I like to show up several days early anytime I go on a cruise, and since Disney’s Halloween on the High Seas itinerary began at the Manhattan Terminal, I had the perfect opportunity to enjoy three days of Broadway shows before embarking on the Disney Magic. I chose four different shows, all being very different from one another. My first Broadway pick was Michael Moore: The Terms of My Surrender. The title piqued my interest; Michael Moore isn’t the kind of man to surrender to anyone under any circumstance.
I met this legendary man a few times before; he is pretty accessible in Michigan, and strives to never appear aloof nor above the masses. He is a powerful speaker, so I wanted to hear the pearls of wisdom comprising his Broadway show.
Moore was astounding in this performance; it was mostly about his life and what he believes in. I don’t find many comedians funny, but I surrendered to Moore’s clever monologue, joined by uproarious laughter from the audience throughout the show. His type of humor is sophisticated and intellectual; he presented his show as a 12-step program for liberals. I’m neither a liberal nor an alcoholic, so going through a 12-step recovery session was a novel experience. One of the traditional steps in such programs involve turning one’s problems over to God. Moore confessed, “My higher power is Ruth Bader Ginsburg.”
Moore shouted, “How the f*** did this happen? Only once in 30 years have Republicans won the popular vote.” Projected on the stage background was a giant, unflattering image of Donald Trump – it looked like the billionaire had been constipated for a week. In the playbill, there was an open invitation for Mr. Trump to attend the show at his leisure. Part of the invitation was in Russian, of course. There were 15 set changes in the 12 steps to enlightenment, with bold and not-so-subtle imagery. One projection was an American flag minus the red; it didn’t take much analysis to figure out that subliminal. Moore claimed Trump won because The Donald was skilled at manipulating white people. He said 64% of white guys voted for our sitting president, but Moore presented two hours of reasons why we should not allow a two-term Trump.
I found Moore’s life story fascinating. He spoke about writing a position paper at Boys’ State when he was a kid; it was supposed to be about Abraham Lincoln, and the competition was sponsored by the Elks’ Club. He seized the opportunity to crucify the Elks’ Club for their white-only membership policy. My mother was an employee at the Elks’ Club during the time, and I never noticed that it was white-only inside its exclusive walls. As an Anglo-Scandinavian, I just assumed others weren’t interested in membership. All three of the father figures in my life were rabid racists, so I never had any exposure to anyone but lily-white WASPS. My mother had been Catholic, but abandoned the faith upon marriage to a protestant.
Moore recalled when he was in high school, he was battered by his principal one day with five repeated assaults from a two-by-four, as punishment for not tucking in his shirt. As I said before, I am not a liberal, nor do I come from a liberal family. If a principal had assaulted me, my mother would have shown up at school with a rifle and blown his smiling face off his head. That’s how we handled things in my area of blood-red Indiana as I was growing up. In fact, my mother’s cousin took a shot gun and blew her husband in half after she caught him having an affair; we tend to let our guns do the talking.
But Moore doesn’t fancy guns, and he was quite vocal about it. He proposed a repeal of the 2nd Amendment, replaced by a 28th Amendment which “strictly regulated the right of the people to keep and bear a limited number of non-automatic arms for sport and hunting, with respect to the primary right of all people to be free from gun violence; this shall not be infringed.” He is dead serious about this. His 2002 Academy Award winning documentary, Bowling for Columbine, condemned the evil wrought by a culture that glorified guns. His work is considered one of the greatest documentary films of all time. He spoke passionately against gun violence and predicted even more mass shootings in the United States were to come. It’s almost as if he is a psychic; this was three days before the mass shooting in Las Vegas.
He was also hailed as something of a psychic when he accurately predicted the election in Trump’s favor. Not that he likes Trump, but because he believes America is producing “dumb” people. He even staged a quiz show where he demonstrated the pitting of the “stupidest” Canadian against the “smartest” American. He asked for volunteers from Canada who had an abysmal GPA to answer questions on behalf of the “foreigners.” He asked for Americans with high GPAs to compete against them. He solicited various volunteers who had earned straight As in college. I have a perfect 4.0 from three colleges and two universities, a doctorate and a post-doctorate, but I don’t believe he could see my hand in the air because it was rather dark in my section underneath the balcony. However, he did choose a trauma physician and an engineer to represent the Americans, and they did have scores in the 3.9s. Guess what? The Canadians won the game.
In one of his skits, he ridiculed the laws which forbade certain items inside a carry-on when flying commercial airlines. For example, it is forbidden to pack a cattle prod. I ask in all sincerity, who the f takes a cattle prod on a vacation, other than a super kinky version of Hugh Hefner? Moore had a small suitcase, from which he pulled the forbidden objects. He used optical illusions to amuse, much like when Julie Andrews pulled a lengthy coat rack from her little satchel in Mary Poppins. Moore pulled out a giant leaf blower, and walked about the stage declaring the absurdity of banning such a bizarre object. He demonstrated the unlikely scenario of an airline customer needing to blow debris from the aircraft floors in order to be seated. He pointed the blower at theatre patrons to demonstrate the efficacy of removing Trump-voting trash. As he walked the footlights, he politely apologized to one patron he had missed, “Oh, I’m sorry I forgot to blow you, sir.”
Moore posited that people who still support Trump after nine months in office are a lost cause, and asked his patrons to focus on persuading the 90 million Americans who have no political passion to gather with the left. He was referring to people like me, who are neither Republican nor Democrat, who really don’t stand on either side of the fence. I am willing to listen to Michael Moore just as much as Bill O’Reilly. I felt Moore’s arguments were well-thought-out, succinct, and worthy of consideration. I certainly don’t agree with 100 percent of his ideologies, but I will listen to him. I suspect few people earn a doctorate in law, as I did, if they are unable to listen to arguments from both sides of an issue.
Parts of the show brought tears to my eyes, especially when he spoke about random attacks on him he had to face, and the myriad of death threats he received. He spoke of a violent opponent lunging at him with a knife, and a man caught with explosives intended to be placed underneath Moore’s house to annihilate him and his family. He played a radio clip of Glenn Beck threatening to assassinate him. I worried that at any moment, some right-wing wacko might pull a John Wilkes Booth on him.
Overall, his anti-gun stance was hard to swallow; he says 77% of all Americans choose not to own a gun, therefore, the gun laws should be changed to reflect modern sentiments. Jews in Nazi Germany did not have guns either, because the government took them away. Now, how did that work out?
At one point, men with badges came on stage and placed Moore in handcuffs. I didn’t know what to make of this. My former boss, Fred Merle DeChausse, host of the cable TV show “Polka Party,” was at work one day when the Warren Michigan police appeared, handcuffed him, then hauled his ass away. Similar surprise arrests happened in the Nazi era, when authorities handcuffed the Jews, gays, and the handicapped – took them away, stripped them naked, then burned then in ovens. And, of course, (according to a tour guide we had at Deutsches Stadion in Nürnberg) Hitler bitched that the gas bills were too damn high.
Moore retold the time he flew to Germany to protest a ceremony at a Nazi cemetery. He came with a Jewish friend – the two had a protest banner which read, “They killed my family.” Moore and his friend were planning to roll it out at the right moment while the television stations were broadcasting live. Unfortunately, they were blocked numerous times from entering the event, but eventually tricked the guards by stealthily blending in with equipment carriers from CBS news. Moore’s point was “F the rules, do what you need to do.”
Moore’s messages inspired me. He’s smart. He’s bold. He’s confident. He is convincing. He got a standing ovation and thunderous applause, and he earned it. Serendipitously, I overheard from one of the company employees how to go through a secret, hidden door near the secret, handicapped bathroom, to meet the star immediately after the show. I wanted a photo with Moore; I already had two other ones from previous years, but I wanted a recent one. I lost 100 pounds since I saw him last, and I look completely different. As a side, I have muscular dystrophy and I use a walker; I’m no threat to Michael Moore by any stretch of the imagination. And knowing his history of support for the “little guy,” I believed he would oblige the request of a disabled chap who wanted to capture the moment in a photo. I did get through the secret passage, and got very close to Michael, but a nasty man, proclaiming to be his body guard came up to me and began belittling me for sneaking my way through the restricted door to meet Moore. He scolded me for not getting permission beforehand, as if one of the theatre employees would have granted me access. Moore delightfully agreed to the picture when he was next to me, and he even took my photographer’s camera and shot a selfie with him, too. I gave a glance to the nasty body guard that communicated, in no uncertain terms, Michael Moore’s lesson: “F the rules, I’ll do what I need to do.”
Now, the cops who handcuffed Moore turned out to be part of the act. The hunky men were actually exotic dancers with massive muscles and enormous… umm, sex appeal, strutting their stuff just to guarantee an outrageously entertaining grand finale. Michael Moore was safe – no worries about him being hauled off by modern-day Nazis. But just in case anyone tries, I was raised in blood-red Indiana – and we love the second amendment.
THE TERMS OF MY SURRENDER. Belasco Theatre, New York City. Running time: 2 hours.
Follow Anton Anderssen on twitter @Hartforth
Contact: Anton @ VoiceOfBroadway.com