Gere, stone behind the curve

Posted: Oct 31, 2001 12:00 AM
Much has changed in our world since Sept. 11, but one thing hasn't. There are still some awfully politically confused people in Hollywood. What in the world was Richard Gere thinking that has made him now a national laughingstock? He was a featured star at the Oct. 20 Concert for New York City, an emotional, patriotic event that raised more than $14 million for post-terrorist-attack relief funds. When he took the stage, the actor proclaimed, to escalating boos from the Madison Square Garden crowd, that "the horrendous energy that we're all feeling, and the possibility of turning it into more violence and revenge, we can stop that. We can take that energy and turn it into something else. We can turn it into compassion, and ... love, and ... understanding." It's likely the boos would have been even louder had Gere spoken even more wackily, which he most certainly managed to do 10 days before the concert in an ABC radio interview quoted on the New Republic's Web site. "In a situation like this," Gere said, "of course you identify with everyone who's suffering." But he then argued that we also should consider "the terrorists who are creating such horrible future lives for themselves because of the negativity of this karma. It's all of our jobs to keep our minds as expansive as possible. If you can see (the terrorists) as a relative who's dangerously sick and we have to give them medicine, and the medicine is love and compassion. There's nothing better." And what in the world were the organizers of the Concert for New York City thinking when they invited Gere, anyway? This is the same Richard Gere who, at the 1993 Oscars, unintentionally made light of a worthy cause. Gere, at the podium to present an award, asked Deng Xiaoping, then the Chinese premier, to "allow (Tibetans) to live as free, independent people again." So far, so good. He should have stopped there. But Gere apparently couldn't stop there. No, he had to try -- in front of more than a billion people worldwide -- to transmit his message to faraway Beijing by placing his fingertips at his temples, shutting his eyes, and intoning, "So thought, we send this thought, send thought out, send this thought." If Gere is serenely mistaken, Oliver Stone is off his rocker. On Oct. 6, the day before the bombing campaign began, Stone took part in a New York panel called "Making Movies That Matter: The Role of Filmmaking in the National Debate." Filmmaking aside, it appears Stone's most notable comments were three parts corporation-bashing, one part apologia for the terrorist attacks, and two parts just plain incoherence. There are several accounts of what Stone said. The most complete that I've seen is Tad Friend's New Yorker piece. "Six companies," Stone declared, "have control of the world." (If you're scoring at home, the companies are AOL Time Warner, Disney, Fox's parent News Corporation, Sony, Viacom and Vivendi Universal.) Those six represent, said Stone, "the new world order ... And I think the revolt (sic) of Sept. 11 was about 'F--- you. F--- your order.'" Stone further ranted, "The Arabs have a point! They're going to be joined by the people who objected in Seattle (at the fall '99 WTO meeting) and the usual 10 percent who are against everything." He also wondered, "Does anybody make a connection between the 2000 (presidential) election and the events of Sept. 11?" Aha! Another conspiracy! I knew it! The New Yorker reporter, at the restaurant where the panelists were lunching later, gathered a few more gemlike insights from Stone. "Although it seemed to most observers to be early afternoon," Friend wrote, Stone "twice observed that it was a wonderful night ... (He) remarked that he hadn't slept in days. 'The new world order is about order and control,' he said. 'This (terrorist) attack was pure chaos, and chaos is energy. All great changes have come from people or events that were initially misunderstood, and seemed frightening, like madmen ... I think, I think ... I think many things.'" God help us. One celebrity with another perspective on the post-Sept. 11 world is Paul McCartney. At the Concert for New York City, which was his brainchild, McCartney performed a new song that goes, in part, "This is my right/A right given by God/To live a free life/To live in freedom/ ... I will fight/For the right/To live in freedom." At a post-concert party, looking back at what had been accomplished that evening, he told the British paper the Sun, "This is one of the greatest moments of my life." McCartney is not an American, of course. What a shame, and a disgrace, that he appreciates this country more than do some American-born celebrities, such as New York City native Oliver Stone.