Entertainers laud 'Fairness Act'

by Al Weyes Wright

April 6, 2010, HOLLYWOOD, CA — More than 500 little-known entertainers gathered here yesterday to celebrate Sunday night's passage of President Barack Obama's "Entertainment Industry Fairness Act." The legislation is designed to correct income disparity that Democrats called especially egregious and unfair among those who work in the movie, television and music industries. Notably missing at the celebration were any of the famous actors and singers who appeared in last year's HBO broadcast, “We Are One: The Obama Inaugural Celebration at the Lincoln Memorial.”

Yesterday's event was organized by little-known actor Dalton Trumbo III, grandson of the late communist actor, Dalton Trumbo, who spent 11 months in prison for refusing to identify fellow communist actors in his 1947 testimony before the House Un-American Activities Committee and was blacklisted in Hollywood.

"My grandfather along with his idol Vladimir Lenin would have been overjoyed to see what is finally happening today," Trumbo said. "To think that spreading the wealth is actually coming to Hollywood. Oh, joy!"

The "Entertainment Industry Fairness Act" requires studios to pay entertainers equally, effectively outlawing blatant discrimination on the basis of fame, body symmetry, voice quality, screen presence or other subjective factors. The sweeping legislation ends the practice of paying a small percentage of individuals a disproportionate percentage of entertainment revenues. Hailed as landmark in scope, the bill is retroactive and requires the wealthiest actors, singers, directors and producers to submit to the Internal Revenue Service any above-average income earned since 1976, symbolically chosen as the year of the senior Trumbo's death. Those required to refund income also are subject to a penalty of 10 percent of the amount owed plus monthly compounded interest at a rate of 1 percent per month.

Among the most vocal supporters of the act was Juan T. Latimore, a Mexican-American character actor who said he was cheated out of more than 100 movie roles in recent years for such subjective reasons as his raspy voice, nervousness before the camera, lack of cranial hair and an inability to pronounce English words without rolling his R's.

"The Fairness Act make things right," Latimore said. "No more two or three guys hoarding all the money. I worked just as hard at playing a mouse in 'Alice in Wonderland' as Johnny Depp playing the Mad Hatter. High time I got my share."

Little-known Chinese extra, Kahl Mahx, said she was excited to learn that overpayments to be refunded, along with penalties and interest, are estimated to total more than $1.3 trillion, enough to pay 10 percent of the entire national debt. But she was disappointed when she learned that the money goes to the IRS and not to the actors who toiled for years as underpaid laborers.

"I had eye on big place in Brentwood," she said. "Hope no more living in West Hollywood. Want big place with pool, maids. Want Bentley like OJ. But still like Fairness Act. Now I make more money on next movie. I deserve next time for part in Mama Mia II like Meryl Streep."

In some ways the Fairness Act is similar to the Health Reform Act. Talent exchanges supervised by the federal government will dictate how jobs will be distributed and will replace the currently outdated casting departments. Just as private student loans were axed, so were talent agencies banned immediately, an action that White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said was warranted for ingrained illegal discrimination based on an entertainer's physical appearance.

Though private movie, television and music studios are allowed to continue operation, they must rebate profits that exceed 15 percent of revenues to moviegoers, and after 2014 the profit limit drops to 5%. Companies that fail to abide by the provision are prohibited from taking part in the exchanges, hiring staff and renting or purchasing motion picture equipment except for video cameras that retail for less than $1,000.

Interestingly, Russell Crowe, who plays the lead in the latest "Robin Hood" movie to be released next month, is opposed to the Fairness Act.

"In the movie I steal from the rich to give to the poor," Crowe said. "But that's certainly not how I feel in real life. My money does a lot more good if I spend it than if it goes to the government. If I buy a yacht, then a lot of people benefit, like the people who borrowed money to build the manufacturing plant, the salesman who sold me the boat, the laborers who built it, the engineers who designed the engine, my captain who sails it, and all the people I pay to maintain it. Those people then spend that same money on more goods and services, and that keeps the economy rolling."

Crowe said that if government took his money, bureaucrats and politicians would spend it on "more bombs for Afghanistan, take over car companies, pay the overseas debts of banks that lost stock market gambles, pay off mortgages for deadbeats who signed for loans on McMansions they can't afford, and line the pockets of guys who seem to avoid paying taxes, like Charlie Rangel and Tim Geithner."

Many Robin Hood movies are exempt from the Fairness Act, including versions released in 1912, 1913, 1922, 1933, 1935, 1938 and 1973. Thus, descendants of Errol Flynn won't have to pay back any of the money or property that they inherited from the iconic Robin Hood of 1938. Ironic is the fact that Flynn's journalist son, Sean, was likely executed in 1970 or 1971 by Asian counterparts of Robin Hood, Khmer Rouge killers who were dedicated to spreading the wealth during the Cambodian War. Human remains that are possibly those of Flynn were dug up in the province of Kampong Cham by fans of the late actor and handed over on March 23 to a lab in Hawaii, where forensic scientists are examining them as this goes to press.

Actors, producers and directors behind "Robin Hood: Men in Tights," released in 1993 will be hit by millions in overpayment penalties and interest. Descendants of Mel Brooks and Dom DeLuise as well as living actors, such as Richard Lewis, Cary Elwes and Tracey Ullman, are slated to return small fortunes that the federal government has already allocated to fund a new farm bill. The "Progressives" behind the bill intend to pay off corporate farm donors who stand to make $1.6 billion in federal subsidies for growing corn for ethanol and not for food.

"Taking land out of food production is a small price to pay to save polar bears from extinction," said Former Vice-President Al Gore. "Ethanol burns clearner than gasoline, meaning that there is less carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, which means that global warming will be stopped, and there will be enough ice for polar bears to walk on, instead of drowning in the open ocean. Better to pay triple for tortillas and tamales than let polar bears die. Now, I know that polar bears have increased in number since global warming began, but as any scientist who has properly used federal grant money can tell you, that trend is about to end due to climate change."

Wealthy farm owners should not count their chickens before their eggs hatch, however. Nancy Pelosi, speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, has already warned that big farms are next on her agenda.

"In America one of the biggest disparities between those who have and those who have not is in land," she said Monday in a speech to Future Farmers of Communal America, a Venezuelan-funded group that encourages youth to pursue green-based farming as a career.

"We won't make real progress until the land is returned to people, where it can be farmed of the people, by the people and for the people," she said, paraphrasing Abraham Lincoln.

"Pol Pot and Mao Tse Tung, whom I consider the patron saints of today's progressive movement, might not have done everything right, but the one thing they did right was to transfer ownership of farmland to its rightful owner, the people. If things continue to go well, the Farm Ownerhip Fairness Act will be on the president's desk next month.

"By this time next year most of the big farms that require environmentally damaging equipment and techniques, such as tractors and chemical fertilizing and spraying, will be divided fairly into subfarms, where people who are currently unemployed due to the failures of capitalism can once again contribute to the public good through learning to put the shoulder to the wheel and to hoe to the end of the row."

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