Monday, August 23, 2004

Why are you a Republican?

If we were going to see a show of Dennis Hopper's photographs, do you think Richard Nixon or Bill Clinton would be more sensitive to the work? I see Nixon as an intellectual. I consider Bill Clinton a huckster.

--interview with inept pornographer and provocateur Vincent Gallo in The New York Times Magazine, August 22, 2004

Leaving aside for the moment the question of whether Dennis Hopper's photos are the finest work we have in the photographic medium, here's a peek into the aesthetic sensibilities of Richard Nixon -- an account of an April 1971 meeting that included Nixon, National Endowment for the Arts chair Nancy Hanks, and Nixon advisers H. R. Haldeman and Leonard Garment. It's from When Hollywood Had a King, Connie Bruck's biography of movie mogul Lew Wasserman:

When the subject of foreign competition came up, Hanks ventured that "the quality of films in this country is not as good as many of the foreign films--"

NIXON (interrupting): I think some of them are pretty lousy. I think the foreign films that are supposed to be so great ....

HALDEMAN: What the foreigners are doing better than we are is producing family movies.

NIXON (to Hanks): Now, now, this is what I want you and Leonard to get into.... We should start producing good movies. And the family movie is coming back, it’s coming back very fast. I sense it. Do you agree?

GARMENT: Right. The romantic mood --

NIXON: My kids tell me. They, and all their friends, frankly they don't like it -- the thrill of the moment. They don't like it.

GARMENT: I find my kids are fascinated by the old movies that they see on television. The nine- and ten-year-old. They find there's a strong story, strong characters. You don't have that in a lot of the contemporary --

NIXON: And they're so
offbeat! ... Nancy, let's make a study of this damn industry, from an arts standpoint. And -- is it worth saving? I don't want to subsidize a turkey! ...

[Nixon went on to say,] "They are still making the weird pictures, whereas the kinds of pictures people like to see are stories, they want to see a story! ... Like Charlton Heston, he always plays in story movies. We just gotta make some movies that do tell stories. Why is it for example that people still go see John Wayne?..."

Yeah, Gallo -- a real intellectual.

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