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A Star Returns

After years of battling rumors and bad scripts, Tom Selleck, the former Star of Magnum, P.I., is poised for a comeback.
Mervyn Rothstein
From the Print Edition:
Tom Selleck, Winter 95/96

(continued from page 5)

One of his favorite memories is a dinner he gave in the early 1980s for then-president Ronald Reagan. It was at Chasen's restaurant (which has since closed) in Los Angeles, and the guests included William F. Buckley and many other politically conservative luminaries. "I served a 1974 Mayacamas Cabernet Sauvignon to President Reagan," Selleck recalls, "and he had several glasses. I was thrilled when he asked for another glass."

Selleck is known for his own conservative politics. He was a vocal supporter of Reagan and of former president George Bush. Though he now considers himself a "disaffected voter," he registered as an independent in 1992 and contributed money to Paul Tsongas, Jerry Brown and Patrick Buchanan "in the spirit," he says, "of creating a legitimate debate." He has been called the successor to Charlton Heston as the leader of Hollywood's right wing, and it has even been rumored that Selleck himself might be considering a run for public office--a rumor that he has always denied.

These days, though, he is playing down his conservative leanings; although he is still very much of the right, he talks more about the politics of consensus than about any contracts with America.

"My reputation as a conservative is valid in a lot of ways," he says, "but what disturbs me is what people think conservatives are. What conservatism represents to me is civil libertarian thought. To me, it's as simple as this: We all agree we need to solve social problems. My leanings tend toward individualist solutions. I don't like to characterize anybody, but I think liberals tend to have collectivist solutions. The twentieth century has been a collectivist century. Most of our solutions to social problems--even the term social problems--are collectivist. We've had this global experiment, and we're starting to see the end of the chain letter. I say let's try new things. I can't guarantee you they'll all work. If 30 percent of them work, I'll be happy. It's just time to reassess things and say that maybe this idea of the common good has to be translated through the individual.

"I've learned by hanging out in Hollywood, where I disagree politically with most people, that most people's hearts are in the right place, and the only thing we have to argue about is the way to solve the problems. So I don't like it if the conservative philosophy becomes an 'anti' philosophy, just sheer negative thought. If that's conservatism, I don't want to be labeled a conservative. If I can be an advocate of individualist solutions to our society's problems that are affirmative solutions, that's to me what conservatism means."

The actor is concerned about consensus with his Hollywood colleagues. When he found out that a recent TV Guide interview had quoted him as saying that Barbra Streisand, a frequent champion of the liberal line, "ought to shut up about that," he immediately called her to apologize. "I'm very fond of her," he says, "and thank God I was able to reach her before she read it." The quote, he says, was taken out of context.

"No matter how much I tell Barbra that's not what I said, that's not what I meant, I'm sure she'll be a little hurt by it, and that's not right," he says. "Maybe I should have been smart enough not to give them a sound bite. I wasn't aware I was giving them one. It would have had to have been said with humor because I know Barbra too well to have done that."

Selleck is honorary chairman of The Skin Cancer Foundation and a volunteer and spokesman for the Los Angeles Mission, "which deals with the homeless situation in L.A. without taking federal funds. They're incredibly effective because they're not constrained the way an organization that takes federal funds would be."

For more than two years he has also been the national co-spokesperson, with Barbara Jordan, the liberal former congresswoman from Texas, for the Character Counts Coalition, an organization that seeks to instill in young people--and adults--qualities such as respect, caring, responsibility, trustworthiness and citizenship.

"She's certainly no conservative," Selleck says of Jordan, "but I learned a long time ago that when you're talking about values you have to do it in a nonpartisan way, you have to achieve a consensus, because otherwise somebody is going to assume there's a hidden agenda. And besides, because of all she has accomplished, Barbara Jordan has always been a hero of mine."

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