Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Charlton Heston was remarkable

I met Charlton Heston only once, when he was speaking in Orange County and agreed to sit for an editorial board meeting with the Register. It must have been just before his hip replacement surgery, which the obituaries say was in 1996, because he walked with a pronounced and what looked like a painful limp. That didn't affect his remarkable voice.

The main topic was gun control and the Second Amendment, but the four or five of us spent about an hour with him ranging over a variety of mostly political topics. He told us his political philosophy hadn't changed since he marched with Martin Luther King Jr. for civil rights, but it seemed to him the Democratic Party had changed, to the point that people now thought of him as a conservative. As the Register editorial on his death this past weekend noted, what seemed most consistent was his concern for individual rights, whether to be treated as a person regardless of skin color or to own a tool some people would prefer to demonize. We tried to convince him he was a proto-libertarian, and he didn't seem entirely displeased with the idea.

He struck me as quite intelligent and thoughtful, and extremely well informed about current affairs. As an actor, he could sometimes chew the scenery, but he could also be, as in "Touch of Evil" or "Will Penny," subtle when the part required it. One of the privileges of working for a newspaper, as Malcolm Muggeridge put it, is that you get to meet a wide range of people including the so-called great and powerful, without the necessity of toadying to them or taking them seriously. I consider meeting Charlton Heston to have been a particular privilege.

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