"I think that now is the right time to strike," Andrew Breitbart says, talking on his hands-free cell phone as he drives through Hollywood. He's en route to dinner with a screenwriter whose work has been filmed with big names like Michael Caine, Clint Eastwood and Michael Douglas. The writer (we won't blow his cover) is a prospective contributor to Breitbart's new "Big Hollywood" blog, which rolls out next month at Breitbart.com.
With Republicans at a low ebb, and Democrats gleefully preparing to take over the White House, Breitbart feels this is a propitious time to launch the Web project he's been planning for several months, aiming to create an online intersection between the conservative movement and Hollywood. Conservatives, Breitbart says, are entering "an era of opposition and an era of rebirth," and one goal of his project is to make the conservative establishment "realize they have a stake in the popular culture."
Breitbart grew up in the Los Angeles suburb of Brentwood -- yeah, O.J.'s neighborhood -- and knows Hollywood as well as he knows the Web, where he's been associated with some of the most successful ventures online. He worked for years as an assistant editor for Matt Drudge's famous Drudge Report, and helped his friend Arianna Huffington create the Huffington Post, before launching his own news site.
While culturally attuned to the ways of Tinseltown, Breitbart’s conservatism puts him politically at odds with the predominantly left-leaning entertainment world, a gap he's long sought to bridge. He has tapped into a nexus of actors, writers, directors and producers who are trying to peel off the toxic label attached to center-right views in Hollywood, where Republicans are as rare as snowstorms. Such is the risk of career damage that almost all these Left Coast conservatives are "underground." (The Presidential Citizens Medal that President Bush recently awarded to Gary Sinise makes him a marked man in an industry where Sean Penn and Oliver Stone constitute the political mainstream.)
That's one reason Breitbart is not dropping names about the folks who will be contributing to "Big Hollywood." Several of the bloggers will be pseudonymous, with only "vague bios" to identify them. "It's just so bad out here," he says, that many people prefer to "stay undercover" about their politics.
Monday's announcement of the forthcoming venture drew positive notice from the Weekly Standard and the popular Power Line blog, but Breitbart says he doesn't "feel a compelling need to overplay it" by "blabbing big names." Among the contributors he does name is L.A. radio host Steve Mason, who's shown an uncanny ability to predict the box-office receipts of movies. The site's editor will be Dirty Harry's Place blogger John Nolte.
The content of "Big Hollywood" will be a "constant evolution," Breitbart says. He recalls that the Huffington Post was originally conceived as a group blog for Arianna's celebrity friends, but has since "developed organically" into a more news-oriented venture with political commentary and only occasional contributions by big names. "It really is hard to look at that site and see it as a celebrity blog," he says.
And while he expects "Big Hollywood" to undergo a similarly slow process of development, the one aspect of HuffPo that Breitbart's new site won't emulate is the vitriol. "That's not my style," he says, declaring that the blog will strive for "a more tolerant tone."
Tolerance? In Hollywood? What a concept!
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