Private Eye | Make It Go Away: Powerful bigots just represent a bigoted population 

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I went to the Salt Lake City Sundance premiere of The Great Buck Howard last week. Not a bad movie at all. I really enjoyed it. Then again, I was a big fan of The Amazing Kreskin, the pre-David Blaine and Criss Angel illusionist/mentalist that the movie was not based upon according to a disclaimer at the final reel. Despite my own approval (and an all-star cast), it’s apparently being regarded as a bit of a letdown and, according to film-industry Websites, it hasn’t garnered much of the Sundance currency called “buzz.” No buzz translates to no big dollars. No big dollars means you might not see Buck Howard at a movie theater and may have to wait for a video release.

Which, in a nutshell, is the story of Buck Howard anyway—a one-time big celebrity (both in and out of his own mind) relegated to playing small theaters in small towns gets a misfortunate big break that is destined to launch him back into the limelight. Then he blows it. In that he’s inclined to ultimately settle into his own level of greatness, Buck Howard is like all of us. We end up where we’re supposed to be. Like the guy sitting a couple rows behind me.

As I was getting into my seat, I glanced over my shoulder and saw a guy who reminded me so much of an old friend, I nodded his way. I couldn’t remember how I knew him, but I did. When he smiled back, I figured he remembered me, too. Not long after that Tom Hanks took the stage to introduce the movie which he co-produced and in which he has a role. Now, there’s a good guy. One by one, he brought out the writer/director and various actors to join him from behind stage. Wow—John Malkovich and Tom Arnold. Geez—Tom Hanks’ son Colin Hanks and Emily Blunt. Somewhere in there, Hanks announced Don Most. No Don Most.

Then it hit me. I knew Don Most as Donny Most. Donny Most was Ralph Malph on Happy Days. I turned just as Don began waving his arms and saying, “Hey, Tom, over here!” That was so appropriate. My friend Ralph never seemed to get it exactly right. We nodded to each other again at the post-movie gala. Little nods. The place was packed to the gills and moving around was difficult, but he was grinning from ear to ear. Never mind his bit in Buck Howard was for only a minute or so, Most seemed like Buck himself, just happy to be there. For my money, he was the most likeable guy in the room.

Not counting the politicians. I ran into Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon and Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker. Both reminded me of something I had written the week before—that politicians act like your friend, but they won’t be seen with you at the movies—and pointedly noted that, here we all were, at the movies. It wasn’t the first time I’ve been notably wrong on something. I talked to my neighbor Mark Wheatley, who is also my representative in the Legislature. He introduced me to his fellow legislator Christine Johnson. Johnson is introducing a bill to end discrimination against transgender people (see “Gloves Come Off”). Good luck!

This is Utah, after all. The Legislature opened yesterday on Martin Luther King Jr. Day as has been its in-your-face habit for 20 years or so. It’s not difficult for anyone to assume, since that legislative body is so brazen about disrespecting not only King but all people who embody his civil-rights spirit of equality, that they will not go far afield to similarly diminish the rights and hopes of the transgendered. But, given that this is going to be seen as giving rights to gays, I’m not betting heavily that our Christian right-wing Republican-dominated Legislature will behave in any manner Christian.

Especially when they discover passing a bill that disallows discriminatory hiring practices against transgender people doesn’t also provide them a way to line their pockets. Our Legislature can preach all day, but in the end, they are what they are—a group held hostage by powerful bigots who represent a surprisingly bigoted (or at least ignorant) population. The evidence shows itself in any manner of ways. Like this little gem taken from the Salt Lake Tribune Website message board:

“The Cathedral of the Madeleine is holding a special mass conducted by the MOST_MAGICAL_ BISHOP_WESTERS new found illegal mexican friends, they’re going to have a special MAGIC_TRANSUBSTANTIATION of the Holy Eucharist to BODY_OF_CHRIST_BURRITOS for new members of the parish.”

Or this one from the Deseret Morning News message board:

“All you who have got after us for labeling Mexican people need to get over it. If you pay attention in the news, 90% or more of the crime that takes place in Utah is done by a Jose, Juan, Caesar, Julio or some hispanic name. So yes, while there are good Mexicans out there, they get the sterotype thanks to the THUGS that give them the name, those that do no good and excuse the law. We The People might have to turn back to the old west days and create our own vigilant committees.”

Those comments and similar others are found beneath stories about the recent stabbing of two University of Utah football players. They clearly don’t represent all Utahns, but neither are they impotent. They give power to fellow bigots. You will not find similar comments beneath last week’s story in which a white man killed a Mexican in a road-rage incident. Maybe gays will fare better than Mexicans this year. I’m no Buck Howard, but if I could, I’d make it all disappear.

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