Meeting Ron Silver humbled me. Never have I been more wrong in assessing a person before knowing him.
Until I met him, he was just another Hollywood liberal loudmouth.
Yes, he was an award-winning actor and prolific film star. And, yes, he had strong political opinions. (The net sum of his positions added up to no partisan's delight.)
But Ron Silver was also astoundingly intelligent. Ask anyone who knew him. He spoke fluent Mandarin Chinese and Spanish to go with having a Master's Degree in Chinese History.
These facets combined to make Silver a most compelling public person, a natural leader and the type of man who automatically commanded respect and admiration no matter the social or vocational circumstance.
I understand why the left is so angry that he changed teams in the last years of his life.
How would you feel if someone you loved — he created the hip and powerful Creative Coalition, for crying out loud — left you in a very public way?
And even though Ron fell into the arms of so-called neo-cons and assorted right wingers, a conversation with him always conveyed that his principles were steadfast and that he was not in lock-step with his current suitors. He even proudly stood by the term "liberal" until the very end.
Ron Silver was always an individualist and a patriot.
By going against the Hollywood left in the thralls of its opposition to the Iraq War, and by supporting the always unpopular Republican Party and its demonized standard bearer, George W. Bush, Silver understood perfectly well that lifelong friends and job opportunities would be lost. Peers even walked away from him on the red carpet at film premieres.
Before New York Times columnist Frank Rich wrote Silver off as another D-List celebrity supporting Bush, the former art critic praised his 1988 best actor Tony Award for David Mamet's "Speed the Plough" as "the performance of his career."
"Mr. Silver's frightening eruptions of snarling anger and crumpled demeanor in the face of defeat make what could be another Beverly Hills caricature into a figure of pathos," Mr. Rich wrote.
Frank Rich later lobbied to get the life-long New Yorker to oversee a campaign to help revitalize Broadway.
Maybe the D in D-list stood for defector.
Last year in New York I had the privilege to hear Ron give an informal, impromptu speech to a group of his peers. Many knew he was fighting an unwinnable battle against cancer, so his words were packed and delivered like an Oscar winning performance. Ron stated eloquently that he had no regrets and had no choice but to stand for what he believed.
In an industry full of many flakes and followers, Hollywood benefitted greatly from having an actor as principled and committed as Ron Silver.