Pop Culture

Ronstadt’s Vegas row fuels debate

Who says what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas?

Singer Linda Ronstadt’s eviction from a hotel in America’s ”sin city” of Las Vegas, for mildly praising filmmaker Michael Moore during a stage show, mushroomed Wednesday into the latest celebrity free speech controversy to dog the highly charged 2004 presidential campaign.

The New York Times ran an editorial condemning the move, Moore demanded Ronstadt receive an apology and promised to appear on stage with her singing “America the Beautiful” if she did, and a USA Today headline said the incident was proof that ”Celebrities declare own war -- on Bush.”

The Aladdin Hotel, which booted Ronstadt off-premises last Saturday night, stood by its president Bill Timmins’ decision to have her removed to her waiting tour bus.

An Aladdin spokeswoman, Tyri Squyres, said Ronstadt “was there to entertain not make a politically charged comment.”

Squyres added that when Ronstadt praised Moore as a “great patriot” for making the anti-Iraq war film “Fahrenheit 9/11,” about half the audience of 4,500 people booed and left and about 100 demanded their money back, even though Ronstadt was singing an encore. Some people said the crowd was “liquored up,” and Squyres said one reason Ronstadt was asked to go was ”to diffuse the situation.”

Anti-Bush tide?
For some, the incident was the latest example of an increasing tide of anti-Bush remarks from prominent entertainers that has become a side-show to the battle for the White House.

But for others, it was a sign that the 2004 election is going to be one of the most passionate and divisive campaigns since the height of the Vietnam War.

But virtually all agree that Ronstadt’s dedication of an encore song to Moore was mild in comparison to comedian Whoopi Goldberg’s obscene comments about the president at a John Kerry fund-raiser, or Ozzy Osbourne projecting of Bush’s image onto that of Adolf Hitler’s during a rock concert.

And of course, it was extremely mild compared to the criticisms leveled at Bush by Moore in his hit film.

Las Vegas Review-Journal columnist Norm Clarke says that Ronstadt criticized the hotel during her show for advertising it as a “Greatest Hits” concert, which it wasn’t and that was a cause of the problem, not just politics.

“They (the Aladdin) paid big bucks for her to come in and perform and then she bad-mouthed the property. They were able to use the Michael Moore quotes as the main excuse, but they were rankled by her remarks earlier in the show,” Clarke said.

The Las Vegas Sun, the city’s other daily paper, said that that the Aladdin “overreacted” and “Las Vegas should be embarrassed at her treatment here.”

“The intermingling of politics and entertainment has a long history, one that surely predates all of our lifetimes. Marlon Brando, Lenny Bruce, Bono, John Lennon ... the Dixie Chicks ... the list of entertainers who have used their time in the limelight to express political opinions is inexhaustible,” the paper said.

It added, “Ronstadt has been touring the country since May and has been praising Moore at each stop. Las Vegas should be embarrassed at her treatment here. Nowhere else but in the Entertainment Capital of the World has she been treated so inappropriately.”

And of course, the publicity accompanying the incident certainly contradicts the latest Las Vegas tourism slogan: ”What happens here, stays here.”