Search This Blog

Sunday, June 02, 2013

Good-bye Sunshine

First Light of Day Dept.: I wrote a series of sample columns for the Schenectady Gazette in 1990, hoping to develop regular appearances in that capacity. This failed to transpire, especially as the newspaper was changing its identity at the time and I soon would be shitcanned even as a reviewer because I was too opinionated. Here’s a piece that now sees its first publication, and it speaks for itself. I’ll note only that Reeve was successful in his campaign.


BY THE TIME old man Proctor built his theaters in the Capital Region, the lot of actors had improved. Silent films were a big help, once they were accepted by the public, bestowing cult-hero status on performers who a few decades earlier were generally scorned by the public.

Christopher Reeve
That was when actors had to struggle to find accommodations on the vaudeville circuit. No respectable boarding house would have them. They wrote bad checks, fooled around with your daughters and lived a topsy-turvy, unpredictable life. They drank and stayed up late and probably cussed and gambled.

Their only moment of legitimacy, not to say power, was achieved on that stage as they impersonated fictions of a playwright’s fancy.

With actors now able to draw multi-million-dollar salaries and actually stay married for a few years, you’d think that ne’er-do-well image would have changed. But John D’Alessandro doesn’t think so.

D’Alessandro is spokesman for Latham’s Inter-Power of New York Inc., the outfit that’s all hot to put a 210-megawatt coal-fired generator on the Hudson at the south end of Halfmoon.

A lot of people are unhappy with the proposal, fearing that the area’s bad acid rain problem would be aggravated. Then Christopher Reeve added his voice to the opposition. The dynamics changed.

No surprise there. Movie stars have a larger-than-life quality. They’re the closest thing we have to royalty in this country.

Reeve spends a lot of time in Massachusetts, where he lives while working with the Williamstown Theatre Festival. People in the Berkshires are especially concerned about the potential Inter-Power problems, and Reeve happens to have the most press-worthy voice among them.

Listen to D’Allesandro: “Mr. Reeve is apparently a very adept actor because he reads the script well. But I would suggest to him before he mouths the words that he find out if they are true.”

Nice one, John. A slick piece of character destruction that draws on the image of actor as puppet. The politeness of “Mr. Reeve” is countered by the withdrawn, almost detached sense of “apparently.” I won’t vouch for his skills, D’Alessandro is implying, because I don’t sully my imagination with the work of actors.

If D’Allesandro spent more time in a theater, he’d understand that an actor’s success is based on much more than merely mouthing words from a script. A good actor does have to discover the truth in whatever he says. A good actor is curious.

Inter-Power tried for a measure of community involvement by sponsoring Cohoes Music Hall’s production of “Ain’t Misbehavin’,” an ironic choice of title. I expect that D’Allesandro got a couple of house seats for the show and I hope he enjoyed it. I thought it was pretty terrific.

If he didn’t, that might explain the source of some of his irritation. I mean, he’s gotten into a pretty low-down personal attack campaign against Reeve by trying to impugn the man’s credibility because Reeve is, of all things, an actor.

Acid rain falls on actors, too, John. It won’t be neutralized by such a base attack.

“Everything [Reeve] has said up to this point is either factually incorrect or was resolved months ago.” More D’Allesandro, again trying to sweep his opponent under the rug. What’s Reeve arguing for? Restrictions on use of coal as an energy source, calling for low-sulphur burning if it has to be done at all, in a pollution-controlled environment.

Where’s the factual problem? The fact is this: no coal-burning plant, no profit for Inter-Power. Aligning the company with all the short-sighted energy companies in this country.

Let’s take one field of power production as an example. Of the viable alternatives to coal, solar power has the most potential and is the least explored. Of the seven major oil companies who began researching solar power over the past few decades, only two remain in research.

Solar power was a $200 million business during a recent year, growing at a rate of almost 30 percent. In his caustic book “Peril and Promise,” John Chancellor asks, “Why did giants like Exxon, Shell, Motorola, and ARCO leave the field to others, after spending millions on research? The answer: there’s no money in it, as of now.”

Ten years ago the Federal Government was spending $155 million a year on solar research. Now it’s down to a fifth of that. What happened in the meantime? Take heart, John D’Allesandro: an actor – in this case, a mediocre but dangerous one named Reagan – got involved in the proceedings. There still are bad apples in the bunch.

– 29 April 1990

No comments: