Tuesday, July 20, 2004


Snake Eyes

FREEDOM OF SONG. If celebrities are going to keep popping off about their politics, then somebody has to start keeping track. Here's what we're going to do: when some millionaire actor or singer shares his wisdom with the public, we're going to look into his credentials and share them with you. Everyone is entitled to speak his mind, but we are also entitled to inquire into the quality of any mind that insists on speaking into the giant mass media microphone. Our lucky first candidate for this exercise is Linda Ronstadt, who recently shared some of her views with the San Diego Union Tribune:

"This is an election year, and I think we're in desperate trouble and it's time for people to speak up and not pipe down. It's a real conflict for me when I go to a concert and find out somebody in the audience is a Republican or fundamental Christian. It can cloud my enjoyment. I'd rather not know."

Her enjoyment certainly got clouded at the Aladdin Hotel-Casino the other night. If she'd rather not have known about the Republicans in the audience, she sure was rolling the dice when she decided to dedicate a song to Michael Moore. They came up snake eyes. Neal Boortz summed up the incident this way:

Before singing "Desperado," she called Moore "a great American patriot" and "someone who is spreading the truth." She encouraged everybody to see the movie about President Bush. So what happened next? Did the audience just roll their eyes and wait for the song to start? Nope...they revolted. In addition to their loud boos, hundreds of concert-goers stormed out of the theater, tore down her concert posters and tossed their cocktails into the air. Nice work by the audience.

The president of the place, a Brit named Bill Timmins, told the AP Ronstadt had to go. He didn't let her back into her luxury hotel suite and had her escorted off the premises to her tour bus. He then had her suite emptied of her stuff and had it delivered to her and told her that she was not welcome to return.

When I call a plumber, I don't expect him to lecture me about the mechanics of good writing. And when I go to a concert, I don't expect a singer to hector me with a political spiel. So what are Linda Ronstadt's credentials for presuming to inflict her political insights on an audience which has just paid her a lot of money to sing songs? Here's what her bio says:

Linda Maria Ronstadt was born on July 15, 1946, in Tucson, Arizona. Her father was Mexican and her mother was German. Her first singing group was with her two siblings in the group, The Three Ronstadts.

Linda attended Arizona State University, where she met guitarist Bob Kimmel. He tried to persuade her to go to Los Angeles with him, but she declined because she wanted to stay in school. After a semester, however, she moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in music. In 1964, she joined Kimmel and songwriter, Kenny Edwards, in a folk group called the Stone Poneys.

Pretty impressive. Instead of dropping out of school immediately after freshman registration, she was was so determined to get an education that she remained enrolled for an entire semester. That's not quite enough time to declare a major, however, which means that Linda is, in fact, just a high school graduate who had an interpretive artistic talent sufficient to earn her millions of dollars. This should earn her respect as a singer, which it has, but it does not lend her any credibility whatsoever as a film reviewer, political affairs analyst, or arbiter of truth.

Linda Ronstadt would do well to heed the advice Laura Ingraham offers in her book Shut Up and Sing, which is that she should, well, shut up and sing. Why do I accord more weight to the pronouncements of Laura than Linda? Laura Ingraham can't sing, but she did finish school. She graduated from Dartmouth College and the University of Virginia Law School. She also clerked for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, and she gets paid for talking and writing about her political views. If she were to start singing at a stop on one of her book tours, I would expect people to start throwing things at her. They might even yell at her: "Shut up and talk!" That's how life works. It might not be fair, but it sure is life.

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