After milling around for an hour in the green room of this year's Beltway Christian right bonanza, the Values Voter Summit, I found myself seated across from actor Stephen Baldwin, the youngest of the fabulous Baldwin boys. Baldwin, who had just introduced a Christian pop band on stage, was juiced from a long day of sermonizing. As soon as he stepped into the Summit's VIP room, he turned down the schlock piped in from the stage, offered me a soft drink from a nearby table decorated with an Obama Waffles display, then held forth about God, Gays, and Gossip Girl.
"I was a freakin' gnarly freak out there in Hollywood," Baldwin told me. "You're talking to a guy who's been in 60 movies, showed his backside about a half dozen times, and I'm just in a different place -- I'm just not the guy I used to be."
Today, Baldwin has no more use for the liberal Hollywood elites who propelled his acting career. "I would love to be on 'Ellen' because I'm still Stevie B.," he told me. "But, I believe in a faith, and in that faith, God has made a statement that homosexuality is not right."
Immediately after being "freaked out" by the 9/11 attacks, Baldwin gave his life to the Lamb of the Lord, becoming born-again through the wonder working power of conservative, evangelical Christianity. He instantly became one of America's most prominent right-wing celebrities, and, with his manic energy, one of the most marketable. (His main competitors for Republican star-power in this election cycle have been D-list action star Chuck Norris and washed-up Midnight Cowboy John Voigt).
Baldwin has endeared himself to aspiring evangelical hipsters by interspersing outmoded California surferisms like "gnarly" and "awesome" into his sermons. He even begins some of his prayers to Jesus with "Listen, dude!" But he's not above the Christian right's moral hysterics. In 2004, Baldwin posted outside a porno shop and threatened to publicly expose its customers (no pun intended) in a full page ad in a local newspaper. Last year, he joined a group that proselytizes inside the U.S. military and within Iraq, and promotes controversial "convert or kill" video games.
At this year's Value Voters Summit, Baldwin summoned God's wrath against the industry that brought wealth and fame to him and his family. Everything from movies, to TV, to videogames, to porno is "cultural terrorism," he declared before hundreds of indignant Christian soldiers. "The majority of what [the entertainment industry] does is evil," Baldwin added.
Baldwin reserved most of his scorn for the CW show, Gossip Girl, which he denounced as "smut." He incited his audience by informing them that the Gossip Girl's marketing campaign, which uses warnings from concerned parent organizations as an ironic promotional device, deliberately mocks them and their Christian values.
Then Baldwin turned on his own oeuvre, blasting the award-winning caper film that made him a star, The Usual Suspects. "You are not supposed to be watching that," he proclaimed.
Backstage, I told Baldwin that aside from the fact that his only memorable line was, "Gimme the fucking keys you fucking cocksucker motherfucker! Arghhh!" I didn't see what was so objectionable about the film. He replied that The Usual Suspects was entertaining, but not redeeming. I asked him if that was because the main character, about whom satanic allusions are made, gets away at the end of the movie. "There's no redemption in The Usual Suspects," was all he would say. I asked if that was because the Devil gets away, and Baldwin repeated his answer, adding only that he didn't want to phrase it the way I did.
But Baldwin is still proud of his role in Bio-Dome, the nineties stoner comedy that featured scenes of growing and naming a ten-foot pot plant (Sticky Purple Punch), and the utterly unreedeming comedy of co-star Pauly Shore. Recently, Baldwin watched Youtube clips of Bio-Dome with his 11-year-old daughter. While discussing this film classic, Baldwin told me that he had quit drugging and binge drinking 19 years ago - long before he was born-again.
"You did Bio-Dome sober?" I asked with astonishment.
"That's talent babe!"