Belo8 film critic Gary Cogill was among hundreds partying at the Palomar Hotel Wednesday night after the world premiere here of Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, a controversial new documentary about the Establishment jihad to suppress proponents of “intelligent design.” The flick stars Ben Stein, a prolific writer but probably best known as the boring teacher in the movie Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. “I’ve always admired Ben Stein,” Cogill said at the party. “He’s one of the few intellectual conservatives who have a sense of humor–something that’s rare among conservatives and intellectuals.” Jump to find out how Ben Stein reacted to that.
The film’s premiere at the Angelika Film Center was packed, and marked by plenty of gourmet snack food, long black limos and uniformed cops–at least 12, by one count. They were out in force because Expelled is so controversial–it describes “the persecution of scientists who dare to disagree with atheistic neo-Darwinism”–that the film has attracted troublemakers, though most are attacking it via the Web. It’s also the target of copyright-infringement claims, which the filmmakers–Dallas-based Premise Media Corp.–answered by filing a declaratory-judgment lawsuit Monday in U.S. District Court here.
Following the Angelika screening the crowd repaired to the Palomar, where they found a lavish spread, a rocking soul band and more flowers than you’d see at a rich guy’s funeral. Stein, characteristically droll in a sport coat, slacks, tie and tennis shoes, grabbed the mic and toasted the partygoers, many of them friends of the filmmakers, or investors in the flick. “We hope this movie goes somewhere, and you get your money back,” he told the crowd. “Remember Will Rogers said, it’s not the return on your money–it’s the return of your money.” Then he added: “OK, everybody. Party hearty.”
Asked how he got involved with Expelled, Stein later said, “I went in thinking: ‘I’m not going to find out that Darwinism is a fraud. I’ll probably find out these (intelligent design proponents) are frauds.’ But I wound up knowing a lot more than when I started. I learned that Darwinism is being overhyped, and that it doesn’t really convey what’s going on. Sometimes if you follow a ‘truth’ far enough, it becomes a lie.”
On the lighter side, the former speechwriter for Presidents Nixon and Ford–and current columnist for the likes of The New York Times, The American Spectactor and Yahoo Online–said he visits Dallas half a dozen times a year, and loves it. “I remember when Dallas was riding high on the oil boom in the late ’70s. This party tonight reminds me of those days,” Stein said. “The people in Dallas are really friendly and nice. There are lots of pretty girls here. People in L.A. look crazy, but people here look sane.”
And, what of Cogill’s comment about conservative intellectuals and humor? “Quite a few conservatives have a good sense of humor,” Stein countered. “There’s a lot of people at the Wall Street Journal, Bob Tyrell at the Spectator, David Brooks, William Buckley Jr., Laura Ingraham, Ann Coulter, Rush has a very good sense of humor.” Maybe Cogill said that, Stein conceded, because “I work very hard at being likeable.”
Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed opens this weekend in more than 1,000 theaters.