If you watch TV or read glossy magazines, sometime this month you’ll probably see a commercial featuring a smiling farmer (joined by a slew of barbers, soccer moms, and other denizens of Main Street America) sharing his thoughts about coal. His warm, fuzzy, good thoughts. It won’t be a real farmer, of course — it’ll be an actor. And it won’t be this actor, Austinite Brady Coleman. Coleman, known for his film work (he was the sheriff in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape) and his commercials (in which he usually plays an amiable Texan), was the man Coal wanted for the part. But Coleman didn’t want Coal.
“I was really busy that day and my agent told me to go in and read for a commercial,” Coleman said. The title of the spot was “Americans for Balanced Energy Choices”— no mention of coal. “I didn’t pay that much attention to it, you know — it could have been solar or wind or something,” said Coleman, who has been a member of the Sierra Club for thirty years. “Two or three days later my agent calls me and says, ‘You got the part.'” Still not having seen the ad’s script, he started to get a little suspicious about just who these Americans were. “My agent really didn’t know … and the casting director didn’t know — she was just doing her job.” So Coleman called the production company, who finally told him what he’d be hawking: coal. “I uncasted myself,” Coleman said.
Coleman got in touch with a Sierra Club official in Texas, who had never heard of the Americans for Balanced Energy Choices. After talking to Coleman, Left Field began calling the usual suspects. The Greening Earth Society (the Washington non-profit that promotes the beneficial aspects of global warming) couldn’t help us, but the Society’s receptionist did save us a phone call to the Western Fuels Association (the giant Rocky Mountain strip-mining outfit) that was next on our list. “Ned’s at lunch right now,” he said. Apparently the two groups share an office in D.C. Go figure. Next we tried the Center for Energy and Economic Development, another coal industry front group, where we finally got the response we were looking for. “It is a registered non-profit,” spokesman Joe Lucas said. Coal related? “I do not have an answer for that at this time.” Two hours later Lucas called back: “[Americans for Balanced Energy Choices] is a national non-profit whose mission is to promote a national dialogue with community leaders about the growing demand for electricity and about preserving the proper balance between the environment and continued growth.” Lucas confirmed that the primary sponsors are coal producers, railroads, and electric utilities. He denied that any specific issue — such as the controversial practice of mountaintop removal mining currently being debated in Congress — was behind the timing of the coming ad blitz. But the blitz is coming. “You’ll be hearing a whole lot more in the weeks ahead,” he said.
Back in Austin, meanwhile, there is one less casting director Brady Coleman will be working with. “She was extremely pissed off. Because the time to do that [back out] is before you even audition. But it was just so innocuous sounding,” Coleman said. “I mean if it had been hemorrhoids or tobacco or Bush or something I would have just said no straight off.”
Guaging the Governer’s Gaydar
“George and I were talking awhile back,” Charles Francis told The New York Times in early April. “And he said, ‘Why don’t I hear more from gay conservatives?'”
Yeah, right. All politics is theater, but this is really bad script. Francis is the gay brother of Department of Public Safety Chairman Jim Francis, Jr. Dubya has refused to meet with the only organized gay advocacy group that will have anything to do with his party, the Log Cabin Republicans (see “Where are the Queer Pioneers?”, March 17). Such a meeting, he told “Meet the Press” last November, would be a “huge, political nightmare for people.” He clarified that a few weeks later, saying he “didn’t see the point” in meeting with “people he disagrees with.”
Earlier this month, Charles Francis helped arrange a face-saving alternative: a gay summit at the Governor’s Mansion, with gay Republicans handpicked and flown to Austin by the Bush campaign. The Log Cabin Republicans aren’t buying it. Their spokesman, Kevin Ivers, told The New York Times that the meeting was an easy out for Bush. “He gets to say he met with gay Republicans. But he also picks and chooses people who he knows are eager supporters.”
Bush has good reason to avoid the Log Cabin Rs. He would have had to explain his support of Rep. Warren Chisum’s bill that would have banned gays and lesbians as adoptive or foster parents – not to mention his failure to support the James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Bill. Democratic senators Rodney Ellis and John Whitmire said at the time that the Senate Republicans who killed the bill did so because of the inclusion of gays and lesbians as a protected category – the one measure certain to offend the Christian right.
Bush also told Austin State Rep. Glen Maxey, a gay Democrat, “I value you as a person, and I value you as a human being, and I want you to know, Glen, that what I say publicly about gay people doesn’t pertain to you.”
Standing on that record and refusing to meet with his party’s gay organization, Bush chats up Charlie Francis and asks, “Why don’t I hear from gay conservatives?” It’s enough to make J. Edgar Hoover turn over in his grave.