"Reason is always a kind of brute force; those who appeal to the head rather than the heart, however pallid and polite, are necessarily men of violence. We speak of 'touching' a man's heart, but we can do nothing to his head but hit it." --G.K. Chesterton

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Michael Moriarty at the Coquitlam Grill

A very familiar man walked into the Coquitlam Grill just before noon today. It took me but a second to recognize him as Tony-Award-winning actor Michael Moriarty, former star of stage, screen and television, the latter medium providing him his most enduring success in the role of District Attorney Ben Stone in the original cast of Law and Order.
Here is the text of a story I wrote about him for the Western Standard several years ago: 

Actor Moriarty

Michael Moriarty’s reputation precedes him as he shuffles through a standing-room-only audience at a Vancouver nightclub. Moriarty, who appeared in such films as Bang the Drum Slowly and The Last Detail before rocketing to fame in the early 1990s as assistant district attorney Ben Stone in the Law and Order television series, is today more famous for his turbulent personal life than for his once-considerable dramatic skills. Indeed, it has not been his acting, but his boozing and multiple court appearances—both as accused and victim—that have kept the lanky American actor in the public eye for most of the decade or so he has lived in Canada, the last five in the Vancouver suburb of Maple Ridge.

On this balmy mid-summer’s evening, however, Moriarty is playing neither drunk nor brawler. Instead, having sworn off booze, specifically red wine, a year and a half ago, a thoroughly sober Moriarty takes a seat behind a piano and starts to play some jazz. He’s very good. He blends his music—standards and original compositions—beautifully with that of his two sidemen; his face brightens as the audience erupts in applause after a particularly deft solo. It’s no wonder the trio is working on a new CD.

It’s not the big screen or the Broadway stage, but it’s just about all Moriarty has these days—that, a Screen Actors Guild pension, some residuals, and a knot of close friends, including his manager-cum-common-law wife, Margie Brychka, whom he met in a bar in Surrey, B.C., and Hollywood icon Burt Reynolds, both of whom are in the audience this night. In fact, Reynolds eventually joins Moriarty in singing a duet of “Ain’t Misbehavin’”

In an earlier interview, the 64-year-old Moriarty recognizes that his Emmy- and Golden Globe-winning days are behind him. The permanent, booze-induced slur that muddies his once-crisp voice has seen to that. He also uses a cane to walk. And the boyish good looks that helped win him so many top roles have now abandoned him. But he insists his mind is sharper than ever and that he still has one more big role to play. “I’ve got to complete my run for the presidency,” he declares. You heard that right. Michael Moriarty wants to act out his final, great, real-life role at centre stage in the Oval Office. He wants to be President of the United State of America. Really.

Moriarty also thought about running for the presidency back in 1994. That was the year he left Law and Order following a meeting with then attorney-general Janet Reno. He alleged he was dismissed after he threatened to sue Reno, whom he accused of trying to censor the show. But he has said the departure had at least one positive effect: it transformed him from a liberal into a conservative. He soon resettled in New Brunswick (a woman, who became his third wife, drew him to Canada) and publicly mused about running for the leadership of the old Reform Party of Canada. Nothing ever came of it. This time, however, he says he means business. His strategy will be to get on the ballot in the state of Florida, where he aims to garner five percent of the vote—enough to give him some leverage to make a difference in what has, for the last two elections at least, been a tightly-contested state.

But while he says he has opened an office in the state, Moriarty suggests his campaign, which will be run under the banner of “Realists 2008,” is as much poetic pie-in-the-sky as political reality. In fact, asked about his campaign’s infrastructure, he says he will organize his bid with the help of “divine intervention and a very proven skill at capitalizing on the authentic arrival of angels.” He also admits he hasn’t raised any money yet, and has just a handful of supporters, only one of whom is actually qualified to vote.

Nevertheless, he likens his candidacy to something in between the quixotic campaigns of the late comedian Pat Paulsen, who ran for the presidency five times, and the more serious efforts of consumer activist Ralph Nader, who ran twice for the Green Party. Unlike Paulsen, however, Moriarty has some serious policies, a fact that becomes apparent as he spells out his unique political beliefs in a long, oft-times disjointed but nevertheless compelling soliloquy at a Vancouver restaurant.

Moriarty announced his candidacy in May on the conservative Web site Enter Stage Right (www.enterstageright.com). He has stated that his primary goals in running for the presidency are to reduce the power of the U.S. Supreme Court; to overturn that court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, which legalized abortion; and to take the U.S. out of the United Nations. In his interview with the Western Standard, it became clear that Moriarty’s beliefs spring from a deep conviction that collectivism in all its forms is evil. In fact, he suggests that the modern world is a vast battleground between communist and individualist philosophies.

In between alternating sips on a coffee and Diet Coke, and drags on his Export A cigarette, Moriarty’s ideas arc out like sparks: sometimes brilliant, sometimes distracting, sometimes irritating. Here’s one of his typical insights: Pierre Trudeau was the diabolic mastermind who first fused communism and capitalism though “dialectic materialism.” This fusion, he once wrote, is related to “the slow and barely discernible transformation of [the] American Republic into a socialist federation.”

There’s more: Bill Clinton is a Marxist and Hillary Clinton is a Leninist, under whose direction “the feminist arm” of her husband’s “third way” presidency “literally expropriated the Supreme Court.” On terrorism: “Big picture on terrorism, all of it—Jerry Adams is not an Irish Catholic. Yasser Arafat was not a Palestinian. Osama bin Laden was not Islamic. They are communist, agent Leninist provocateurs. This idea [communism] will not work without terrorism.”

On why anti-abortion activists should not despair: “Sir, sir, the anti-slavery movement was just as lost….But, in the end, God, reality, put Lincoln into the Oval Office, the way God put Ronald Reagan into the Oval Office.” On why the UN headquarters should not be in New York: “No, it should be in Paris. And I’ll order it. If Reagan can order Moscow to tear down that wall, I can order the United Nations to move it back to Paris, tear down [Napoleon’s] vainglorious tribute to himself, the Arc de Triomphe, and put Napoleon’s real achievement [there], which is the United Nations.”

On whether he is still a practising Catholic. “No, no. I pray all the time in my own inimitable way. My Christ is not your Christ or anybody else’s Christ. And in the end, we come into an intimate association with Our Lord. Our Lord shapes himself to you, not the other way around. Now, there are certain basic Christian fundamentals. Golden Rule. Honoring our father.” His mouthing the word “father” immediately throws his thoughts into a new direction. Without so much as a one-word segue, he declares, “The situation where the Church of the United Nations, they’ve told us, with the help of the environmentalists, that there is no male divine principle in the universe. Mother Earth impregnated herself.”

His speech impediment doesn’t make it any easier to follow any of this, and neither does his southern-gentleman’s accent, which catches the interviewer by surprise, given the fact Moriarty grew up in Detroit and was educated in the northeast U.S.  What’s with the drawl, then? “Since I came to Canada, and its increasing anti-Americanism,” he explains, “I get more and more southern American, because that’s the most identifiable American accent, it’s southern.” So he does it on purpose, then? “I am not going to be made ashamed of being an American,” he continues. “And for me to try to hide it, and don politically correct Canadianese, I ain’t going to do it.”

The interview ends with Moriarty taking a drag from his cigarette and once again denouncing Janet Reno. Maybe he’ll finally get his revenge when he becomes president.

(Photo from www.pbs.twing.com)


  1. I was pleased to see that the prosecutor on the new tv series, Chicago Justice, is playing a character based on being the son of the original Ben Stone..

  2. How do I reach my old friend Michael Moriarty?