A Different Former Actor for Governor


Let’s say, hypothetically, California has a different former actor as its governor. 

Let’s say that former actor is Charlton Heston, who had a role in the current chief executive’s film, True Lies, and said of himself, “I’ve played three presidents, three saints and two geniuses – and that’s probably enough for any man.” 

 How might Chuck have wrestled with our $16 billion budget gap? Who would be his director of Finance? Head of Parks and Rec? His solution to illegal immigration? 

There are plenty of clues gleanable from his 60-year movie career and the roles he gravitated toward. 

Whether a police detective, plantation owner, Biblical figure, cowpoke, ceiling painter or military officer Heston always had swagger. In The Agony and the Ecstasy, Rex Harrison’s Pope Julius II accused him of arrogance. 

And while there was a fair amount of arrogance in Gordon of Khartoum, there was also a steadfast inner strength, manifest in lines like “Every man has a final weapon – his own life. If he’s afraid to lose it, he throws the weapon away.” 

And it was always a swagger and strength at its best when things were worst. 

Let’s say you’re on some planet where monkeys rule and you’re their prisoner. Is your opening attempt at diplomacy going to be “Take your stinking paws off me, you damn dirty ape?” 

Not exactly Lesson 1 in Otto Von Bismarck’s RealPolitik 101. 

A lot of this strength comes from being thrown into major league adversity. How would you feel if someone said this about you? 

“Let the name of Moses be stricken from every book and tablet, stricken from all pylons and obelisks, stricken from every monument of Egypt. Let the name of Moses be unheard and unspoken, erased from the memory of men for all time.” 

That’s gotta be a downer and a half. Oh, and as an extra bonus, we’re gonna dump you in the middle of a fiery hot desert with a walking stick and not much else so you can wander around until you die horribly of thirst, starvation and exposure. 

Pharoah, smaroah, says Chuck Heston.  Bring it on, baby. Yul be sorry in the end. 

Suffering, privation, ostracism nothing but an incubator for Chuck’s power – and his wrath. 

After shacking up with the fox-a-licious Yvonne Di Carlo, Chuck goes back to Egypt and confronts Baldy the Second. 

“You gave me this staff to rule over scorpions and serpents. God has made it a staff to rule over kings.” 

Tell me you’re not going to confirm this man’s Coastal Commission appointee? 

Indomitable to the max. 

“Everybody’s got to die. Nobody’s got to give up,” says Sam Burgade in The Last Hard Men

If the current governor seems to domineer the Legislature think what it would be like with Heston chomping up the scenery. 

He’d be a smart executive, too, as well as a gutsy fighter. 

Would you have thought up the landmines in Khartoum? The stuff he jury-rigged to protect his townhouse in Omega Man? Following Edward G.  “I’ve lived too long” Robinson’s corpse to unravel the horrifying truth about Soylent Green

Like to see Darrell Steinberg try to take out Chuck Connors. 


Actually, I could see Darrell as Buttons the Clown in The Greatest Show on Earth, particularly the scene where Buttons and Heston, as Brad Braden, are watching Holly and Sebastian one-up each other on the trapeze. 

Darrell/Buttons: “How long do you think this can go on before something happens?” 

Heston/Braden: “Its circus isn’t it?” 

Darrell/Buttons: “Do you believe in prayer?”

Heston/Braden: “And practice.” 

But that’s as close to Heston as Darrell is ever going to get. Period. 


Another trait Heston shares with the current governor is a skilled understanding of bread and pageantry, its importance and his place in it. Proof: “People of Valencia! I bring you bread!” 

We’d laugh uproariously if Karen Bass even tried to say: “Let my May Revision go!” 

Or: “Proclaim liberty through all of California and to all the inhabitants thereof.” Not sure even Schwarzenegger can rock any harder than that. 

Heston’s leadership skills are legion but no more succinctly summarized than in Major Dundee

 “I have only three commands. When I signal you to come, you come. When I signal you to charge, you charge. And when I signal you to run – you follow me and run like hell!”  

He understands law enforcement. “A policeman’s job is only easy in a police state,” he points out in Touch of Evil

There’ also a spiritual side to Heston, which would no doubt help sustain him in lengthy budget battles or thorny policy debates. 

“I’m a seeker too. But my dreams aren’t like yours,” he says as George Taylor in Planet of the Apes. “I can’t help thinking that somewhere in the universe there has to be something better than man. Has to be.”  (Helluva a foreshadower too.) 

We know he’s politically astute; he played Andrew Jackson once and Cardinal Richelieu twice.  And he knows how to lose with aplomb because like Paul Simon says before you learn how to fly, learn how to fall. 

“Your Eminence is a great player, great enough to lose. I do not like to lose,” Faye Dunaway says to Richelieu in one of the Musketeers flicks. 

“You must suit yourself Milady. But if in the end you should (lose), do it with becoming grace.” 

Don’t forget his sense of humor, a critical skill in changing the tone of a tense negotiation. 

As Robert Neville in Omega Man he crashes his car in the empty depopulated streets of Los Angeles. “There’s never a cop around when you need one.” 

Hearing Ava Gardner, his wife in Earthquake shout, “Goddamn it!” Heston replies: “Your last words to me last night; your first words this morning. Ever thought of expanding your vocabulary?” 

Even offstage, Heston doesn’t mince words.  He teed off pretty hard on Bill Clinton and those foolhardy enough to believe gun ownership should be restricted. 

Here’s a bulls-eye: “Political Correctness is tyranny with a happy face.” 

Like Schwarzenegger, Heston has a sunny outlook. 

“In all of Shakespeare’s plays, no matter what tragic events occur, no matter what rises and falls, we return to stability in the end. Society mends its wounds. That’s invariably true in all the tragedies, in the comedies as well. And certainly in the histories.” 

And he exudes two essential – albeit rarely possessed — political traits, realism and modesty. 

“You can spend a lifetime and, if you’re honest with yourself, never once was your work perfect.” 

Maybe not but like Rex Harrison says after Heston claims his frescoed ceiling on the Sistine Chapel is only paint and plaster: “It’s much more than that.” 










Filed under: Venting

1 Comment »

  1. Aww, I don’t know. I’d bet DS is more of a jack lemmon man, boss. maybe a new paradigm for leadership. Like George Kellerman in the Out of Towners: “We can think. As long as we’ve got our brains, we can think.”

    Comment by Jim Evans — 4.12.2008 @ 8:07 am

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Leave a comment