William Whittle is comparatively new to the Blogosphere but he's written a long and powerful essay on the current state of Hollywood celebrities and the anti-war/pro-dictatorship positions of today's Hollywood that begins with his chance encounter with Jimmy Stewart in the late 1980s.
Let's flashback even further to about 1966. Compare the apathy and arrogance of today's celebrities with this photo of Stewart, a brigadier general in the Air Force Reserve, at about age 58, looking like God in a flight suit, walking away from a B-52F, after a mission over North Vietnam.
I have no idea how many flights Stewart made over Nam--but even if it was just one for this photo-op, think of what he had to go through: the 5000 mile flight from Los Angeles to at least Guam, where most of the B-52s flew out of during the Vietnam war, the risk of getting shot out of the sky by crack North Vietnamese anti-aircraft gunners and killed or captured, plus the timeout from his career, when by the 1960s, he was earning at a minimum, in the very high six-figures per movie. I'm sure that when the call came, if Stewart or his handlers quietly said, "err, no thanks", the Air Force wouldn't have pressed the issue. But, just as he did in WWII, Stewart served his country.
Now, flash-forward 35 years. John Travolta owns his own Boeing 707, a plane based on technology Boeing developed for the B-52 and the earlier B-47. Imagine him flying in a '52, a B-1, or a B-2 anywhere except on a Hollywood soundstage. To paraphrase one of the anti-war movement's heroes, it's not easy if you try! George Clooney is busy taking cracks at George Bush and Charlton Heston. Sheryl Crow is busy checking her aura. James Lileks recently put the whole phenomenon into perspective:
Imagine you’re living in WW2, and you learn that Glenn Miller had kiddie-diddler urges, Dick Powell is in Berlin on a fact-finding mission, Hitchcock is insisting that the Blitz could be solved with diplomacy and understanding, and the Andrews Sisters showed up for an awards banquet wearing T-shirts that criticized Lend-Lease. Hitler the Second would be running Germany today, because the beautiful people would have convinced America that scrap drives were a plot by the rubber-industrial complex.
Of course, during the 1940s through the 1950s, when Stewart was at the height of his popularity, Hollywood stars--or at least their agents and producers--instinctively knew that they earned their wealth, from their audiences. As Whittle wrote:
I can clearly recall Jimmy Stewart on The Tonight Show telling Johnny Carson that everything he had — all the money and fame and admiration and privilege – he owed to the good people who were kind enough to come to the darkened theater and part with their hard-earned money. He said it was a privilege and a small price to pay to give back whatever he could to those fine, generous people.
Compare that to the celebrities of today and how far they're removed from their audiences.