I was driving through Beverly Hills yesterday, on my way out to Malibu, and the signs in the yards caught my eye.
Not the “For Sale” signs. Nobody likes to talk about it openly, except when they’re celebrating diversity, but Beverly Hills is currently undergoing the greatest ethnic turnover since Harlem went from white to black in the 1930s. Nearly a quarter of the city’s residents are now Iranian, and 40 percent of the school kids. The last municipal election printed ballots in three languages — reconquista Spanish, Upper West Side English, and “Death to the Great Satan” Farsi. What the fall of the shah started, the rise of the mullahs will eventually finish, and 90210 will be just another precinct in Tehran, with the same taste in interior furnishings.
No, the other signs. You know, the ones that say “ARMED RESPONSE.” (They’re usually just to the left of the “Kerry/Edwards” signs.) Not only in Beverly Hills, of course, but in Santa Monica, Hancock Park, Brentwood, Bel Air, and all the best neighborhoods in town. The signs that advertise our private-security services.
You see, although we in Hollywood are personally opposed to firearms, and passionately support gun control, we have to be realistic about Bush’s America and protect our families and, more important, our possessions from burglars, stalkers, muggers, street people, the homeless, immigrants, the Christian Right, and tourists from Kansas City.
That’s why we were all so taken aback by the recent D.C. circuit-court ruling, which found that the residents of Washington are constitutionally entitled, as individuals, to possess firearms. It’s bad enough that every criminal in L.A. County has unlimited access to guns — now they want to give them to ordinary people, too?
Everyone knows perfectly well that the Bill of Rights was meant to protect the federal government against the depredations of the citizens — if you don‘t believe me, just ask senators McCain and Feingold — and no finer example can be found than good old No. 2, the militia amendment, which obviously refers to the Texas Air National Guard or whichever outfit it was that Bush weaseled his way out of, and not some stump-toothed survivalist hillbilly in flyover country.
You see, anger management is very important here in Hollywood. In the old days, barely literate glove makers from the old country could rant and rave and scream and holler; thousands turned out for Columbia chief Harry Cohn’s funeral, the saying went, because they wanted to make sure the S.O.B. was really dead. As Red Skelton quipped: “Give the public what they want and they’ll come out for it.”
But that is so old Beverly Hills. Today’s moguls barely raise their voices above Don Corleone whispers. They drink water or, if they’re feeling frisky, Diet Coke. They drive dead-silent Priuses. Why, if you didn’t know any better, you’d hardly believe they were even there.
Which is why Mel Gibson’s latest detonation has everybody shaking their heads: There he goes again! It seems that Mel got sandbagged by some lady named Alicia Estrada at Cal State Northridge the other day when, during a Q&A about his film Apocalypto, she demanded an apology on behalf of the “Mayan community and members of the Mayan community” for Mel’s daring to suggest that the Mayans were anything other than peace-loving, gay, agrarian progressives whose carbon footprint was no bigger than Al Gore’s house in Nashville. In response, crazy Mel went off his nut, dropped the f-bomb, and shouted at her to “make your own movie.”
Now, I’ve never met a Mayan, and thought they died out about One Million Years, B.C., or shortly after half a dozen Spanish conquistadores armed with a crucifix and a set of steak knives wiped out their entire civilization in three weeks, but what do I know? They’re probably living in Beverly Hills now, right alongside the Persians, part of our glorious, multicultural mosaic.
At least Mel didn’t pull out a gun and blow her out of her socks, like his Lethal Weapon character would have. Would anyone seriously want Mel armed and dangerous in any setting other than a Dick Donner movie? California’s got some of the toughest gun laws in the country, and when guns are finally outlawed, only people like Mel Gibson, Robert Blake, Phil Spector, and the gangs of South Central will have guns. And maybe Arnold.
Which is why we civilians have got our “Armed Response” signs. Not that we mean to create a hostile atmosphere or anything, but to translate them into plain English: “My Person of Color will shoot your Person of Color if your Person of Color breaks into my Person of Non-Color house.”
Yes, I know that in our movies, guys like Mel are heroes, forever yanking .45s or Glocks or Sig Sauers out of their pants and blowing some miscreant to hell and gone before the cops can put down their donuts and grab the 911 calls. A Hollywood man of action shoots first and never answers questions later, and you’re meant to think he’s cool.
Better yet, you’re meant to think that you too can shoot somebody with total impunity because in the movies the police never, ever arrest a guy like Mel unless he’s drunk as a skunk on the Pacific Coast Highway, raging about the Jews and calling a female cop “sugar tits.” Then he winds up in the Lost Hills sheriff’s station for real, posing for his mug shot. Just like…
Ryan O’Neal. Who got arrested here in peace-loving, non-confrontational Malibu in February for firing off a round in the direction of his son, Griffin, during a high-spirited, pre-St. Patrick’s Day Irish family altercation. This is the same Griffin who was found guilty of reckless boating back in 1986 when he accidentally decapitated director Francis Ford Coppola’s son, Gian-Carlo.
But, as we all know, people don’t kill people — boats do.