where the writers are
Eastwood as mayor
Carmel City Hall

Clint Eastwood as a mayor was interesting. I covered a few of his city council meetings for the Monterey County Herald  back in the late `80s when the Carmel reporter, the excellent writer Alex Hulanicki, didn’t. In response to his appearance at the Republican National Convention, Eastwood was recently quoted as saying when he was mayor he gave talks, not speeches. Alex may disagree, but I recall Eastwood as being pretty low-keyed.

But first you have to imagine what it was like being a celebrity and the mayor of a small town, albeit a famous small town.

Carmel has a small city hall, but Carmel is a politically active town. Joe Blow could be mayor and the chamber seats would be filled, and usually were, and still are.

With Eastwood as mayor, it was a new ballgame. Suddenly tourists from around the country and the world, who happened to be in Carmel anyway, were lining up to attend Carmel City Council meetings and listen in on talk of zoning ordinances and variances and budgets and so on.

The residents, meanwhile, didn’t much care that they had a celebrity mayor. Carmel and the surrounding Monterey Peninsula generally take celebrities in stride, which is a reason so many of them have settled here.

However, the people of Carmel DID care if they had city business and couldn’t find a seat in the chambers, so something had to be done – you wanted to argue for or against a proposed ordinance and there were people from Oslo or Sheridan filling the seats.

So the city set aside about 12 seats at the rear of the chamber for the tourists, and they had only a limited time to sit there, five or 10 minutes as I recall, because there were many more tourists waiting outside for their turn.

Well, a funny thing happened. A city council meeting that you don’t have a stake in, even one with a celebrity mayor, is pretty boring. The tourists got restless quickly, because Eastwood didn’t play to them.

No ``Make my day, councilwoman Jones’’ or ``Do you feel lucky, you people sleeping in Devendorf Park?’’ Eastwood was like any other city politician anywhere trying to figure out what in the hell this latest ordinance meant – and why in God’s name couldn’t it be written in plain English?

So Eastwood sat there, sometimes slouched low in his chair, with his glasses perched on the end of his nose, scratching his head, asking the city attorney and city staff questions good questions, because he is very smart, and the tourists would observe this for a few minutes, look at each other, and decide what was going on was not ``Play Misty for Me.’’

Some even left before their allotted time was up, giving their seats over to new tourists eager to be entertained. Eastwood, meanwhile, continued to pursue city business because that’s what he had been elected to do.

The former mayor, as we all know, has received some flack for his convention presentation. Addressing the chair or imaginary figure is Acting 101, and I thought clever of him to use in the convention setting, and fairly well done. I did not like the tone though. I think he could have been critical of the president but with more respect for the office and the person and that would have been acceptable.

After all, he wanted respect for himself and his office when he was mayor, which is why, commendably, he did not play to the tourists – something he did do, in a manner of speaking, at the convention.


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Thanks, Steve

You made me appreciate Eastwood better.  I am not a celebrity enthusiast, but I do like people.  I'm greatful for talent and skill and knowledge and ability. Especially in obscure people.  And I like to LIKE people, and you just helped me do that. I  probably have never in my life seem an Eastwood film since I rarely see movies.  (I may have seen one long ago and forgotten it.)  I am not complaining nor bragging--just explaining. I was not immune, of course, to his famous "Make my day" since living in the USA, no one could avoid hearing it--and hearing it.  I felt bad for him that he rambled on over his time limit--like an elderly man out of control and trying to hang onto his status, but maybe I misjudged him.  I liked your assessment that he did not play to his fans at the Carmel Council but was genuinely interested in local government. Long live the mayor!

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`` . . . I like to like people.''

The world would be way better off if more people felt as you do, Sue. I think that's a message Bill Clinton tries to communicate, too, but often gets overlooked. Might have something to do with his growing popularity. There's little venom in his speeches. I do wish Eastwood could have liked Obama a little more. He could still have taken issue with him. And frankly, the message would have been more effective.

Incidentally, I just heard from Alex Hulanicki and he said that later city council meetings with Eastwood were moved to larger quarters due to the ongoing press of tourists, and that photo ops with the mayor were allowed during the council intermission, after which all the tourists left.