Ever since he decided to pull the gay cowboy movie "Brokeback Mountain" from the lineup at his Sandy movie theater, megabusinessman and Utah Jazz owner Larry H. Miller has been called every bad name in the book. Hypocrite. Bigot. Homophobe. Deal-breaker. Trampler of civil rights.
People are up in arms. The Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center has asked for a boycott of his 80 businesses. One out-of-state man wrote the editor and said "That's why I moved from Utah."
I can see controversy over the prices he charges for Jazz tickets! And re-signing Ostertag! And wearing running shoes with Dockers, what's that all about?
But how can you jump the guy you know for this?
For saying "Not in my house."
And it is as a matter of fact his house.
What is this country coming to when a movie theater owner can't show what he wants?
What's next, forcing us to watch what we don't want to watch?And what about the guy who runs the X-rated movie theater? Is he going to have to answer for not showing "The Sound of Music" or, for that matter, "Brokeback Mountain?"
Larry H. Miller paid good money to build a theater so he could air the movies of his choice. It is his inalienable right as a movie theater owner, not to mention as an American. To paraphrase Voltaire, I may not agree with what movie you choose not to show, but I will defend to the death your freedom not to show it.
I'm not saying the timing couldn't have been better. I'm not saying it wouldn't have been easier if Miller's megaplex hadn't ordered the movie in the first place and then canceled it at the last moment.
Imagine the scene when he found out . . .
Miller: It's about what?!!!
What I am saying is there is absolutely nothing untoward, incorrect or wrong with what Miller did.
Nor is there anything inconsistent. As for the guy I know, this was vintage Larry. There's a lot of old West in him underneath those unbuttoned golf shirts. He runs his own herd, and he's straightforward and fearless about it. He's about as duplicitous as a statue.
It's always been strong emotion and values that have driven him, not cold hard logic.
If it was cold hard logic, he'd be hauling in cold hard box-office cash from the critically acclaimed "Brokeback Mountain."
But being loyal to himself and his personal passions has always taken precedence.
This is the man who was asked back in 1985 to be part of a Save-the-Jazz businessman coalition and chip in $200,000 to help rescue majority owner Sam Battistone from bankruptcy.
Larry said the heck with that, mortgaged the store and paid $8 million for half the franchise a business decision motivated, as he said at the time, purely to make sure the basketball team stayed in Utah.
It didn't make sense to anyone other than Larry H. Miller there were those who thought he'd lost his mind but that was all that mattered. It was a personal choice, based on his feelings, values and instincts.Comment on this story
That deal didn't turn out too badly.
Maybe this "Brokeback" decision will turn out OK in the long run as well.
When the smoke clears, maybe more rational minds will realize that there was nothing bigoted, unconstitutional or hypocritical about Larry H. Miller making a purely personal choice.
He wasn't the community censor, just his own.
Lee Benson's column runs Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Please send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org and faxes to 801-237-2527.