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Martin Sheen talks Gay Rights, blasts Dems, GOP

by John Wright

The Dallas Voice

Monday October 29, 2007

President Bartlet is pissed.

Bartlet, the fictional commander-in-chief from NBC's "The West Wing," was played by legendary actor and liberal activist Martin Sheen, who will be keynote speaker at this year's Black Tie Dinner on Nov. 17.

And if Sheen's recent interview with Dallas Voice/DVtv is any indication, it should be pretty entertaining.

Sheen was at Dallas Market Center on Saturday, Oct. 20 to promote Jackson Clay USA, a clothing line launched by his former daughter-in-law, the ex-wife of son Charlie. But there were other things on his mind.

At one point, Sheen launched into a 90-second tirade in which he called President Bush "a damn liar," Republicans "bastards" and "fascists," and Democrats "a bunch of sissies."

Here are a few excerpts.

Dallas Voice: What are your thoughts on being invited to be the keynote speaker for Dallas 2007 Black Tie Dinner?
Sheen: I'm just thrilled that they asked me. My friend, Sharon Stone, was a huge hit over there. I'm delighted to follow her. That's a hard act to follow. But also they are making a significant contribution to the San Carlos Foundation and Options in Berkley, Calif. It's a foundation I started for street people to get clean and sober. The problem with getting clean and sober for homeless people is that once they're clean and sober, they're dumped back out onto the street. Just like all homeless people, they need homes, and so that's what we did.

Dallas Voice: You're a hard-core liberal. You've been arrested 70 times at peace protests and the like. One of the sponsors of Black Tie, the Log Cabin Republicans, is trying to pressure organizers to invite speakers who are less liberal. Has anyone advised you to tone down your rhetoric?
Sheen: All my life.

Dallas Voice: But do you plan to hold back ?
Sheen: No, hell, I'm too damn old. You know, I'm not intimidated by. ... First of all, I'm not enamored of politics. I don't really give a damn about politics or politicians per se. There are certain public servants that I support, and I'm proud to do so, but I don't really have any great interest in politics per se. I think the real work is done with the NGOs [non-governmental organizations], the grassroots people, and eventually the politicians catch on when they realize it could be to their advantage to get behind a thing. I mean, civil rights was not advocated by politicians. Basic human rights, unionism, none of that was ever inaugurated with any political movement. It's grassroots NGOs that are doing the work, and that's our future. That's where I put my support. Politicians for the most part are stuck on the going rate. They cannot not say a certain thing.

Dallas Voice: A good example of that would be Sen. Larry Craig, right?
Sheen: That's the saddest thing. He stays in that position because he's a politician, and he's forgotten about being a human being. I watched him being interviewed here the other night with Matt Lauer, and Matt Lauer's the only one who ever asked him the key question: "All right, you keep saying you're not homosexual. Fine. For whatever reason you feel you have to say that, fine. Is it possible that you're bisexual?" Something happened behind his [Craig's] eye. I think he [Lauer] hit the jackpot. ... Jesus. Your heart goes out to these people. They're living this absolute horror, this hell, because they cannot be themselves, because they're in politics.

Dallas Voice: Thirty-five years ago, you played a gay man in "That Certain Summer," which is said to be the first made-for-TV movie that dealt with homosexuality in a sympathetic, nonjudgmental way. What was that like for you as a young actor?
Sheen: It was a huge hit, and it was very subtle. I thought it was wonderful. There was a great deal of freedom in it because it wasn't about advocating a lifestyle or a sexuality. It was about two people who adored each other, and they weren't allowed to have a relationship that involved their sexuality. We put a name on it and said that it was about being human, it was about being honest, and that's the bottom line.

Dallas Voice: But this was seven years before "Apocalypse Now," which is considered your breakout film. You weren't a star yet. Weren't you afraid that playing a gay man would ruin your career?
Sheen: Some people had said that to me. Well, I had played killers before that. I'd massacred people by the scores. I'd robbed banks and kidnapped children and raped women and murdered people, you know, in any number of shows. Now I was going to play a gay guy and that was like considered a career ender. Oh, for Christ's sake! What kind of culture do we live in? That's the problem. Please!

Dallas Voice: Does it surprise you that even today, there are actors who won't take on gay roles?
Sheen: Well, I just wonder how good they are. Maybe they're just not worth a damn. I don't know. Maybe they can't do it. It takes some skill, you know.

Dallas Voice: And all these years later, we're still debating hate crimes, we're still debating job discrimination, and we're still debating gay marriage. What's wrong with the gay rights movement? Do we need to get in people's faces? Do we have to get out there and get arrested?
Sheen: I don't know that there's anything wrong with it per se, and I don't know if it's necessary to get in straight people's faces. From my point of view, I think you just have to be yourself. I had a brother, a gay brother, who was in a relationship longer than any married couple we knew. My brother Al, he and Pete were together for almost 30 years, and the last words that my brother said as he was dying was, he looked at Pete and said, "I love you." And you cannot ask for more of someone's life - that they live a life of love. ... I think you just have to keep living your life honestly and lovingly, and just keep being who you are and tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, all the time by your lives, and that is your message.

Dallas Voice: You're the closest thing we've had to a Democratic president in the last seven years. What do you think about the 2008 Democratic candidates, with the exception of Dennis Kucinich, their refusal to come out in favor of gay marriage?
Sheen: I love the Democrats, but they're such a bunch of sissies. These bastards [the Republicans] have been running the country into the ground, they've been serving the rich, they've been a damn bunch of lying bastards from the beginning. Why don't we put a name on it? Everyone's always saying, "George Bush, what is he?" He's a damn liar. I'm sorry. I didn't invent the term. You either tell the truth or you don't. If you don't tell the truth, what do we call you? "Well, he's maybe less than honest." Horseshit! ... He continues this war. Why did he start it? Because of his goddamn ego. He wanted to hand Saddam Hussein's head to his father and say, "See Pop, I'm something." You're shit. I'm sorry, but nearly 4,000 kids are dead because you wanted to hand that man's head to your father. That's what it's about! And it's about taking the oil and controlling the Middle East. Say whatever the hell else you want, you know what I'm saying? This dangerous bunch of fascists have taken the country and run it into the ground, and we're all waiting for a Democrat to say, "Well, you know, we'll straighten this out." Horseshit! It's got to start now!

Dallas Voice: Why don't you just run?
Sheen: Run away! [laughs] ... That's not what I do. I have no skills. I wouldn't know what the hell to do. If I ran and won, I'd demand a recount. That would be my first act. Besides, we already tried it with another old actor. I don't think we did very well.

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