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State of Mind: Poor Choices

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I just saw a story on the web that back in 1978 the actor Harry Reems, best known for his “acting abilities” in films such as “Deep Throat,” nearly starred in the movie “Grease” alongside John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John.

According to the film’s director, Randal Kleiser, on the podcast “It Happened in Hollywood,” the film’s producer Allan Carr hired Reems to play the role of Rydell High School’s Coach Calhoun, who helps the character Danny Zuko (Travolta) as he tries to join a sports team in order to win the admiration of Sandy (Newton-John).

But when the moguls at the studio found out Reems had been cast, they said, “No way!” and Reems was fired. 

(The story did not say whether one of the moguls was Harvey Weinstein. Certainly if Harvey was involved in the firing, he probably only was concerned about Olivia’s welfare. As we all now know, Weinstein was intensely interested in nothing more than furthering the careers of young female stars – absolutely no strings attached.)

Now — I confess — I’ve never seen Harry Reems “act,” so perhaps the decision of the studio to fire him and go with 1950s comedian Sid Caesar was a good one.  

Poor Reems, apparently devastated at missing his chance to be a “legitimate” actor, was forced to return to the intensely boring work of his previous life — being a porn star.

But if Reems were alive today (he died in 2013 – I looked it up) he could easily have gone into politics. In fact, being a porn star may even have gained him extra votes, and his distinction of being the first American actor to be prosecuted for appearing in a film may have upped the ante.

Just look at his competition! Today’s political landscape seems littered with bad actors jonesing for “legit” roles as politicians. 

There’s a guy from Georgia who, it is claimed, held a gun to his spouse’s head; paid for his girlfriend’s abortion, drove her to the clinic, then lied about it; and now professes to be “pro-life.” Many voters seem to like him.

Even though he is no longer running for anything, there is Bill and his shenanigans with Monica, which helped earn him an impeachment. Some people still like him.

And then there is the granddaddy of them all. People don’t seem to mind the “locker room talk” that was highly derogatory to women; or allegedly having sex with female porn stars and then paying those stars to remain silent; or even for making fun of persons with physical disabilities? Something like 30 women have complained of sexual abuse since the “locker room talk” became public, including in some cases, rape. 

As they say, there seems to be a pattern here.

And then there are the things beyond sexual antics, such as seeming support for white supremacists, admiration of Vladimir Putin, possibly fomenting a riot of “patriots” on January 6, and the mishandling of top secret documents, not to mention two impeachment trials.

That’s why the choices in the upcoming midterm elections seem so clear. Why would we want to turn power back over to a political party that supported the overthrow of a legitimate election. Yet the crescendo of news and shifting poll numbers leading up to the midterm elections seem to point to that possibility. It all reminds me of an advertisement I’ve seen on TV. 

In this ad, which seems allegorical, it is late on a moonless night, and a foursome of teens are obviously on the run from something that has terrified them. They are trying to find someplace safe, but, just like voters today, they seem confused about what to do. 

One girl trips and falls. Turning back, one guy urgently implores her, “COME ON!” 

A second guy, pointing toward a very spooky looking old house, says, “Let’s hide in the attic!” A second girl disagrees, “No!” she says, “In the basement!” 

The first girl, back on her feet, and apparently still of sound mind, whines to the group, “Why can’t we just get in the running car?” glancing toward a late-model convertible idling nearby and ready to whisk them to safety. 

Raising his voice, the first guy says, “ARE YOU CRAZY!?” Motioning toward the garage of the house, which has a number of chainsaws hanging across its open door, he exclaims, “LET’S HIDE BEHIND THE CHAINSAWS!” One of the others in the group mumbles, “Good idea.” 

As the teens huddle on bended knees and peer out the garage door from behind the chainsaws, a character in a white hockey mask reminiscent of the serial murderer Jason from the film “Friday the 13th” is suddenly visible behind them. 

As he looks at the group, he lifts his mask and shakes his head while rolling his eyes in disbelief. A voice-over states, “If you’re in a horror movie you make poor decisions. It’s what you do.”

I’ve been thinking about that ad a lot. We seem to be in a horror movie. Will the voters avoid making poor choices? Will the voters listen to the guy who wants to hide in the attic? What about the basement? A serial killer of democracy in an orange mask is waiting in the garage. Will they hide behind the chainsaws?

Can’t we just get into the running car?