Live from Music Row Thursday morning on The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. – host Leahy welcomed all-star panelist and The Epoch Times Editor-at-Large Roger Simon in-studio to talk about voting for the Academy Awards, the art of screenwriting, and how Hollywood moguls made America.
Leahy: We are joined and studio by all-star panelist, man about town, great novelist, great tennis player, founder of PJ Media, Academy Award-nominated screenwriter, editors-at-large…how are we doing so far, Roger? At The Epoch Times, Roger Simon, welcome. Roger.
Simon: You’re making me sound very old.
Leahy: Roger, there may be others in our listening audience who are eligible to vote for the Academy Awards, but you’re the only guy that I’ve ever met who can vote for the Academy Awards. So describe that process again for us.
Simon: Okay. It’s two-tiered. According to the branch that you’re on, I’m in the writer’s branch. There’s obviously the actors’ branch, directors, etc. You nominate in your own branch, plus Best Picture.
So in the case of writers, we get to nominate Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Original Screenplay. So I voted in those three categories.
Leahy: Those are the only three you get to vote in?
Simon: Now. Whence the nominations are made, I will vote in all categories.
Leahy: So you get to make a nomination. Tier one. Who you get to nominate. Now is this, like top secret stuff?
Simon: They swear you to secrecy. Not on the Bible. There are too many atheists.
Leahy: Boom shaka laka. That’s a good line.
Simon: However, I have increasingly been bored voting and seeing fewer of the pictures and I know that the few people who are conservatives that I know are members of the Academy feel the same way. There’s nothing to vote for, really.
And we don’t even want to watch. But nowadays it’s very easy to watch for Academy members because, for the first time, they have a place online where you can go put your password in and click on any movie of the year that you want to see.
Leahy: That would be fun for me if there were actually decent movies.
Simon: The best things to watch nowadays are the docs.
Leahy: The documentaries?
Simon: Yes. The one on Brian Wilson was really interesting.
Leahy: Yes. And that’s not our friend or radio host in town.
Leahy: That’s The Beach Boys Brian Wilson.
Simon: The Beach Boys. He was kind of a genius. A genius. We can take the kind out of it.
Leahy: And yet with a very troubled personal life. Very troubled.
Simon: Yeah, it is in the documentary, of course. So it makes it a fascinating viewing. And also there was a one on Cousteau that’s very interesting. Jacques Cousteau, the inventor of scubas. And one on Ben Funtores who is best known…
Leahy: Who is Ben Fong-Torres?
Simon: He was someone that I have known personally because back in the old days, my original detective novels were published by Rolling Stone.
Leahy: The Rolling Stone? That was when Rolling Stone actually did journalism.
Simon: That’s right.
Leahy: A long time ago, Roger. Sorry for saying that. (Chuckles)
Simon: Let’s not get into that. They had a publishing wing name called Straight Arrow Books at that time and their two biggest authors were me and Hunter S. Thompson.
Leahy: The Hunter S. Thompson. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.
Simon: Ben Fong-Torres was their lead reporter, and he was great. He was the guy who interviewed all the Bob Dylan’s of the world and with extensive and really interesting reports in a time when that music was really important.
Nowadays, who cares about pop music, unfortunately. But then it was extremely important. So the documentary on Ben Fong-Torres, which I think very few people will see, is really good.
As for the fictional films, the ones that I voted on for their screenplays, I’ll give a hint because who cares about their privacy? (Chuckles) Anyway, my hint is that I voted for two films about sports.
Leahy: Okay, very good. That’s enough. Now here’s what I don’t understand. Maybe you can tell us. You can help us with this. How do you know if a written screenplay is good?
Do you listen to the dialogue? What is it? Does the screenplay also include the screenshots or is it just the dialogue?
Simon: Okay, of course it doesn’t. It includes everything. Because if you write a screenplay, you’re writing what the camera is looking at.
Leahy: So let’s just say I’ve seen some of these things. I think probably out there in our listening audience, there are a lot of people who have gone to the bookstore and picked up the book, How to Write a Screenplay.
Simon: Which one?
Leahy: But in it, it would say opening scene, the camera pans across the field. Is that right?
Simon: You began with something, Samaturish?
Leahy: Of course! I’ll tell you what. I take no offense.
Simon: I don’t do it that much anymore. But here’s what a screenplay has to do. It has to grab the reader like a novel.
Leahy: Like right away.
Simon: Right away.
Leahy: How do you do that?
Simon: You tell it more or less like a novel, but you think in your head there’s a structure to it, but you can learn the structure.
Leahy: What’s the first page of the screen look like when you write it.
Simon: Like the 10th page? What’s the first page of a novel look like? The 10th page. If you’re writing a good novel, you attempt to really grab your reader. It was the best of times and the worst of times.
Leahy: That’s a great line.
Simon: One of the famous lines in history.
Leahy: And the other line on the other extreme, it was a dark and stormy night.
Simon: Not bad. But you have to learn the formatting, which takes an hour if you pay attention, and you have to be a good storyteller. And here’s the real truth of movies.
The most important thing about the movies is the screenplay. The old line in Hollywood was in the days that made great movies, if it ain’t on the page, it ain’t on the stage.
Leahy: Ah ha!
Simon: And that was what the old moguls used to say. And when the moguls were around, movies like Casablanca were the ones that were made. Have you seen anything like that lately?
Leahy: The moguls made great epic films. Great films.
Simon: Yes. They made America. Hollywood in the old days was the sign of America to the world. Now they are speaking of your previous hour, which they do, Hollywood is essentially owned by China.
Leahy: It really is. That’s why you have all these superheroes.
Simon: They are essentially approving the scripts.
Leahy: That’s just staggering.
Simon: How boring is that? Besides being all the bad things you can say politically about that etc., it’s really boring.
Leahy: Let me just kind of flip a little bit here to this. Our pals at The Daily Wire here in town. Ben Shapiro’s group and they’ve moved here.
They got Candace Owens as part of the group. Michael Knowles is part of the group. Matt Walsh. So they’re getting into some level of filmmaking. How can they do that?
Simon: So is The Epoch Times. The Epoch Times is doing a better job. I don’t want to be in local but they have studios. They’re really going in New York.
Leahy: So what are they doing? Are you writing any films for them?
Simon: No, because I’m too busy. I write four columns a week and a book, as we know last week.
Leahy: The Southbound Train about all of the Californians and others coming to Tennessee.
Simon: And including, I would imagine candidates.
Leahy: Oh, and by the way this Fifth Congressional District primary race with arriving from California in 2019. Robby Starbuck didn’t vote in any Tennessee primaries.
Simon: He came on his own southbound train. He will definitely be in the book.
Leahy: And Morgan Ortagus came southbound…
Simon: On a rocketship.
Leahy: Via Washington, D.C., New York.
Simon: On Air Force One.
Leahy: That’s funny.
Simon: She’s on Fox all the time and I was watching yesterday. She was really good in terms of she knows her foreign affairs as well as any congressional candidate.
Leahy: We’ll see if the 749,999 people who’ve lived in this district longer than she has will have any comment.
Simon: This is something people have to weigh.
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Tune in weekdays from 5:00 – 8:00 a.m. to The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy on Talk Radio 98.3 FM WLAC 1510. Listen online at iHeart Radio.
Photo “Roger Simon” by Roger Simon. Background Photo “Academy Awards” by BDS2006. CC BY-SA 3.0.
Live from Music Row Tuesday morning on The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. – host Leahy welcomed Senior Editor-At-Large at The Epoch Times Roger Simon to the studio to weigh in in the Golden Globes cancellation and reflect upon what it was like to be part of the Hollywood scene as an Academy Award-nominated screenwriter.
Leahy: In studio with Roger Simon, my former boss at PH TV, now a Senior Editor-At-Large for The Epoch Times. Roger, you made a good suggestion to me off-air and I’ve been plugging shamelessly to all the coffee shops out there when I say we have a nice cup of radio station coffee. It’s sort of like Army intelligence right? (Laughter) It’s an oxymoron. A nice cup of radio station coffee. But I’m shamelessly, and Scooter our producer is going, yes we need to get some really good coffee in here.
Simon: You could give somebody a tip on it.
Leahy: Our listeners, like to listen in to our conversations. We’re having a cup of coffee. They’re having a cup of coffee at home. We just need to get a coffee shop that will say, yes, I like Conservatives and I like your conversation and I’m going to provide some coffee. So if you’re out there, just give us a call. 615-737-9522.
Simon: And add a lot of caffeine.
Ogles: Well, it should be noted. It’s coffee. It’s cold. (Leahy laughs) It’s bitter.
Leahy: What more could you ask for?
Ogles: But I had to get up at four o’clock in the morning to be here.
Leahy: It’s a reward. It’s a reward.
Ogles: Will work for coffee.
Simon: It’s your combat pay.
Leahy: Roger, you are the Hollywood guy here in town. You were right in the middle of Hollywood. An Oscar-nominated screenwriter. That’s very impressive.
Simon: Yes. But now excommunicated for my awful views.
Leahy: Because you think independently. Speaking of, I don’t know entertainment industry views on politics. I got to tell you this. You’ll crack up. Our lead story at The Tennessee Star. The tennesseestar.com. AP Government Test Asked How a Taylor Swift Instagram Post Illustrated Structural Barriers to Voting by our own Corinne Murdock.
Last week’s AP U.S. Government in Politics Exam asked how a Taylor Swift Instagram post illustrated structural barriers to voting. It appeared on the May third version of a free-response question. The college board explained to The Tennessee Star that Swift’s post as an example of a key concept for AP students how one’s knowledge of voter registration laws and procedures influences the nature and degree of vote turnout. My goodness.
Simon: Well, I have a rule that my rule is, anyone who pays attention to anybody in entertainment on anything serious loses eight IQ points per time.
Leahy: (Laughs) I think that’s a good rule. Taylor Swift is, let’s say we congratulate her on her great success as an entertainer.
Leahy: However her far left-wing illogical posts are another matter entirely. They should not be featured on AP Government text.
Simon: Laura Ingram years ago had a good title on that thing. What was it? Shut up and sing. And for the actors, it is shut up and act. But that’s the sequel book that was not written.
Leahy: Now give us some insight into why the politically correct Golden Globes now have canceled themselves.
Simon: Oh, no, they didn’t cancel themselves. They were canceled by the network NBC at which there is no more woke.
Leahy: What are the Golden Globes?
Simon: The Golden Globes are like one of the phoniest awards ever created. They’re given by something called the Hollywood Foreign Press Association.
Leahy: Is there, like a foreign press in Hollywood?
Simon: Yes. And then there are a bunch of stringers from countries, mostly some countries that you’ve never heard of, or places like Montenegro that are sent over by the Montenegro Times as a part-time job usually to report on the latest gossip about Brad and Angelina or something.
Leahy: That’s the Golden Globes. The foreign press association.
Simon: Anyway, these people are the ones who vote on the Golden Globes. Now the woke idiots at NBC that put this thing on the air have discovered that there were no Black people among the 25 or so of these people this year.
Leahy: There has been in the past right?
Simon: Yes. Sometimes they are from Nigeria. There is always somebody. But this year, no Black people. Uh oh, this is the year of the woke. So goodbye. Now the Hollywood Foreign Press, of course, has gotten on its knees and promised that they will have some Black people next year.
Leahy: None this year though.
Simon: They’re quickly wiring the Nairobi Times to send their one and only. The whole thing is a farce. So that anybody who actually watched this thing is watching kind of the silliest thing that they will watch. It’s another kind of phony Hollywood display. It’s even more fake than the Oscars. But by the way, I’m gonna say something in public that I was gonna put on The Epoch Times first. I happen to be an Academy member. They’re 8,000, 0 of us. A vote counts for more than it does most elections actually. For the first time, I did not vote this year.
Leahy: You didn’t vote.
Simon: Not only that, but I didn’t watch the award ceremony. The whole thing is so pointless and boring.
Leahy: So Let’s talk about the Academy Awards. In 1989, 1990, when were you nominated?
Leahy: Enemies, A Love Story.
Simon: It’s a serious movie. It’s a very good movie.
Leahy: It was a good movie.
Simon: They don’t make good movies anymore.
Leahy: They don’t. But I’d like you to tell us about your experience attending the Academy Awards back then and tell us what that was like.
Simon: Oh, well, first of all, it was very thrilling because I was a young guy and I wanted to write and direct movies. That was my big ambition and I was getting closer to it. And to go to the Academy and first of all, I was so nervous it was ridiculous even though I knew I wasn’t going to win but I was being nominated. And they will say, well, being nominated is like winning.
Leahy: How did you know you weren’t going to win.
Simon: I was nominated against in my category, Driving Miss Daisy. Do you remember that that movie? That movie won like every award. I’m not saying that I was better than that or worse.
Leahy: I can say that.
Simon: I said it to my wife. It was a more interesting movie. It was a more serious movie, but nevertheless the experience I think for writers, because writers in Hollywood are, like, lower class.
Leahy: At the bottom of the totem pole. So you get the nomination. How do you learn that you were nominated for Academy Award?
Simon: The story of how I learned about it will make you laugh because the Academy Awards nominations are announced at six am. I don’t know why exactly. Maybe for world media time or something.
Leahy: Six a.m. Pacific? That’s 9 a.m.
Simon: Exactly. It has to do with all that. Anyway as I normally am at six am was asleep and got a call from my ex-wife.
Leahy: This is a Hollywood story. Hold it! Let’s do a little role play here. You be Roger Simon at six am in the morning on the day you’d learn and I’ll be there’s the telephone right now. Ring ring ring. You pick it up and what did you say?
Simon: This was pre-cell phone.
Leahy: This is your ex-wife?
Simon: Her name is Diane.
Leahy: And she says what?
Simon: You were nominated. And I said holy…
Leahy: You added an expletive and you can’t say on air. So then what did you do?
Simon: Well, I got up, drank about as much coffee as I could find in the house. I was single at the time and I sort of danced around I think. I can’t really remember.
Leahy: On the night of the awards, how did you arrive? Did you have a limo?
Simon: Everybody arrives in a limo. It’s vulgar and awful.
Leahy: Oh come on. You are in a limo. Did you come by yourself or did you have a guest?
Simon: I had my then-girlfriend who was then gorgeous. She was a Chinese-American woman named Pamela.
Leahy: So you had a date.
Simon: I had a date and I went with the man who directed the movie Paul Mazursky and his wife. It was four of us in the limo. And actually, I lived very close by where they have the Academy Awards.
Leahy: Did you walk on the red carpet?
Simon: Of course.
Leahy: Were there people taking pictures or something?
Simon: Yes. All of that.
Leahy: Did you take a bow?
Simon: They are not all that interested in writers.
Leahy: They want stars.
Simon: You are dressed in a penguin suit. (Leahy chuckles) In my case, it was a rental because I didn’t have that many opportunities to wear them. But I went for the expensive rental. You go to these places and they ask if you want the cheap penguin suit or the expensive penguin suit?
Leahy: So you walked down and all the press is there and you got your picture taken. And when they made the announcement of the winner, did the camera pan on your face, and did you deadpan it?
Simon: As a loser did I weep?
Leahy: Yes, did you weep?
Simon: I can’t remember.
Listen to the full third hour here:
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Tune in weekdays from 5:00 – 8:00 a.m. to the Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy on Talk Radio 98.3 FM WLAC 1510. Listen online at iHeart Radio.
Photo “Golden Globe Awards” by Peter Dutton. CC BY 2.0.