My Life Undercover in Hollywood's Right-Wing Underground
The following is an excerpt from Republican Party Animal, by David Cole (Feral House, 2014).
Editor's note: A strange guy who harbors a dark secret and a bounty on his head becomes a leader in Hollywood’s secret right-wing underground. David Cole was working with major GOP power players and far-right Hollywood A-listers, creating huge private events for the West Coast GOP elite . . . until it all came crashing down when a vengeful former girlfriend outed him publicly. Condemned by those who had previously lauded him, Cole was left with nothing but his story. And here he tells it, warts and all, the first-ever exposÃ© of the secretive Hollywood far-right underground, “Friends of Abe” (FOA). The following excerpt picks up right at the moment that Cole had been invited to join FOA:
The Sicilian hummingbird was true to his word. I was “initiated” into Friends of Abe in 2009. Romano took me to my initiation meeting. The Abe leaders were sitting behind tables arranged in a square formation. I told a few anecdotes, stated my views, and the best part was, I didn’t even have to feign sincerity. I was sincere, and that was refreshing. And I’m glad I did well, because, from the way the Abes were surrounding and judging me, I kept having the nagging concern that being rejected would somehow involve banishment to the Phantom Zone. ... The Abes would love me. That’s what I thought. And I had no idea how right I’d be.
The name “Friends of Abe” was a play on the term “Friends of Dorothy,” which was a code for being gay used by homosexuals in the film industry in the ’40s. If two men who thought the other might be gay met at a Hollywood party, one would ask the other, “are you a friend of Dorothy” (referring to Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz). A “yes” answer would mean “your place or mine?”
“Friends of Abe” refers to Abe Lincoln, the first Republican president. It was the same deal as with “Friends of Dorothy,” but in this case, it was a code to help conservatives find each other while on set or at a party.
And now I was in. And my first formal dinner would include an uncomfortable moment with Scott Baio’s penis.
At my first formal Abe event following my initiation, there weren’t many people I knew. But I knew Romano, and he was still in good with Breitbart, so I was okay. The speakers that night were David Mamet and Michigan representative Thad McCotter, who’d go on to become involved in my own Republican Party Animals group. Abe membership got you a free dinner, but not free booze. So Romano and I decided to head to the bar. On the way, he said he had to take a piss. Okay, I told him, I’ll see you at the bar.
“Fuck you, Stein, come into the shitter with me, you fag.” Oh crap, he’s one of those guys, the kind who like to share moments of bodily function for “male bonding” purposes. Even if I wasn’t already disgusted by his constant orifice-picking, I still wouldn’t want to be anywhere near him when he’s pissing. I mean, if I don’t like seeing people touch food with their hands, why would I want to see . . . something worse.
“Uh, you know, John, lemme just go wait at the . . .”
“Whatdafuck, Stein? You don’t wanna keep talkin’ to me as I piss?”
Exactly. But okay, I’ll go in with you, you annoying Goombah.
We went into the bathroom, and Romano took the middle urinal, in between Gary Sinise and Scott Baio. “Hey, fuckin’ Sinise and Baio. Lookatus, we’re pissin’ together,” he belted out. “Baio, you know my friend Stein? He’s gonna be a big player around here.”
Neither Sinise nor Baio wanted to jibber-jabber while they pissed, and everyone but Romano seemed uncomfortable that I was just standing there like I’m looking for a glory hole.
“Nice penis, Baio,” Romano blurted out. If the quip was an attempt to break the ice, it had a cringingly opposite effect. The tension in the bathroom was thick enough to crush a urinal cake.
Still, it was worth it to hear the phrase “nice penis, Baio.” Poor Chachi. He and Sinise had to put up with this vulgar creep because he was Breitbart’s boy.
“Hey David, nice to meet you” Baio said, his voice vibrating from the effort of shaking the last bit of dew from his member. “Good to meet you too,” I replied. I wanted to add, “and indeed, that’s one fine penis,” but I refrained.
Andrew Breitbart didn’t run FOA, but he might as well have. His word was the word of God in that circle. Breitbart could have gotten Kim Jong Il inducted into the group if he’d have wanted to. He could get you in, and he could take you out. Andrew could be petty. He rarely forgot a real or perceived insult, and he demanded kudos and adulation from every member. He had to be the last one seated at every banquet, so he could bask in applause as he strolled to his table.
If Breitbart was the cruel right hand of FOA, Gary Sinise was the heart. Along with co-founders Grammer, Voight, and Heaton, other members included Jerry Bruckheimer, Robert Duvall, Clint Eastwood, Dennis Miller, and Tom Selleck. David Mamet joined after his “conversion” to conservatism. Other FOAs included Mykelti Williamson (“Bubba” from Forrest Gump), Kristy Swanson (the original “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”), character actor Nick Searcy (the balding, irascible guy from every movie you’ve ever seen), Dwight Schultz (“Madman Murdock” from the original A Team), Robert Davi (the pockmarked terrorist from every movie you’ve ever seen), Joseph C. Phillips (The Cosby Show), John Schneider (yee-haw, it’s Bo Duke!), Jim Caviezel (The Passion of the Christ’s Viking Jesus), Bo Derek, Robert Hayes (Airplane), David Zucker (Airplane), Clint Howard (Ron’s brother), Powers Booth, and veteran stand-up comic Tom Dreesen.
But mainly it was Sinise’s show. He put a ton of his own money into it, but more importantly, it was something he loved. He never missed an event. And, in 2009, there were plenty of them. At least two luncheons a month, one beer-drinking party night (second Tuesday of every month at Barney’s Beanery in Westwood Village, closed to the public), and one fancy dinner per month with the cream-of-the-crop of GOP leaders—Dick Cheney, Condi Rice, John Boehner, Karl Rove, Paul Ryan, Herman Cain, Rick Perry, Michele Bachmann, Newt Gingrich, Marco Rubio, Charles Krauthammer, Justice Antonin Scalia, Allen West, Michael Steele (then-chair of the RNC), Eric Cantor, Mark Levin, Larry Elder, Tim Pawlenty, Mike Rogers, Mark Kirk, Frank Luntz . . . hell, you name ’em, they would be at our shindigs.
When I met Congressman Darrell Issa, I was pissed that my Stein identity prevented me from using what would have been the best icebreaking comment ever: “Hey congressman, meet the other guy targeted for death by Irv Rubin and the JDL!”
The Friends of Abe mindset was interesting. It was very defensive, in that there was much complaining about the bullying and repression that conservatives receive in the entertainment industry, which is genuine. I heard some absolutely horrific stories from the below-the-line Abes. One fellow, a camera operator on the ill-fated 10 p.m. Jay Leno show on NBC, told us about how, the day that Rush Limbaugh was scheduled to appear, a casting director took several crew members into Rush’s dressing room to piss on the couch he’d be sitting on.
A former intelligence official who worked as a technical advisor on the CBS drama The Unit told of nonstop harassment from lead Dennis Haysbert, who believed that “Bush and Cheney blew up the Twin Towers,” and who wouldn’t stop hassling the technical advisor until he “admitted the truth about 9/11 being an ‘inside job.’”
The writer of the Jodie Foster vehicle The Brave One lamented how the studio heads criticized the film for being too “pro-Second Amendment,” and removed much the of screenplay’s message about firearms and female empowerment, thus—ironically—making a much more standard “guns and revenge” flick in the style of Death Wish.
John Schneider told the story of how his complaint about doing a scene in which he gives Clark Kent a condom and tells him to have safe sex led to his sudden firing from Smallville.
A writer for a TV sketch comedy show told us how, in October 2008, he was prevented from doing a satirical skit about Obama, and ordered by the producers to rewrite it to be anti-Palin instead. Oh, and the writer in question is black, the only black writer on the show, yet still dictated to and ordered around by the totally-not-racist white writers.
And at least a dozen below-the-line people, on a dozen different TV shows, told of being ordered—at the risk of losing their jobs—to stop working and watch the Obama inauguration in January 2009.
All of these complaints, and the dozens of others that I don’t have space to list, are legitimate. Leftists in the entertainment biz are bullies. But the problem with Friends of Abe was the siege mentality. You can call it commiserating, or you can call it bitching and moaning, but either way, no forward progress is made. The Abes preferred to wallow in self-pity and get drunk, as opposed to doing what the left does, which is make films, TV shows, and music, support each other, and get things done.
To be sure, the Abes could occasionally make an impact. In 2010, we convinced then-RNC chair Michael Steele to use a studio audience for the GOP’s State of the Union response (typically, SOTU responses are delivered by a lonely figure alone in front of a mic, looking like Oliver Twist asking for seconds).
But most of the time, very little got done at FOA. And the GOP preferred using Abe money to Abe ideas. That was understandable; our money was good, but most of the time, our ideas sucked. Our whining was top-notch, though. ...
17) Table for Jew?
One of the funny things about FOA is that table placement is everything. At the VIP banquets, the least popular kids sit in the back. The popular kids are at Sinise’s “captain’s table.” My first banquet, I was put in the back. Okay, sure. I’m a newbie.
The dog-eat-dog nature of the group was displayed to me that night. As I was enjoying my third pre-dinner glass of wine, Sinise’s assistant hustled a guy over to my table. “We have to stick this guy over here, okay?” He clumsily made a place setting between me and the person to my left. “Sorry, but we had to move this guy from one of the front tables.”
“This guy” was Dwight Schultz (Murdock from The A-Team). Poor bastard. He’d been deemed not worthy of the front tables. And here he was, sitting awkwardly with a non-matching chair and place setting, like a kid in a high chair at the grown-up table.
But I was elated. I’d never seen an episode of The A-Team in my life, but I was a fan of Dwight from his work in Fat Man and Little Boy (with Paul Newman), and the very, very underrated horror classic Alone in the Dark (which I’d probably seen a hundred times). And I knew his story. In 1989, while shooting Fat Man, he’d been outed as a conservative. To any liberals reading this, please allow me to point out that in the days before Fox News and Breitbart and Limbaugh, we conservatives were totally at your mercy in the media. When Dwight was “outed” it became headlines in Variety and the L.A. Times and elsewhere. And his career dried up.
Seriously, liberals, you can be real dicks sometimes. You might despise Fox and all conservative media, but the truth is, you brought it on yourselves. Conservatives needed a defense against your bullying.
Dwight’s new seat placement worked out wonderfully for us both that night. I knew more about his non-A-Team work than he did. And he told me about how, at one point, when he couldn’t find a job, when he was completely blacklisted, he considered suicide. He told me that Friends of Abe had saved his life.
That night I received the best possible lesson in why this group is important. Fellowship. And that was Sinise’s goal. I came away from that dinner with a true admiration for Gary Sinise and his work. But fuck if I was ever going to be put at the back table again.
On a personal note, Gary Sinise is one of the kindest men I’ve ever met. Soft-spoken, gracious, and a perfect host. After the first time he met me, he never forgot my name, or what I did for a living, or my history (“Stein’s” history, of course). He began emailing me privately to talk about my Holocaust work. And when he learned what I was doing with my own Republican Party Animals group, we began discussing ways to collaborate.
I was impressed that he quickly became familiar with my work, on his own, with no prompting from me. He saw the trailer for “Nuremberg,” and he emailed me immediately: “I’ve seen your trailer for your documentary on Nuremberg and wow! This piece looks quite powerful. I was wondering where I might get a DVD of it.”
I thought he was just being polite, but at the next banquet, he again asked if he could buy a DVD. I told him I’d be happy to bring a complimentary one the next time I saw him.
“You better not forget! I really want to see it,” he said.
The next time I saw him, he came right up to me, smiling: “You better have that DVD, buddy! I’ve been looking forward to seeing it all week.” He actually watched it and called me to discuss it afterwards.
We Jews call a guy like that a mensch.
Whereas the other A-listers would breeze on in to our events, have a drink, mingle, and leave, Sinise put his blood and sweat into FOA. He had a genuinely beautiful dream for the group—he wanted to create a place where Hollywood conservatives could meet in private, blow off steam, and network. Sinise envisioned an oasis (he would often use that term) where friendships and deals could be made, in a “safe” environment, hidden from the scorn of liberal Hollywood.
At the same time that I was establishing a presence in FOA, I was laying the cards on the table with Oregon Scatty. I wanted to expand the Republican Party Animals beyond just a Facebook group. I thought we could make the group huge. I knew Scatty couldn’t contribute much, but what did I care? In my hands, the group could do great things.
Scatty agreed. We became partners. And it was the best possible partnership—an incompetent silent partner in Oregon, and a guy in L.A. looking to raise some holy hell against Obama before the 2010 midterms.
But before I could truly expand the Republican Party Animals, I had to get in good with the Abes. At its core, there were two types of people in the group, not counting the A-listers. You had the “Pitchers”—sleazy bottom-feeders pitching projects, looking for money, viewing the room as a resource to be mined, and you had the “Cougars”—wrinkly, suntanned, over-the-hill women, some quite plain, some formerly attractive, looking for male companionship and financial support to supplement the two dollar residual checks they got from having played “bimbo number two” in 1986’s Zombie Debutante Massacre.
The typical FOA event was mainly about everyone sizing each other up. It was coarse, but no more so than non-conservative Hollywood.
The way I saw it, if I wanted to ensure that I’d never again be at a back table, strategizing was called for. If there are only two types of people in FOA—the people who want shit, and the people who have, or who can offer, the shit, I had to be in the second category. You’re either bringing something to the table or you’re taking from it. The bringers get respect.
I was already ahead of the game in that I had nothing to pitch. I just wanted to grow the Republican Party Animals. And now, with FOA, I had a network—two thousand Hollywood conservatives who I could invite to my events.
So that was plan #1—create events; make the Republican Party Animals a sister organization to FOA, but create events very different from what FOA did. Open bars, loud music, and beautiful, beautiful women.
That led to plan #2—Rosie. There was not another girl in FOA even remotely like her. In the days before the Abes came to know me as the Republican Party Animal, they knew me, from day one, as the guy with the twenty-something six-foot-tall redheaded runway model.
I might as well have walked around the room with my ample ten-inch cock sticking out of my pants spewing jiz on my lessers and demanding they thank me for the privilege. With Rosie by my side, those losers knew who the better man was (what’s that crap about pride going before a fall? Nah, that’d never happen to me).
Plan #3 wasn’t even planned per se, it just happened. The Abes thought I had money. They thought I had money because my Republican Party Animals events looked like someone spent a boatload of money on them. And the truth is, I certainly risked a lot of money on them, but I would usually break even or, sometimes, lose a grand or so. But that was between me and my wallet and Rosie, who was growing very antsy about the fact that I had a new “love” in my life, one to which I was increasingly directing my resources.
But Rosie pulled her weight (if unintentionally) in unexpected ways. Turns out, her acting coach, whose classes I paid for, was the same guy who coached Sinise’s then-twenty year old daughter Sophie. The two young pretty girls, the youngest and prettiest ones in the room, took to chatting, as young pretty girls do in a room filled with fat old bald men. Sophie invited us to sit with her and her dad.
Cue Hans Landa voice: “Woooooo, that’s a bingo!” Captain’s table, here we come.
Around the same time, I held the first massive Republican Party Animals event, in fall 2009. The Abe events were “safe.” Pretty banquet room, lots of suits and ties, cash bar. Sure, the RPA wasn’t nearly well-known enough yet to attract the big-ticket guests that FOA could get, but for that first event, I didn’t need a congressman or senator.
I had Emilee.
Emilee was one of my best friends. She still is. She’s not a “political” friend. In fact, as much as I wanted to bring her to Abe events, I couldn’t, because she’s so blessedly distant from politics (lucky her) that she couldn’t have passed for a conservative if she tried (bringing a non-conservative to an Abe event was immediate grounds for dismissal).
Emilee had worn many hats in her life. Actress, model, student, PR person, sales rep, flight attendant, event organizer, and journalist. But at this point in her life, she was all about pole dancing. She’d created a troupe of beautiful young “vertical acrobats” who pole dance “Cirque du Soleil” style. She dubbed her troupe “The VertiGirls.” Em had been booking these ladies left and right, for classy events that wanted non-stripping pole dancers. She was also hosting a Monday night pole dancing and live music show at a local club, The Good Hurt, in Venice.
Emilee was my ticket to showing the Abes why the RPA had a reason for being. I collected three live bands, including John Romano’s garage band, and a band fronted by Abe actor and Breitbart writer Gary Graham (best known as the lead in the TV series Alien Nation, and as the Vulcan Ambassador on Star Trek: Enterprise). Em did the rest. She procured a swanky downtown art gallery, because by holding the event at a private gallery we could bring in our own liquor and drink until morning.
And Em brought the ladies. Her five “VertiGirls.” She set up three huge floor-to-ceiling poles, and one of her girls set up a trapeze above the room. And then there was Anjel . . . a fire-dancer and fire-breather. The highlight of her act? Limbo-dancing with her crotch on fire.
A totally private event, with all-night free liquor (none of that “beer and wine only” crap. This was a true open bar), three rock bands, five stunning pole dancers, one acrobat swinging from the ceiling to a mix of patriotic songs, and one flaming cooter.
The Abes were impressed. Several hundred of them attended.
We had a few other bits of entertainment—“conservative comedian” (and former Bill Maher writer) Evan Sayet, a dude named Ari David who was running for congress, black conservative activist Ted Hayes, and Eric Gollum, a Washington Times blogger who nearly didn’t get in because the doorman thought he was a giant two-legged mole (this happens to him a lot).
Okay, his real last name is Golub. But seriously, “Gollum” is way more appropriate. To his credit, he gave us a nice write-up in the Washington Times: “This is not your father’s Republican Party. Los Angeles felt like Las Vegas, or at the very least Sodom and Gomorrah (with tax cuts). Welcome to the world of the Republican Party Animals.”
By 3 a.m., Abes were outside the gallery projectile vomiting. I really thought one guy was going to die. We carried him in and some of the girls pitched pennies at him as he lay passed out on a couch. I declared the evening a success.
This was early November 2009. Now, the Abes all knew who I was.
In between dealing with the cougars and the pitchers, Friends of Abe was a pretty nice place to be. I didn’t much mind the caste system, as I was easily able to navigate it. And no one was ever a jerk toward anyone else, regardless of station. Well, David Horowitz (an early member) was a huge dick, but he’s that way to friends and foes alike. Horowitz reacts to a request to shake hands as most men would to a request to grab the penis of a rotting corpse. He doesn’t even like looking at people. He would attend the events and walk through the outskirts of the room as though every person was exhaling Ebola. At first, I thought he might be autistic, but his underlings assured me that he’s just an asshole.
After his FrontPage Magazine ran one of my pieces, I went up to him to thank him at the next FOA event. He nodded, and actually made eye contact, before vamoosing. “Wow—he really likes you,” one of his toadies gushed.
The Abe events provided some funny moments. Pat Boone getting into an argument with Karl Rove over the “Obama birth certificate” issue (Rove: “Just drop it, Pat. He was born here. Leave it alone.” Boone: “That’s just what that Kenyan Muslim wants you to think, Karl. Stop being a traitor!”).
Jon Voight, who would often arrive with a date young enough to be his daughter and looking disgustingly like her, can be quite amusing when he drinks. When we had Paul Ryan at one of the events, it was understood that he was on a tight schedule and had to leave soon. For whatever reason, a giddy and tipsy Voight jumped up on stage and wouldn’t relinquish the mic. He cavorted around on-stage like a loon for damn near twenty minutes, embarrassing the hell out of himself. We ended up getting no more than a half-hour of Ryan’s time before he had to leave for LAX.
Thanks a lot, Midnight Cowboy.
Clint Eastwood was exactly as cold and distant as you’d expect Clint Eastwood to be. He’d arrive in silence, sit at the captain’s table, and no matter how important the speaker, they’d go to him after the speech to pay their respects (you gotta admit—that is pretty cool).
Eastwood only came to those events where the speaker was “important.” When he showed up for a Marco Rubio speech in 2011, that’s when we knew that Rubio had a future. Or so it seemed at the time. Indeed, after Eastwood’s GOP convention speech in 2012, I’m kind of wondering about his future now.
Jerry Bruckheimer’s choices of events to attend were often baffling. Senator John Thune from Nebraska but not Dick Cheney or John Boehner? Oh well, it’s probably just a matter of his busy schedule. It’s not easy being Bruckheimer. As of this writing, he’s holding special screenings for the Abes of his $230,000,000 disaster The Lone Ranger, practically begging the members to come.
Of course, Bruckheimer’s career will survive, certainly more so than that of David Zucker, another longtime member. Zucker, in his day one of the most influential voices in American comedy, had at some point simply lost it. Maybe a mule kicked him in the head, maybe a gypsy curse, who knows. In 2008 he got the brilliant idea to marshal all of the Abe resources to do a film. It was called An American Carol (an anti-leftist version of A Christmas Carol), and it starred such Abe actors as Kelsey Grammer, Robert Davi, Mary Hart (wait, is she an actress?), Bill O’Reilly (okay, he’s definitely not an actor), Kevin Sorbo, James Woods, and, of course, Voight.
Pretty much every extra in the film was an Abe, including several of the L.A. GOP leaders, who got cameos.
It was to be a dawning of a new day on the Planet of the Abes—a secret conservative society working together to make a feature film that would appeal to our own sensibilities. Ah, what wonders the future held.
Except that when the film was completed it turned out to be such a piece of shit that it can literally give you cancer just by watching it. Seriously. People have died. Or maybe they were just sleeping . . . I never really bothered to check.
Undeterred, Zucker tried again in 2010 with an all-Abe commercial to unseat Senator Barbara Boxer in California. Every person in the thing was an Abe. Though invited, I didn’t take part, because the call-time would have required me getting up very, very early (like, around the time I normally go to sleep). I’m grateful to Zucker for giving the world Airplane, but I’m not that grateful.
Fortunately, the commercial worked like a charm, and today all of California is very pleased to have our beloved Senator Carly Fiorina. Oh, wait, I think I got that backward—the commercial was a steaming pile of crap and Boxer won handily.
I was genuinely pleased to get to hang out with Robert Duvall, one of my favorite actors. If I ever say anything snarky about him, may I find Clemenza in the back seat of the car I’m riding in.
Same with Dennis Miller. Love the guy. Dana Carvey too. Nice fellas in person. Patricia Heaton rarely missed an event. In fact, much like Voight, she could get a little loopy and playful, once dancing for the group on the giant steps of the Reagan Museum Air Force One pavilion. She even engaged in a comedy routine with John Boehner during one of his several visits (they both hail from the same town in Ohio).
Kelsey Grammer would do the Eastwood thing—silently creep in, silently creep out. But unlike Eastwood, he’d have to stand in the receiving line like everyone else to meet our speakers. Only Clint got the personal table visits.
Among the B-listers, Mykelti Williamson was friendly and jovial, but I always had to instruct Rosie to keep reminding me not to mention the stabbing. Look, it’s just my nature. I meet a guy who carved up his ex-wife’s boyfriend with a butcher knife, I’m driven, Tourette-style, to make a joke about it. But, thankfully, I was able to refrain. As he never once joked about it himself, I can only assume he doesn’t have much of a sense of humor about it (nor, would I imagine, does the victim).
Clint Howard, Ron Howard’s . . . how to phrase this . . . “unique-looking” brother, was always extremely nice and helpful to me. Jesus, I feel shitty having just made a comment about his looks.
Other B-listers included Bruce “does this plastic surgery make me look like Aunt Bea” Jenner, Fabio, and Robert Hayes, who I used to idolize after seeing him in Airplane.
David Mamet would come to the events with his daughter. Damn, I loved talking with Mamet. Like Duvall, I can’t bring myself to be snarky about him (even though his HBO Phil Spector movie sucked).
Even though I’d heard the term “Bible-thumper” my entire life, I never met someone who actually thumps a Bible until I met Adam Baldwin. I’d grown up really liking Baldwin’s work, from My Bodyguard to Full Metal Jacket to, yes, even D.C. Cab. These days, most people know him from either Firefly or the NBC show Chuck.
I always thought he was a fine actor, with a kind face.
And man, can that sumbitch thump a Bible! About a year after I joined the Abes, Baldwin had a religious “awakening.” And, with the passion of a new convert, he’d bring his Bible to our meetings and thump the living shit out of it.
The first time he did it, I whispered to Rosie, “Holy shit, Adam’s actually thumping a Bible. Ain’t that a sight.”
About three years later, he stopped bringing the Bible. Maybe he “backslid,” or maybe he just got tired of replacing Bibles that became pulverized by his massive fists. I mean, the cost adds up, you know?
B-listers like D.B. Sweeney, Dean Cain, and Kevin Sorbo did a lot of networking. B-minus listers like Neal McDonough and Kristy Swanson, too. John Ratzenberger from Cheers just sort of hung out at the events and chilled (voiceover work pays well, I hear). Speaking of which, voice actor Maurice LaMarche was an Abe. I found it very satisfying that the guy who so effectively voiced the Alec Baldwin puppet in “Team America” genuinely despised the guy in real life.
Along with the genial, talented members, the Abes had their outright lunatics as well, like Victoria Jackson (the ditzy blonde from the 1980s cast of Saturday Night Live whose ditzy blonde routine made her seem about five thousand times smarter than she actually is). Jackson seemed incapable of not making racist or anti-Jewish comments, much to the chagrin of the Abes who tried to use her “talents” in various in-house projects (this was another factor that hindered Abe productivity; it was mainly the nuts who were available for projects. The reasonable and intelligent Abes, like Sinise and Bruckheimer, had lives). Another nut was good old Pat Boone, God bless him—an icon, and batshit crazy. He was our resident “birther” (well, Justified’s Nick Searcy was one as well, but he knew to keep that stuff in our private Facebook group).
John O’Hurley, “Mr. Peterman” from Seinfeld, was a member. I would’ve invited Larry the “Soup Nazi” to join us, but he’s pretty left-of-center (although I think Larry would go anywhere if it meant he could hawk his merchandise and sell autographs).
And then there were the various other non-A-listers in FOA, musicians like Emmy-winning composer Boris “Bobo” Zelkin (who drew a lot of water in the group because he did music for Sinise), voice actors like anime star Spike Spencer, and casting directors like Nancy Foy (the Jurassic Park films, the Blade films, the Miss Congeniality films).
Some Abes occupied categories all their own. Nick Searcy, who would go on to become a very close friend of mine in the group, wasn’t a household name, but you’ve seen him. He’s one of the best character actors in the business, appearing in such films as Fried Green Tomatoes (the bald abusive husband), The Fugitive (the bald sheriff), Cast Away (Tom Hanks’ bald best friend), Head of State (Eddie Murphy’s bald nemesis), and Moneyball (I never saw it, but I’m assuming baldness was involved).
In 2010, Searcy scored a major prize—a co-starring role on the FX series Justified (bald U.S. Marshall Art Mullen). This put Searcy in a unique position in FOA. He wasn’t an A-lister, but he had an extremely lucrative and high-paying network job, and he was actively involved in the group, not detached, like the Eastwoods and Grammers.
When I first met Nick, I had no idea we’d become the good friends we ended up becoming. He loves to project a tough guy/assholeish image, and, in all honesty, it’s only forty percent fiction. Now that I’ve written this book, he will, if we ever cross paths again, almost certainly insert his foot up my ass. And you know what? I’d be okay with that. It would be an honor.
I also became good friends with Larry Elder, the brilliant talk show host and best-selling author (I’d been a massive fan of his years before I’d ever heard of the Abes). Larry doesn’t like dealing with minutiae, so if I thought there was a particularly good Abe meeting coming up, I’d bring him as my guest. A neat side effect of that (and this was not something I calculated or pre-planned) was that having Larry as my guest was yet another ticket to the “Captain’s Table.”
When Larry and I went to the Dick Cheney dinner, we got to sit next to Mary Cheney. Now that was cool. They put Rosie in the back of the room. Six-foot-tall fashion models are great . . . but Larry Elder is, well, Larry Elder.
Rosie didn’t mind. She wouldn’t have known Mary Cheney from Lon Chaney. Plus, we had a deal regarding Abe dinners. The Abes served prix fixe menus of chicken, fish, or pasta. Not nearly enough for Rosie’s appetite. So, before every dinner, I’d get her the usual $200 meal, and the Abe plate would be nothing more than a small after-dinner snack for her. If she was full, she was content, so I bought her an especially large meal before the Cheney event, as compensation for her having to sit in the back.
As a sign of the Abes’ growing clout, within a few weeks of being sworn in as speaker, John Boehner returned to L.A. to meet for the second time with the Abes. And it wasn’t for our scintillating company. Washington politicos had realized that the Abes can write checks. Why should liberal politicians have all the fun soliciting donations from Hollywood? The Abes were a goldmine of money.
My Republican Party Animals events grew and matured. I’d decided to drop the pole dancers after the 2010 “scandal” in which RNC Chair Michael Steele was crucified for taking some high-level donors to a strip club. I knew, after that, that I couldn’t attract high-level GOPs with pole dancers flailing about. My growing reputation put me on Sinise’s “personal” list of favorite Abes. Whenever there’d be a limited-seating event, or a private luncheon that he’d be attending, only a select group of Abes got the invite, directly from Gary himself. Not bad, as I’d only been in the thing for about six months at the time.
Copyright Feral House 2014. This excerpt from David Cole's Party Animal is reprinted with permission.
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