Already conceded to be among the most bizarre moments in American political convention history, film director Clint Eastwood's use of an empty chair continues to evoke astonishment. Perhaps reflective of the media's reluctance to fully inspect the recent past in its consummate rush to achieve the next big get, an entertainment industry story but five months old contains a captivating rationale for Eastwood's odd behavior.
Writing in "The Hollywood Reporter," Mathew Belloni reported details of the legendary 82-year-old actor-filmmaker's suit against the owners of a furniture company for selling products branded 'Clint' and 'Eastwood.'
Published April 7 of this year, the story tells of Eastwood's complaint filed in Los Angeles Superior Court against Evofurniture, maker of entertainment centers, ottomans and chairs. Also sued were owners Alan Finkelstein and Casey Choron and a website called Inmod.com(http://www.inmod.com). Eastwood claims the stores have used marketing statements such as: "When you're invited into a person's home, you get to see the good, the bad and the ugly. When visitors come to your home the Clint 47 Entertainment Center makes your family room alone look like you live in a perfect world of a million dollar baby."
As readers of this space have come to appreciate, "Sidebars" presently has a close relationship with "Leaky-Wiks" which, through adept uses of unique electronic devices, is able to report truths which, otherwise, would not come to the public's attention. What follows is the story behind the Eastwood sage. It is made possible through highly creative uses of drone Fly-on-the-Wall technology--often called "bugs on bugs."
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Chairs were just one of many furniture products when film icon Clint Eastwood became aware of what Alan Finkelstein and Casey Choron were doing with his name.
In truth, the two were continuing the furniture industry's common marketing use of Hollywood names. Eastwood, who won Academy Awards as director and producer of "Unforgiven" and "Million Dollar Baby," also was nominated for Best Actor in both films. Some of the other actors, whose names have been used in furniture industry marketing programs, include: Marlon Brando, Clark Gable, Paul Newman, Elvis Presley and Humphrey Bogart. It was Bogart's estate that was encouraged recently by a Georgia federal judge's decision that prompted a big bucks suit involving intellectual property.
The Bogart suit, initiated against Ashley Furniture of Arcadia, Wisconsin, claims various kinds of Ashley products are being sold through use of the late actor's name. Ashley has countered by claiming the furniture in question actually is a reference to Bogart, Georgia, a small northeast community in the state; the firm further says its products, numbering more than 650, carry names that include colors such as Gable Mocha, Brando Cocoa, Newman Oyster, Presley Cafe and Bogart Ocean.
The furniture named for Brando is a sectional variety of considerable size. Ashley denies the product's spaciousness has anything to do with the star's increasing girth achieved while making classic films.
Sometimes venturesome in creating product names, Chelsea Furniture has a Linda Loveseat, presumably a play on words involving Linda Lovelace, star of the 1972 runaway porno hit "Deep Throat." Convinced of marketing viability inherent in associating products with all aspects of the film capitol, the firm boasts a chair with upholstery by Simmons called Malibu Wine.
At this juncture of the Eastwood story, a rumor has surfaced suggesting the chair used in the Bob Newhart-esque 12-minute talk to the chair has been purchased by President Obama and placed in the Lincoln Bedroom. Former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich was one of the first to respond to the rumor suggesting: "If it is true, the presence of the chair in the Lincoln Bedroom is demeaning to the 16th President. As Stephen A. Douglas, I would be more than willing to debate the chair's presence in the sacred room"
Choosing the right chair was not easy for Eastwood who realized he would likely attract the wrath of both Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert. It was Stewart who commented: "This is the most joy I've gotten from an old man since Dick Cheney non-fatally shot one in the face. Give me more!" Colbert's interview of the chair produced little of interest other than the chair's low esteem of Eastwood.
Sidebars can now report exclusively, because of bugs-on-bugs technology by Leaky-Wiks, that Eastwood, despite reports to the contrary, spent a great deal of time determining the type of seating to be used in his monologue. First choice was a Barcelona chair designed in 1929 by the German architect Mies van der Rohe but the Hollywood great quickly determined that Mitt Romney might interpret such a choice as indicative of Eastwood's desire to be ambassador to Spain. Also never really in the running for a similar reason was a chair from IKEA. Although it's possible the film deity may be considering government service as he eases into retirement, Sweden's appalling weather was an admitted challenge although the country's women are appealing to the megastar often called "a serial womanizer." The father of seven acknowledged children produced in concert with five women, Eastwood has married twice.
A distinct chair selection possibility was a revolving model ruled out because it might remind viewers of Romney's flip-flopping. Eastwood refused to share his decision-making process with the GOP hierarchy although members of the Swift Boating committee that sank John Kerry's Presidential campaign in 2004 were standing by. Even the poofbag chair, designed by Francois Poof and brought to Eastwood's attention by both Koch Brothers, was finally determined to hint of homosexuality thus running the risk of losing the votes of white males in southern states--Texas and South Carolina among them. The idea suddenly went poof.
Another early favorite was the curule chair of hieratic significance in Republican Rome. Cooler heads prevailed when it was pointed out that Roman Republicans normally charged taxation at the rate of 1% although wars upped the ante to 3% in those good old days treasured by contemporary Republicans if only for low taxation. Politicians, whose guiding principle back then (hang on to this one) was to get rich, bought votes and created tax farmers who dug up the money for them. Although Eastwood continues to believe the curule chair to be emblematic of Roman Republicans, Karl Rove's astute understanding of public relations quickly prevailed when he pointed out that only the highest civil officers were allowed to sit on the chair, an upholstered campstool. Such a chair would have provided unintended dignity to the imagined presence of President Obama.
Even a director's chair was considered but that, of course, was too much of a stretch and eventually turned down since it was extravagantly show businessy while running the risk of reminding the GOP audience of such remarkable directorial talents as Roger Corman, John Waters and Cecile B. DeMille and how Eastwood's skills might be compared with such notables. Republicans have always had problems with Hollywood (it was truly remarkable that Eastwood was invited to speak considering that one of the industry's hallmarks is the surprise ending) and an imagined shout of "Ready, when you are, Mr. DeMille" could have reverberated quite easily through the stadium thus reducing the effectiveness of the hoped-for reality produced by the old Hollywood hand. As Billy Wilder once wrote: "Nobody's perfect."
Republican politicos and policy wonks were particularly pleased to learn Eastwood had backed off from the tete-a-tete chair, a type of settee consisting of two connected chairs that allow two people to sit facing one another. The chair, at first considered "perfect" for the occasion because of the intimacy afforded, was rejected for that very reason. Aware that Republican politicians are uncomfortable with intimacy except when hitting the sauce at parties away from Washington, D.C. or their home towns, Eastwood wisely determined not to run the risk of promoting blatant though imagined gayness.
Despite all the presumed thought given the selection of the Obama chair, Leaky-Wiks' technology never uncovered Eastwood's final choice before he bolted onstage from a convention green room. By asking an aide to grab the nearest (and, as it turned out, bland) chair, the actor's actions recalled former President Ronald Reagan who once commented about a tree: "When you've seen one, you've seen them all."
As the mystery of the empty chair deepens, it becomes likely Eastwood's actions may result in a worthwhile addition to our vocabulary. The word is "Eastwooding" meaning ranting and raving to an inanimate object, something many Chicago Cubs' fans believe announcer Harry Caray did to microphones. Actually, Eastwood's use of the empty chair is not a political original. It goes back to 1924 and the Democratic Party's convention held in Des Moines. It was Montana Senator Burton K. Wheeler who used what now must be called the old empty chair routine in attacking Republican President Calvin Cooledge.
One of those distinctly possible rationales for Eastwood's actions may be a bit subtle for politicians. There are Hollywood insiders who believe the actor/director/producer was merely issuing a warning to the furniture business to back off. Dirty Harry with chair in hand is unquestionably a threat to kneecaps.
Meanwhile, Eastwood is unavailable for comment. He's on the road flaking his latest film, "The Trouble With the Curve." Perhaps, that's what he threw at the GOP.
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