Hollywood Gets Political for ‘5 Minutes’

Posted October 25, 2004 at 2:31pm

If you have ever wondered about Hollywood’s take on politics and social issues, you will most likely find some answers in the book “If You Had Five Minutes With the President.”

In this collection of 62 essays, Hollywood personalities write about what they would say if they had five minutes to speak with the president.

The book is “a primer on issues of the day,” said Robin Bronk, executive director of the Creative Coalition, a nonprofit, nonpartisan social and political advocacy organization of the arts and entertainment industry, which published the book.

Edited by Ron Reagan, a writer and board member of the coalition, the book is “an easy read with some anecdotal information and some substantive information,” Bronk said. “It opens windows on issues; it’s not a dissertation,” she said.

“The book has great little pieces and anecdotes,” Bronk said. “Each piece gives a taste of the person and the policy they are discussing.”

The book’s contributors, who are members and supporters of the coalition, “have been in the public advocacy arena for many years,” Bronk said. “These are most of the top people in the industry who have been intimately involved in the issues they are writing about,” she said.

Among the contributors are people in the entertainment business, media pundits and business leaders. “These are people who take politics very seriously,” Bronk said. “These are the godfathers of advocacy.”

According to Bronk, the book ranges politically from Mike Farrell, an actor associated with liberal causes, to Ron Silver, an actor who is associated with conservative causes and served as founding president of the coalition, and “everything in between.”

Offering unique perspectives are Alan Cumming, an actor who is not a U.S. citizen but lives in the United States, and Hallie Eisenberg, a 12-year-old actress.

Bronk noted the range of topics covered in the book. Patricia Hearst, an actress and author, takes on the Electoral College. Sean Astin, an actor/director, has a “thoughtful piece” on people being the richest resource in America. Matthew Modine, another actor, gives a soliloquy on the convictions of presidents. Chris Cooper, an actor who has a disabled son, writes about the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

Bronk said she enjoyed a piece by Phillip Bloch, a Hollywood stylist, on how compassion is always in good taste and a “creative” essay from the point of view of a shoe shiner by Harry Hamlin, an actor and environmentalist.

Joe Piscopo, an actor, producer and possible future politician, writes a piece condemning the negative effects that outsourcing has on American cities.

A self-described “very conservative Democrat,” Piscopo said in a phone interview that he put his “New Jersey two cents” into the book.

“We have terribly neglected our cities,” he said. “I just don’t understand why it’s not part of the campaign.”

He said the current situation in cities is “a no-win for everybody.” If the country creates product-manufacturing bases in cities, “90 percent of our problems will be solved,” he said.

Piscopo, who is considering running for governor of New Jersey, said he is “very politically concerned and, I think, active.”

Piscopo founded Positive Impact Foundation, a nonprofit organization that aims to “create positive media for at-risk children.”

According to Piscopo, the organization shows the good things that at-risk children are doing on a local television station. “If we broadcast that stuff, that perception will become a reality,” he said.

“It’s our responsibility as a community to help these kids. We have to, as a country, build those cities.”

Piscopo said that Americans should consider what they would say if they had five minutes with the president when they are deciding whom to vote for in the presidential election. “From watching the debates, you can figure out what the answer would be,” he said.

Piscopo said he hopes the book “gets people thinking and involved and hopefully encourages them to register to vote and exercise the greatest right of every American.”

While some contributors chose to speak to Bush in their writings, Bronk said the book as a whole addresses “the next president, whoever it might be.”

Bronk said the coalition sent President Bush and the Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. John Kerry (Mass.), a copy of the book, but neither candidate has responded. “We’re still waiting for our five minutes,” she joked.

Bronk said her favorite line in the book is from Tucker Carlson’s essay. Carlson, a political analyst for CNN, writes to the president, “Your third year in office will be horrible. They always are.”

Bronk said she and Maureen O’Brien, executive editor at HarperEntertainment, came up with the idea for the book when they were talking about who gets access to government and policy leaders, and how “not every person gets to sit in the Oval Office.”

“We hope this book is a stepping stone for readers who are interested in politics or in getting involved in advocacy,” she said. The book serves as a source for “great dinnertime conversation,” she said.

Bronk said the book also will interest people who are “fascinated by the connection between politics and entertainment.”

“It’s the only book of its kind,” she said.

The book represents the “crossroads of politics and Hollywood” and raises the question of whether Hollywood influences politics, Bronk said. She added that some college professors are using the book in their classes.

Bronk said the coalition takes on the issues of protecting the First Amendment, encouraging more public funding for the arts and discouraging offshore production outside the United States.

The mission statement of the coalition is to “educate, advocate and motivate,” she said. “This book is a textbook for that.”

Bronk said she hopes the book will lead to the annual publication of a book that “gives a real overview of the issues facing America.” She joked that a future book might be titled “Wait, just one more minute.”