California Governor Gray Davis recently named Haim Saban, known as Hollywood's "cartoon baron," to the prestigious University of California Board of Regents.
Saban's educational expertise is deeper than one might first think. He has produced such classics of children's education as "Mighty Morphin Power Rangers" and "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles." He is also credited with sparking a veritable renaissance in Japanese cartoons in the United States. After striking gold with a 9-year-old "Israeli-French Donny Osmond," the Los Angeles Times reports, the producer "began buying obscure Japanese cartoons and repackaging them for U.S. markets."
The University of California at Berkeley may do well to introduce a course in Saban's cartoon canon to its De-Cal (Democratic education) program. "Blackjack" and "Copwatch," student-taught De-Cal primers on cards and cops respectively, do not sufficiently exhaust the riches of egalitarian education. Saban, who modestly refers to himself as a "cartoon schlepper," has much to offer a university system devoted to student-initiated entertainment.
Gray Davis, according to the Times, became acquainted with Saban's thoughts on higher education after the former Israeli rock performer donated money to his campaigns. Those donations total over $600,000.
But not everyone in the party is as impressed with Saban's scholarship as the governor. Bill Simon, Gray Davis's gubernatorial opponent, may want to clip for his debate files the comment of Brentwood fundraiser (and former economics professor) Stanley Sheinbaum about Saban's elevation. "Can you believe Haim Saban was just made a regent?" he told the Times. "What are we talking about here?"
Saban is certain his deep convictions, not pockets, account for this plum of establishment respectability. "I don't think that the fact that I am supporter of the governor had much to do with it, to be honest," Saban said in the Times. "The governor and I spend a lot of time together and we exchange views. He saw my concern for education, and it is his job to put in place people who have passion for the issues he's responsible for."
Such as? "I never want to see a woman's right to choose go away. I want to see a universal health care system."
Campaign finance reform also animates Saban. "I am all for campaign reform," he said. So much so that he donated $7 million to the Democratic National Committee before John McCain's fist came down on soft money this week.
"You're the man!" declared campaign finance supporter Terry McAuliffe, the DNC's chairman, when he heard of Saban's largesse.
McAuliffe also found it hard to resist a recent surplus of soft money from Steve Bing, a Hollywood writer and producer who brought to the nation "Missing in Action," "Missing in Action 2," and "Why Men Shouldn't Marry," among other works. Careful readers of the British tabloids may also know Mr. Bing from a controversy involving model and actress Elizabeth Hurley. She says he sired her unborn child, a charge Bing disputes on the grounds that his relationship with Hurley was not "exclusive." The British Mirror isn't persuaded, however, labeling him "Bing Laden," reports the Los Angeles Times.
Bing no doubt shares Saban's passion for a "woman's right to choose." And if Dianne Feinstein's husband Richard Blum doesn't work out as a UC Regent (also recently added to the board), Bing could certainly use that feather in his fedora to drive away any doubts about his integrity.
These are certainly heady days for all of them, but particularly Saban. He has gone from directing Japanese cartoons to directing Japanese scholars. Let's hope he doesn't forget the Orient as the UC Board of Regents continues to backdoor affirmative action at the expense of Asians, the one minority group Gray Davis isn't eager to promote.
Who knows, maybe one day the UC system will wrap egalitarianism in a full embrace and make this nouveau riche cartoonist its chancellor.