Author Michael Medved is making a pit stop in Cleveland on his book tour.
By MILAN PAURICH
Nationally syndicated radio talk show personality Michael Medved is bringing his "Right Turns" book tour to Cleveland this week for a luncheon/book signing at Ruth's Chris Steakhouse in Woodmere Village.
In "Right Turns," Medved candidly recalls the many lessons that took him on his personal journey from liberalism to conservatism. The author of nine books including "Hollywood vs. America" and "What Happened to the Class of '65?" Medved co-hosted the movie review program "Sneak Previews" on PBS for 12 years, and also wrote several "Golden Turkey" anthologies.
During a recent telephone interview, Medved discussed politics, movies and what "moral values" represent to some American voters.
Q. How did you make the transition from a liberal humanist movie critic/pop culture maven to an arch-conservative talk radio host?
A. I was never a movie critic with liberal credentials. I was always a registered Republican and openly conservative; I even campaigned for Reagan. There's a general assumption that you have to be a liberal to review movies, but I spent 12 years on "Sneak Previews" basically demonstrating that isn't true. Talk radio always struck me as the most enjoyable aspect of media work because of the immediacy and spontaneity, and the free-ranging conversations you can engage in. I've been doing it for about nine years now, and it's still fun every day.
Q. Was there a dramatic turning point that precipitated your change in ideology?
A. One of the things I talk about in "Right Turn" are the Three P's: paychecks, parenthood and prayer. I would never describe myself as a neo-conservative; I'm a theo-conservative. Conservative politics go hand in hand with a greater commitment to religious tradition and values. Like many people my age, I simply went from youthful activism in college to a mature pursuit of career and family.
Q. What do you think was the single most important message of the 2004 presidential election?
A. To paraphrase James Carville, "It's the values, stupid." It was a values election: marriage, the importance of family, patriotism. But it also involved the very obvious lack of values in John Kerry's infamous flip-flopping and his attempts to exploit his checkered and contradictory history on Vietnam. I think the Democratic Party in general is belatedly waking up to the idea that the issues which concern ordinary Americans are not just economic, but issues of values, protection and our children.
Q. How do you define moral/family values, and what do they mean to you personally?
A. I don't like the term "family values;" there are all sorts of contradictory values and systems of values. Bad guys in history haven't necessarily been people without values. Communists and Nazis had values; they were just very dysfunctional ones. "Moral values" to me are those basic core assumptions from which you build a political and personal philosophy.
Q. In your opinion, what is the biggest threat facing America today?
A. The "Cultural Civil War," the increasing inability of people to recognize that differences of opinion doesn't mean your opponents are your enemy. That sort of polarization is becoming increasingly dangerous.
Q. What role, if any, should organized religion and/or religious beliefs play in American politics?
A. The same role that it's always played: to inspire, inform and influence people's political point of view. But you shouldn't vote as part of a religious bloc, and it's not appropriate for religious authorities to dictate some sort of "God-given" political line. Most of the criticism and paranoia about the so-called Christian Right is entirely unjustified, prejudicial and uninformed. The idea that people like President Bush or James Dobson want us to move in the direction of a theocracy is ludicrous.
Q. Are contemporary Hollywood movies morally bankrupt?
A. No, I think there have been some modest improvements in the mix of movies since I wrote "Hollywood vs. America" in the early 1990s. There are a lot more family-friendly alternatives out there. My big concern about the influence of entertainment has more to do with the quantity of entertainment -- the 29 hours and four minutes of TV that people watch per week -- rather than its quality. I don't believe movies are a threat to anyone. Certainly the attempts to blur the dividing line between pornography and mainstream entertainment have largely failed and gone away.
Q. Your attack against Clint Eastwood's "Million Dollar Baby" made national headlines. What was it about that Oscar-winning film that upset you so much?
A. My big complaint was that it was dishonestly marketed. To protect its "big surprise," people went into "Million Dollar Baby" expecting "Rocky" in a sports bra and instead got an extremely downbeat movie about the right to die. It was dishonest of most critics not to acknowledge that there was an assisted suicide theme.
Q. Are there any current movies you'd like to single out for artistic damnation in an updated "Golden Turkey" book?
A. The "Holy Trinity" of Golden Turkey-dom ("Plan Nine from Outer Space," "The Creeping Terror" and "Robot Monster") couldn't be made today. Those were truly ingenious and often quite mad excursions into cinematic awfulness. Most of today's bad movies are merely slapdash, assembly-line, mediocre product. "Battlefield Earth," John Travolta's exercise in narcissistic Scientology, probably comes about as close as you can get to a real Golden Turkey right now.
XMichael Medved will be at Ruth's Chris Steakhouse on 28699 Chagrin Blvd. in Cleveland from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Wednesday. Tickets -- which include lunch and Medved's behind the scenes account of his new book -- are $41 per person, and can be purchased at (216) 595-0809. For additional information, call (216) 901-0921, Ext. 217, or visit www.whkradio.com.