The Third Alternative: Horror Icon Sid Haig’s Bid at the Oval Office
With the nation mired in an economic crisis rivaled only by the Great Depression, a seemingly endless and increasingly unpopular war -- both of which are taking a devastating toll on the pocketbooks, morale and the very psyche of nearly every American -- and a myriad of domestic troubles ranging from health care and the environment to energy and the erosion of personal freedom, interest in the in the upcoming presidential election, now only days away, is at a virtually unprecedented high.
Never before in the history of the United States has the fate of the nation and indeed the literal survival of the republic seemed to hang so precariously in the balance. For at least the last forty years and particularly in the case of the last two or three presidential races, the most commonly uttered phrase on the tongues of voters faced with hard choices and their sense of patriotic obligation has been “the lesser of two evils.” In a nation founded on the ideals of freewill, fair play, liberty and self-determination, a choice of evil versus evil is both an insult to and a mockery of the democratic process that we allegedly hold so dear. On November 4th, “We The People” will roll the dice and place our collective fates in the hands of the candidate we hope will fuck it up the least and, barring an eleventh hour total restructuring of government bureaucracy and the so-called “two party” system or some kind of divine intervention (with the latter being the more likely), “We The People” will again come up snake-eyes to do our time until the political circus rolls back into town in another four years thus proving the old anarchist adage, “No matter who you vote for, the government wins.”
Ironically, along with the increased interest in the election, many Americans are also expressing an increased ambivalence toward the partisan politics of the mainline party candidates neither of whom they feel fully represents their interests and concerns. Parties, affiliations and labels like “Democrat” and “Republican” and the more inflammatory “conservative” and “liberal” generated by the human need to be a part of group have somehow taken precedence over the country’s well being as a whole. Ultimately, voters will largely ignore independent candidates and gravitate toward one established party or the other out of fear of “throwing away their vote.” Unfortunately, this line of thinking virtually negates the power of the vote in the current political climate. In the absence of a viable third party candidate, the vote can still be a tool for change in the established system -- even if that change is merely sending a small but powerful message. And with a little effort and a lot of old fashioned discontent, that message could be delivered from an unlikely source: horror fans.
No one is more aware of this fact than beloved genre actor and The Devil’s Rejects star Sid Haig. Haig is conducting an impassioned, grassroots write-in campaign for president. Make no mistake, this isn’t Haig trotting out in a bloody clown suit in his much loved Captain Spaulding persona, drumstick in hand promising a corpse in every house and a boot in every ass. The man is serious and seriously pissed-off at the state of affairs in the good ol’ U.S. of A. On September 23rd, the following statement appeared on Haig’s official website:
My Fellow Americans,
I would like to put yet another internet rumor to rest by saying that I am in fact running for President of the United States. This is not a “PR stunt” or a “joke,” and I’m not simply “pretending to run to politically rouse my demographic.” Nor am I running under the character name of Captain Spaulding. I, Sid Haig am running for President. That is a fact.
My hopes of winning are slim at best, but the only way we the people can send a message to Washington DC is to for me to get 1% of the vote, not to be taken as a “joke.” Treating this country as a joke is what got us where we are in the first place, isn’t it? It’s time to stop that.
We can do this if you all register to vote then write my name in as your choice for President. It’s very simple. Just write it in. That’s it.
An overwhelming number of you have said that you agree with my positions on taxes, healthcare, immigration and the rest of the many things that we find wrong with the way the current administration is handling things, and I appreciate that. But to take that fire and snuff it by just laughing it off is counterproductive and will change nothing for any of us Americans.
If any of you agree and “would vote for me if I was really running,” then now is you chance to make your voice heard, because this is 100% real.
Vote Sid Haig in ’08.
So, what would motivate an established, well-respected icon of horror and cult cinema with a fifty-plus year career to throw his hat into such a dubious ring and against all odds? In the vernacular of Foxy Brown, Haig is out to stick it to the Man.
"I've been thinking about this for a long time -- the deeper in debt we've come, not just financially but morally in this country and one day I said, 'Well, that's it. Today's the day," explains Haig. "You get tired of being treated like you're stupid. It's like these guys in Washington don't think we can figure this stuff out for ourselves . . . and we all know that's not true." Haig's political philosophy can be summed up in two words: "honesty" and "responsibility." In his estimation, government has set itself above the law and outside the American people for whom it was designed to represent and protect. "The arrogance that surrounds the whole situation and (politicians) making themselves bulletproof by passing bills that declare that they can hide whatever ever they've done for fifty years for reasons of' 'national security.' By that time, whoever did whatever horrendous little task is in the ground.," says Haig. "Those kinds of things just can't go unnoticed because it's too big and it's a slap in the face."
Aside from the sheer anarchistic joy of voting for a man who has built a career portraying degenerates, thugs, murderers and evil space overlords, politically-minded horrorphiles may find writing Haig in based on his position on the issues. The sixty-nine-year-old actor insists that he has at least one advantage over both Obama and McCain. "It seems that every day McCain and Obama open their mouths is a better day for me," Haig laughs. "They're waffling on issues. They're posturing and throwing out their chests and saying 'I've got a solution.' Nobody's really talking about what they're going to do. Nobody's come up with a specific plan to fix anything. And they won't. I actually have a solution to some of these problems," Haig states. "Every politician that I can remember ever since I was a kid always told you that they had a solution to whatever the problem was and that they would tell you when they got elected. Well, I'll tell you now! The problems are simple which makes the task of solving them equally simple." Surprisingly, Haig looks to another actor-turned politician as a model for his approach to solving America's problems. "How can I solve these problems? I can do it the same way Ronald Reagan did it. He whined and he moaned and he vetoed every bill that came across his desk until he got what he wanted," says Haig. "Everything from taxes to healthcare to education -- it all boils down to a pretty simple affair when you look at it." Haig cites his pragmatic solution to the war in Iraq as an example of his simple, no-nonsense approach to getting the United States back on track . "How are we going to stop terrorism in this country? Well, a good start would be to get out of the Middle East. And not in six or eight months or after we win the war. There is no war. What's going on over there is wars between religious sects, between warlords and tribes of people. We were lead to believe that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. They never even found a can of Raid. So that was totally stupid to begin with, but everybody bought in to it. Bush and Tony Blair decided we’ll go in anyway because we don‘t like Saddam Hussein--he‘s a maniac, he’s a terrorist, he kills his own people. I get all that. But, you‘re putting American lives at risk. You’re putting British lives at risk. Where’s the profit here? What are you going to get at the end of the rainbow? A black eye -- which is what we’re getting. . . . We could be there forever" Never afraid to make a bold statement on any subject that rouses his ire, Haig questions the motivation for continuing the war in the name of democracy . "Nothing against the people who live there -- they're living their lives, their culture is safe and they have no concept of what democracy is. So, what are we doing over there trying to sell democracy to them for? To buy oil? I don't know."
Over the course of the last two month, it has become clear that whichever candidate takes the Oval Office, it will be economic policy that will ultimately win the election. Like most Americans, Haig is extremely critical of (and downright angry about) the recent mortgage crisis bailout "Now that we've got this little crisis in front of us, and everybody who's got a vote except the American public has decided that we're going to bail these organizations out for $700 billion -- You know what? All these guys belong in jail," Haig says. "They broke the law when they wrote those loans. What we're going to do is bail them out and everybody will be in their same position. They've said that the executives of these companies aren't going to get their outrageous salaries until this is paid back. They're never going to pay this back!" Haig also cites reliance on foreign money as a largely unaddressed component of the US's economic woes with potentially devastating consequences. "We're in the position now of borrowing money from foreign countries. We're borrowing money from China! The China that sends us toys with lead paint and small parts that come apart in the little kids' mouths, tainted baby food -- just send it over there until somebody catches it and we'll either fix it or not. But, oh my God, if these guys decide to pull the loans in, we're in trouble. We're in trouble already. We're only paying interest on the loans we've got right now and that interest tallies up to be $400 billion a year. That's nuts. That's totally crazy that we've allowed ourselves to do that. Until Woodrow Wilson, the United States was an isolationist country. If we couldn’t grow it or we couldn’t make it, we didn’t need it and it worked out pretty well. Now, we‘re dependent on everybody and that is ridiculous."
Tied in with the United States' reliance on foreign money is reliance on foreign oil which Haig predicts will have further dire consequences for the economy and the standard of living for all Americans. Ultimately, the only way to stop the bleeding will be the direct pressure of self-reliance. "Here's an interesting figure: we're spending $700 billion a year on foreign oil. If we go along that path, ten years from now we're going to be in the hole for $7 trillion," Haig states. "They're going to have to start finding alternatives to this gas-powered dominance that has provided us with energy. It's not working. They're going under the assumption that there's always going to be oil. Well, there's not. The oil companies have done their own surveys and the United States has done its survey and independent surveys have been done and everybody comes up with the fact that by 2042, we're going to be out of our reserves and their solution to this is to start drilling now. To use up what is left in the ground?" However, Haig understands that change comes hard especially in the face of America's so-called "addiction" to oil. To break that addiction, Sid Haig suggests a healthy dose of reality. "You wean yourself off of (oil) by opening your eyes and realizing that it's not going to be there forever. You have a choice to make: you can either find a new source of energy now or get used to the idea of doing a lot of walking or buying a horse. God! Let's take that thirty-four years and come up with a way that we can get out from under big oil's thumb and start living a better life. There's not a lot of quality to life these days."
One way Haig would improve the quality of life for average Americans would be a radical overhaul of the tax code. "I want a flat tax," Haig states. "The only reason we don't have it, plain and simple, is what millionaire or billionaire is going to give up funds to a political party or candidate who's going to force him to pay his fair share of taxes? Nobody." Haig views this ongoing cronyism and near incestuous relationship between government, big business and special interests as the root of the nation's problems. Sadly, the ideal of civic duty in a politician seems to have died along with Bobby Kennedy. "There is no such thing as public service anymore. It's 'how do I get in office and then how do I stay there?' I'm not saying it's a free ride and I'm not saying that they don't do their work, but they're working for themselves. They're not working for this country. Everybody's got to realize that."
Haig's position on social issues is simple: government should stay out of our private lives. For example, his assessment of the controversial topic of gay marriage takes religion and legislated morality out of the equation to focus solely on the human element. "As far as gay marriage is concerned, what would be wrong with two people feeling that they could live a life of happiness together by getting married? Whether it's a heterosexual couple or gay or lesbian. It doesn't make any difference. It's two people wanting to spend their lives together and they want to do it legally with a document that says 'we're married' just like heterosexual couples. My position on a lot of this social stuff is that as long as nobody gets hurt and you're working toward your own happiness, it's fine." Haig also takes a very humanistic approach to that other perennial political hot-button of abortion. “There’s a lot of young girls out there getting pregnant and it’s a mistake and they know it’s a mistake and their parents know it’s a mistake and everybody knows it’s a mistake, but, my God, if you get an abortion, you’re some kind of six-headed dragon. That’s not right. A woman’s body is her body and she should be able to decide what she does with it. There are too many children who are growing up in this country loveless and you can’t have parents who are resentful about parenthood raising healthy kids -- it just doesn’t work,” Haig says. Nevertheless, Haig insists that this freedom must be tempered with intelligence. “Now, if somebody just goes out and has a great time and they’re on their sixth abortion, that’s a little nuts and that person needs to maybe have a talk with somebody and get some help because you have to be really stupid to after the first time to make the same mistake the second time and the third time and the fourth time. What’s the definition of insanity? Repeating the same act and expecting a different result.”
The legendary exploitation star’s conservative economic stance coupled with his liberal social outlook begs the question is he a Libertarian? Haig rejects all partisan and ideological labels for true independence. “I don’t align myself with any political party,” Haig emphatically states. “Because, after a while, you start getting into party politics and you start voting along party lines and that just does nobody any good. I just kind of stay loose and free. There are a lot of people on both sides who have some good ideas that I really like and there are some who have stupid ideas that I don’t like and I just don’t want to be classified along with a particular party.” Actually, Haig doesn’t see much of a reason to draw a distinction between the two mainline parties at this point in history. “By now, the two parties have become so close to one another. There are certain elements that have remained different like the Democrat solution to all problems is to raise taxes and the Republican solution is to lower taxes for the wealthy. You know, the biggest mistake that Bob Dole made in his 1996 campaign was saying that they’re should be tax relief for the middle class because those who make $200,000 a year need the help. If he thinks that the middle class is based on $200,000 a year, then this guy has really got his head in the sand,” laughs Haig. In Sid Haig’s estimation, Republicans and Democrats are completely indistinguishable on at least one important issue. “Both parties want to give this country away to illegal aliens -- no matter what country they’re from, I don’t want to get into racial stuff here -- they stumble across the border and it’s a free ride. Have a kid? The taxpayers will pay for it. Get sick? The taxpayers will pay for it. Want your kid to have an education in their own language? The taxpayers will pay for it. And I for one am just totally sick of it. Everybody here contributes. Now, the congressman from my district came up with a really great idea. He formulated a bill that states that nobody gets social security unless they put in forty quarters of taxes verified into the system. Now that’s somebody who’s working for it. People who come in and immediately join the armed services, who are willing to put themselves out to benefit themselves and their families--strapping on a gun and going in to Iraq is a pretty crazy thing for somebody to do for the chance that they’ll get to become a citizen. I find nothing wrong with that. It’s just the people who come across without the proper paperwork ad getting a free ride all the way down the line. I won’t tolerate it. I can’t.” When pressed about the service, farming and construction industries near reliance on immigrant (and too often illegal immigrant) labor, specifically in regard to putting the many Americans who may feel that such work is “beneath” them, Haig’s solution is simple in conception, but may prove complex in execution. “There comes a point in time when you have to start applying tough love,” Haig says. “I think the only good thing that Ronald Reagan ever did when he was the Governor of the state of California was force people who were collecting unemployment to do some kind of job. His thing was you know what? There’s park benches that need to be painted, there’s highway stuff that needs to be done. There’s all of these jobs out here that nobody wants to do because they’re ‘overqualified.’ Well, you know what? If you want your weekly unemployment money, earn it. Go out there and work for it. I find no problem with that. If people are placed in a situation where they have to work or go hungry, most will choose to go to work. There’s still going to be the guy who sits on the upside down five gallon bucket in front of Wal-Mart asking for donations -- ‘I work for food’ -- you know what? We all do.”
Sid Haig has no illusions about his slim odds of actually becoming president, but seizing the oval office is not necessarily the his goal. He is intent on sending a message with a little help from his fans. “My intentions behind the run are really to gather enough votes to make Washington say, ‘You know what? There’s a change afoot. We almost got a new sheriff in town' and maybe they’ll start paying attention.” Despite Haig’s current interest in politics, he has no plans to abandon his career in acting, but public service will always be a priority in his life. “I get involved in a lot of stuff,” Haig explains. “I was heavily involved in youth sports for a long time. I was involved in supporting the arts for a long time -- I ran a summer theatre workshop for teenagers for fourteen years. I used to give certified coaches’ clinics for guys who were wanting to get their kids involved in soccer, working with Girl Scouts, the YMCA.I refined and started a program at the West Valley YMCA called ‘Trailblazers’ that has taken off pretty gone much nationwide.” However, Haig’s busy shooting and appearance schedule is currently preventing him from championing any causes. Above all, he is the definition of a working actor and time is always at a premium. “I’m doing a lot of things now and I would like to get to the point where I could really do a little bit more -- no, a lot more -- than just sustain my family here and be able to do like just two pictures a year and not worry about whether the gas bill is going to get paid, then I would be able to get more involved in whatever situation strikes me at the time.”
Fortunately, Sid’s fans won’t have to worry about losing their hero to politics any time soon. With a full slate of projects completed and on the horizon, Haig will no doubt be able to keep the gas on for some time to come. One project that he’s especially excited about is Dana Mennie’s Dark Moon Rising still in post at the time of this interview. “I really think that it’s going to be a good film. I’ve seen some of the footage and it looks really, really good. It has a great cast and the crew’s just really worked themselves to death over this thing. It has a lot of really good elements to it. I’m feeling pretty good about that. I also have three films that are out of post now: a film called Razor which we don’t have an absolutely firm release on now, Brotherhood of Blood just came out on the 14th and Little Big Top comes out in November and there’s an internet series that I did called “Chatham” which is supposed to start beepin’ over the ethers here any minute.”
Of those projects, Haig is most proud of the much-anticipated Little Big Top, which finds him once again playing a clown but in a role thematically miles away from Captain Spaulding. Little Big Top tells the story of Seymour Smiles, an aging, down on his luck clown who returns to his hometown of Peru, Indiana resigned to live out the rest of his miserable life in a drunken stupor until he rediscovers his passion thanks to a local amateur circus. “Little Big Top is something that no one has ever had the faith to let me do before,” Haig says. “It’s a dramatic role and it’s something totally different than anything that I’ve ever done before. I was fortunate enough to be allowed to use a lot of my skills that have not been used heretofore and it got some really good reactions from people on the set. There were a couple of really emotional moments that kind of got to everybody and that made me happy because I don’t always get to show that side.” Thus far, Haig’s core fans have been very receptive to his dramatic turn. Little Big Top has managed to tug at the proverbial heartstrings of even the most hardcore Captain Spaulding devotees. “I was fortunate to be allowed to screen it at the Monster Mania convention. There were about sixty people there and they seemed to really enjoy it,” Haig says. “One big, burly guy with his beer sitting on his knee turned to me at the end and said ‘Dammit, you made me cry!’” Sid Haig fans on the West Coast will get one last chance to catch Little Big Top on the big screen October 31st thru November 6th at Laemmle's Sunset 5 in Los Angeles with the official DVD release on November 4th.
Still, it seems that Sid Haig will remain in the long shadow of that other clown for some time to come. Having completed his voice work as the killer clown for Rob Zombie’s animated feature The Haunted World of El Superbeasto some time ago, Haig has little info to pass on about the project or, at least anything he can talk about at this time. When asked about the film and his part in it as Captain Spaulding in cartoon form, Haig’s lips are sealed. “You know, I’d like to know what’s going on with that too,” Haig laughs. “I don’t know. Rob’s been working on that for three years. It’s kind of a work in progress and he’s having fun with it and things keep getting added. Who knows? It’s like Picasso said, ‘It’s done when I walk away!’” Exactly what Haig-as-Spaulding’s role is in the story will have to remain a secret until the film is finally completed and released. Is Sid willing to divulge any hints? “Nope. I would be shot,” Haig laughs. “I can describe it to you like Rob described it to me. Just imagine yourself going into some neighborhood Laundromat and spending the day and all the crazy people you’d run into. They’re all there--maybe a little crazier.”
Having declared Spaulding officially dead at the close of The Devil’s Rejects, Haig surprisingly had no reservations about stepping into the role (albeit in animated form) one more time. “It was fun. I take it for what it is which was a fun little thing to do and, believe me, I don’t have anything against Captain Spaulding! Captain Spaulding has made my life a lot more comfortable in some ways, a little more visible in other ways -- like maybe not being able to just go someplace and sit down and have a cup of coffee, but that’s what I signed on for. So that’s cool.”
Got news? Click here to submit it!
Discuss the election in the Dread Central Forums!