News & Reviews for Gay Dallas

Wanted: Breakthrough Performance

The other day, Karl and I were scrolling through the DVR recordings to find something we both wanted to watch. Naturally, he didn’t want to watch a Bette Davis or Elizabeth Taylor movie, and I wasn’t interested in anything he had recorded from the Military Channel. But I was a little surprised when I suggested West Side Story and he said, “Sure, why not?” (That’s Karl-speak for “OK, I guess it could be worse.”)

Seeing it again for the first time since I heard that Steven Spielberg is remaking it, I watched it wondering why he would bother. Richard Beymer as Tony wasn’t exactly inspired casting, and Natalie Wood pretending to be a singer and Puerto Rican would never happen today. But a do over?

Spielberg’s biggest challenge will be finding someone to fill Rita Moreno’s dancing shoes. Anita was her Oscar winning breakthrough performance in a career that then brought her a Grammy, a Tony and two Emmys.

Breakthroughs like that don’t happen often. One needs to be watchful to find them.

Julia Roberts had one with Steel Magnolias. Playing opposite three Academy Award winning actresses, the mermaid from Splash, plus Dolly Parton, she’s the one who broke through with her nomination for Best Supporting Actress for her performance as Shelby, and then going on to spend the better part of the next two decades as the highest paid actress in the world.

The Democrats need one of these breakthroughs from someone on their laundry list of presidential contenders who will appear on next week’s debate stage. For the last hundred years, retaking the White House from the Republicans requires the Democrats to have an outstanding candidate. FDR, JFK, Clinton, Obama. Even Jimmy Carter looked the part next to Gerald Ford in the first election after Watergate.

In 2016, a majority of women voted for Clinton, and the vast majority of people of color, Jewish people and the LGBTQ community voted for her. These Democratic constituencies have one powerful thing in common. They’re fighters.

They’ve survived slavery, the Holocaust, misogyny and the AIDS epidemic. They’ve fought for suffrage, against Jim Crow and to decriminalize their very existence. They’ve created movements where none existed and which have lasted for generations. They weren’t fearful or uncertain.

The pundits analyze polls with the caveat that they don’t mean much at this early stage, scared that anything definitive or predictive they might say today will prove not to be the case tomorrow. The candidates are working up policy papers and political strategies, usually with an eye on the polls to determine what it is the “voters” want to hear. Meanwhile, those very Democratic primary voters are trying to ferret out who has the best chance of actually beating Trump, worried that the wrong choice will result in an “unelectable” candidate getting the nomination.

Analysis paralysis appears to be creeping over the Democratic party like the cloud of death in The Ten Commandments. Democrats in Washington can’t come to a consensus about starting impeachment proceedings, while the rank and file are looking at all these candidates asking, “Are you the one?”

So if just one of these folks could come out fighting, not just talking about fighting, but actually fighting Trump and everybody in his or her path to the White House, I suspect they’d get some attention. Politics has never a gentlemen’s sport, or a ladies’ one for that matter. Winners aren’t afraid to fight. And I’ve played enough poker to know it’s true that scared money never wins.

Just so you’ll know, I’m going to be out of town for the next three weeks, so I’ll be off this grid until mid-July. Hopefully, I won’t start haranguing people in the street, but you never know.

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