I just got an email from my pal Bart Baker. Bart is a wonderful writer, whose written several screenplays (most notably, Live Wire, with Pierce Brosnan), as well as a ton of TV movies -- including a series of Mother of the Bride romantic comedies. He's also produced many of these. Most recently, he wrote the wonderful -- and highly recommended -- novel Honeymoon with Harry, which has a five-star rating on Amazon from 52 user reviews.
(Disclaimer: I served as editor of the book, so I'm biased. But I'm still right. It's great. If you want to know more about the fascinating history behind the book -- and its journey through Hollywood with the film rights being sold to New Line Cinema, and people like Robert De Niro, Jack Nicholson and now Bradley Cooper being involved at various points -- I wrote an article about it here.)
Anyway, Bart moved back home to Missouri a couple years ago, where he still writes, teaches and rants. As great a writer as Bart is, he's a world class ranter. You must understand, Bart looks like no other writer in Hollywood. Picture the character of Mr. Clean -- that's Bart. Seriously. He's even got the earring. He used to compete in bodybuilding contests. Writers are supposed to be pasty. Bart would walk in a producer's office, they'd be prepared to nitpick his script, and then hide.
Contrary to his menacing appearance, Bart is actually among the warmest, sweetest, funniest, most nurturing guy around. But -- he rants. He's outspoken. He speaks truth to power. He doesn't care who you are, he'll be totally honest with you -- he simply is not intimidated by anyone. He is just brutally honest. In his Bartolian, outrageous way. But he's very thoughtful, and gives great consideration to what he says -- before he then rants. And he doesn't back off his opinions, but will go out of his way to be upfront and therefore fair with you. And he always wants to know your opinion in return. Which includes writing letters to public officials. Which leads to this --
As I said, Bart moved to Missouri. In fact, in a twist of fate that shows God's sense of humor, he lives in the district that had been represented by Todd Akins. Yes, that Todd Akins. (Though Akins no longer represents the district...)
Knowing that Bart lived in Missouri, I thought he'd be interested in something I had just found out. That the nephew of a friend of mine, John Kander, was elected last November as the youngest Secretary of State in Missouri's history, at the age of 31. Jason Kander.
(There is a slew of nephews here. Because my friend John Kander is the namesake and nephew of the Broadway legend who I wrote about the other day, the writer of Cabaret and Chicago and "New York, New York.")
Anyway, in our exchange, we got onto Missouri politics in general, since Jason Kander is a liberal Democrat in a pretty Red state, making his election all the more impressive. In discussing this, Bart got into some of the far-Right political issues in Missouri that bugged him -- and when Bart gets bugged, you just sit back and enjoy the E-ticket ride. Ultimately, he got around to telling me about an issue that he found particularly galling and went on a BartRant which included the tale of him writing a Missouri state representative, Rick Brattin (R-Harrisonville), not even his own. (See, I told you he puts his money where his mouth is.)
But better to let Bart pick up the tale in his own words. With his permission, I pass along the the appropriate part of his email to me. He wrote --
The state assembly is trying to pass a bill now to put "intelligent design" into text books as fact. I wrote a nice letter to the Republican who created the bill, who looks to be about 15 and from some farm in Bumbfuck, Missouri, and told him that I was glad he sponsored the bill so that I wouldn't just assume he was a dumb hillbilly, and said that I preferred he taught his ignorance to his own children and left mine out of it. I told him the Bible tells me to try and crush out all stupidity...it's in the verse right next to where "intelligent design" is mentioned. And that once someone had to tell me their idea was "intelligent," I pretty much knew it wasn't.
It will not surprise you that I love hearing from Bart. Especially when he's really pissed off at something. This isn't even Grade A BartRant. But mainly, I just admire a person who's willing to speak his opinions and -- and this is important -- is willing to put his name to them, even when going out of his way to talk to power. And who is open enough to always want to know your honest opinion in return, and asks you for it.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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