COLUMBIA, S.C. – Martin Bell attended Berkeley in the 1960’s, is a proud card-carrying member of SCETV and flies to San Francisco every year to attend the Gay Pride Parade wearing a Speedo, chaps and not much else.
But Bell — who asked that his real name not be used for fear of ostracization by his friends and associates — has a dirty secret: He voted for Tom DeLay during the first week of Dancing with the Stars.
The vote for the former conservative House Majority Leader from Texas came despite DeLay standing on the opposite side of every social and public policy issue that Bell holds dear.
“My head said ‘no’ but my heart said ‘you sexy devil,’” Bell admitted shamefacedly, of watching DeLay’s cha cha cha. “I was smitten from the moment he started playing the air guitar and I lost it when he started lip crooning ‘Wild Thing.’ And that slide on the floor? Magic.”
A professor at a local university and a faculty adviser for the College Democrats, Bell watched the first week’s episode of Dancing with the Stars with some of his young political proteges. They took turns booing and throwing darts at a DeLay headshot whenever he appeared on the television.
Bell said that he also took part in the booing and he recoiled at DeLay’s comment that “I got to get prissy.” But DeLay’s dancing was so captivating that he snuck away during the commercial break to text his vote for DeLay and professional partner Cheryl Burke, despite fingers that trembled so badly he could barely type the numbers. He also spent all night voting for the couple online, then spent an hour figuring out how to delete his browsing history so that the Dancing with the Stars website would not pop up and alert his partner to his ideological infidelity.
Keeping his support for the notoriously divisive Republican a secret is important so as not to disillusion his young charges, Bell said. “It’s a responsibility I take quite seriously. There are all these nascent liberal minds and I don’t want them to think that it’s okay to vote for a man who doesn’t believe in evolution; who tried to pack K street with his Republican cronies; and who worked to impeach Clinton.”
He also worries about disappointing his parents. “My dad was on the Hollywood blacklist and Silent Spring was my mom’s Bible,” Bell said. “I don’t even want to think about how horrified they would be.”
Bell has agonized over how to break his infatuation with DeLay. He told the student group that he was busy in the upcoming week and wouldn’t be able to attend the viewing, but says that he has a sinking feeling that he won’t be able to help himself from watching the show at home. And he’s afraid to talk to his conservative colleagues whose politics align with DeLay for fear of being outed as a hypocrite.
One possibility is to seek counseling from a centrist Democratic friend who expressed mild admiration for DeLay’s lack of inhibition on the dance floor in an offhanded remark. This friend has a wayward tendency towards the center, even pondering a vote for Republican John McCain in the 2000 election after disgust over the South Carolina primary. “My friend flirted with the devil, but he came back,” Bell said. “I’m hopeful that someday I will overcome this perverted obsession too.”
Salty Caramel is also a guest correspondent for The Discust. This article can also be found at thediscust.com.