of his convictions.

That evening provided me with one of my more enlightening epiphanies. I had long been aware that left-wingers were on the wrong side of every issue I cared about, but dealing with those 11 weasels confirmed that they lacked even the modicum of honesty required to give a decent man his due.