Warren Beatty has always been skeptical of movie stars who get their sticky fingers all over politics. "I think the public is innately suspicious of the self-forwarding, publicity-seeking, capricious artist who would like to attach some mood of seriousness to his persona by participating in public affairs." Yet Beatty himself is such a movie star -- drawn to politics and engaged in several past presidential campaigns to a degree few other contemporary artists can claim.
In a refreshing break from all the "Dick Tracy" palpitations, Vanity Fair counter-programs with a July profile of Beatty the political operator, an absorbing piece that dwells on the actor's strange symbiotic relationship with Gary Hart. It's an appetite-whetting sample of "The Power and the Glitter," Ronald Brownstein's forthcoming chronicle of the Hollywood-Washington nexus over the years.
The selection is apt: What did these two men find in each other, need in each other? Certainly Hart provided Beatty an entree to, and apparently a real role in, big-time politics. Even during the McGovern presidential campaign of 1972, which Hart managed, Beatty was extraordinarily active as a strategist, a brainstormer. He even tried, in the post-Eagleton heat of the campaign, to wrestle Hubert Humphrey into coming to the aid of his party as McGovern's second running mate.
It worked the other way around too. Beatty provided Hart an entree to a glamorous -- and forbidden, and licentious -- world. Those who hung around these two close contemporaries used to explain it like this: Hart wanted to be Beatty and Beatty wanted to be Hart. But Brownstein resists the interpretation, and points out that the differences between their vocations were significant -- and that it was Hart who never understood the crucial distinctions.
What he learned and admired from observing Beatty's success in controlling the terms of his celebrity, Hart thought he could apply to his own conduct as a public man. As Hart's quick extinction after the Donna Rice affair suggests, a movie star's public may be willing to accept his privacy and ignore his sexual indulgences, but the politician's will expect just the reverse: openness and moral rectitude.
In the end, Beatty tried to warn Hart of this, according to Brownstein, but the politician had "an enormous blind spot: He apparently believed that the heroic myth of the candidate could be constructed entirely from the material of his public life, that what he chose to display was all that should be displayed." Brownstein observes: "An actor could put behind him his personal life each time he stepped before the camera; a candidate could not."
Making Do With Less Just at a time when owners of newspapers are feeling pretty grim about prospects for big profits in the near term, here comes WJR, Washington Journalism Review, to tell them that their profits are plenty high as they are, and could even stand to shrink a little, if push comes to shove. The inevitable shove, of course, is the news budget, long the annual arm-wrestle between the editors and the publishers of daily newspapers, particularly in times (like these) of shrinking advertising linage.
As Jonathan Kwitny, formerly of the Wall Street Journal and PBS's "Kwitny Report," observes in this June article, newspapers set themselves a higher standard of operating profitability than many other industries, and to meet those expectations, newspaper chain owners especially have been forcing editors to perform budgetary triage on their news-gathering obligations. Kwitny writes a judicious and well-reported narrative, but does not hide his sympathies for those who say those priorities are exactly wrong.
The Givers Minorities in America are not, the assumption goes, big players in the world of philanthropy. "Critics note the minuscule numbers of minorities on the boards and staffs of foundations, and the low percentage of grant dollars directed to needs of minorities and women," writes Arlie Schardt, editor of Foundation News, in this special May/June issue on pluralism and minority issues in the world of philanthropy. "At the same time, little attention has been paid to the benevolent traditions and current giving practices of American Indians, Asians, blacks and Hispanics -- who are too often seen only as the recipients of charity rather than as generous communities in their own right."
This issue ably begins that process of paying attention, with historical articles on the giving traditions of the four above-mentioned groups, profiles of minority doers around the country (including Richard West, the Cheyenne-Arapaho who has since been appointed the first director of the National Museum of the American Indian) and informative articles on how today's minority philanthropies work.
For a subscription to Foundation News, (six issues), send $29.95 to Box 2029, Langhorne, Pa. 19047-9529.
End Times Robert Hughes, the monstrously agile art critic of Time, dons coroner's robes in the June 25 New Republic to perform an autopsy on New York: Its days as an international art center, the Rome or Paris of its time, are over.
"In the 1980s the scale of cultural feeding became gross, and its ailment coarse; bulimia, the neurotic cycle of gorge and puke, the driven consumption and regurgitation of images and reputations, became our main cultural metaphor. Never had there been so many artists, so much art, so many collectors, so many inflated claims, so little sense of measure. The inflation of the market, the victory of promotion over connoisseurship, the manufacture of art-related glamour, the poverty of art training, the embattled state of museums" -- these death rattles Hughes exposes and laments in this lengthy purgative.