Wednesday night, Donald Trump will appear at a private Los Angeles fundraiser, and while you may not see many big names from the world of entertainment on the RSVP list, hundreds of industry professionals may be silently rooting him on and hoping no one ever finds out.
That’s because they hold the kind of conservative political opinions they believe could make them Hollywood outcasts.
“I see Trump as a guy that thinks of big ideas. He wants to protect our country,” says Robert Davi, an actor who has played roles including a James Bond villain in “License to Kill,” an FBI agent in “Die Hard” and the title role in NBC’s “Profiler.”
Now focused on a singing career, he’s the rare mainstream entertainer willing to talk openly about having right-wing political views in a left-leaning industry.
“There are a ton of people in the town that have a different point of view and are frightened for their jobs if they speak out,” he says.
On the other end of the political spectrum, there is wide and vocal support of liberal politicians from A-listers. Beyonce is a high-profile supporter of President Barack Obama, even singing at his 2009 inauguration ball. George Clooney has opened his home for a Hillary Clinton fundraiser. Susan Sarandon has been on the stump for Bernie Sanders.
Davi says conservatives don’t have the same option to go public with their views. He says he believes that being outspoken with his opinions has kept him from getting roles in Hollywood.
He says he found refuge with the Friends of Abe, an underground group founded in 2004 and named for Republican President Abraham Lincoln. The group has hosted talks and meetings with Republican leaders including Paul Ryan, Michele Bachmann, conservative pundit Ann Coulter and strategist Karl Rove.
According to an I-Team source, celebrities including Jon Voight, Clint Eastwood, Kelsey Grammer and Patricia Heaton have attended gatherings.
Friends of Abe was founded by actor Gary Sinise and Oscar-nominated screenwriter Lionel Chetwynd.
“Everyone in it is in the entertainment business,” Chetwynd says. “There are a lot of us now.”
He says there are 2,500 actors, directors, screenwriters, producers and other industry professionals who are part of the group.
Over the years, they’ve held private gatherings around LA, including regular meetings at Barney’s Beanery restaurant in Westwood.
“The first big bash was at the Ventura Farms out in Ventura. The most surprising thing was people discovering who was there and not knowing – looking at each other in utter surprise. We had people who had been working on shows together for four, five years, side-by-side, and they had never uttered a word about what they thought, for fear. Honestly, that literally brought tears to some people’s eyes,” Chetwynd says.
Chetwynd dismissed recent reports that the Friends of Abe had decided to dissolve because of disagreements stemming from the acrimonious primary season.
While the group has opted to drop its nonprofit status, ““We’re alive and well and our programs go on and our speakers come in. And our new-member lunches are overbooked,” Chetwynd says.
Donation records suggest Hollywood conservatives have reason to feel isolated.
While a large number of entertainment professionals have given to Democratic candidates, few are listed as Republican donors.
“Just as someone who is just starting out on Wall Street is probably not going to wear a Bernie Sanders bumper sticker, on the flipside a young conservative working in the entertainment industry is probably going to want to keep his or her opinions to themselves also,” says Dan Schnur, director of the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics at USC’s Dornsife College.
Schnur has worked on several presidential campaigns and is regarded as an expert in political strategy. He says conservatives in Hollywood may miss out on jobs because they don’t attend liberal functions.
“If you are at an event on behalf of a preferred candidate or cause and that gives you the opportunity to meet a director or producer who can help your career along, it’s one more chance to advance professionally,” he says.
Last summer, protesters rallied outside a Friends of Abe function at Brentwood’s Luxe Sunset Boulevard Hotel, which featured an appearance by Donald Trump.
Robert Davi says he thinks there are many people in Hollywood quietly supporting Donald Trump.
“There are. I think there are, and I think there will be more.”