From Tahiti to Nevada
Russo's Road to the
Race for Governor

by Steve Miller
copyright (c) 1997, Electric Nevada

What kind of road would lead a wealthy movie producer living in Tahiti to move to the sandy, sagebrush-dotted Great Basin, take up residency in Sparks and agree to run for the governor's chair?
Russo will tell you that if it had not had been for his two young sons, Max and Sam, and the needs of their future, he might still be in Tahiti. He'd moved there back in 1990, when he found that, in America, he no longer felt free.
"And it wasn't any one specific thing," says Russo. "It was just general tendencies of everything you got involved in...you were always waiting in line, everything was being examined, everybody was telling you what to do."
Whether he was having to wait on line for a mile to put a quarter into a toll booth, or wait on line to get a license, he says, everything kept coming down to regulations -- whether it was the IRS, or trying to build a house, everything seemed to have turned into complying with regulatory codes.
"Everything you do, there was always a general sense of oppression," he recalls. "And I hated it. I didn't feel free. And so I left. I felt oppressed,



even though I was successful."
In Tahiti, on the other hand, he'd loved it, says Russo. There was none of that sense of oppression.
But Paradise couldn't provide everything. Heidi, the mother of his sons, began to point out deficiencies in the kind of socialization the boys were getting in Tahiti, says Russo.
"She felt that they weren't getting enough intellectual stimulation down there. [Life there] was about climbing coconut trees and going swimming every day... So she wanted the kids to not live in that environment."
So, after about a year living on Tahiti, Russo brought his family back to the U.S. It was during the '92 campaign for the presidency. Perot, Bush and Clinton running.
"We bought a van, a Toyota 4-wheel drive van, and drove around the country," he says. "And driving around the country, I saw how unhappy a lot of people were."
The family ended up in Vermont, says Russo, and there he began writing a long letter to the newly elected President, Bill Clinton. In it he discussed how far America had fallen from the constitutional republic it originally had been.


 
But as he finished the letter, he concluded it would be pointless to send it to Clinton.
After Vermont, Russo and his family moved to New York whether they lived until the next summer, when they drove across the country to California. Along the way Russo stopped off to meet other people who shared his sense that something profound had gone wrong in America.
One was Linda Thompson, a concerned and combative attorney in Indianapolis. When she read Russo's unsent letter to Clinton, she forwarded a copy to short-wave broadcaster Bill Cooper.
When Cooper read the letter over the air and later interviewed its author, says Russo, the avalanche of calls and expressions of support amazed him. It was far beyond anything he'd expected, and the response soon coalesced into an effort to found a new national political party -- the Constitution Party. Russo's letter, with a few changes, became the new party's charter, and the film producer agreed, at first, to serve as the new party's national chairman.
However, says Russo, it soon became clear that an informed public was the real challenge facing America, and to address that task he needed to get back into film and television production.




It was at that point, he says, that he turned the party reins over to Cooper.
Back in Los Angeles, National Review magazine had put together a conference on Hollywood and politics and Russo had been asked to speak. His remarks, he recalls, went over well -- yielding a standing ovation -- and among people coming over to his table afterwards were several other film and TV producers, one of whom suggested they co-produce a TV show.
Russo wanted to do it. However, after six months of negotiations, the prospective partners had failed to come to terms. At that point Russo went into discussions with Michael Eisner at Disney. Disney definitely wanted the project, says Russo, but the company also wanted more control and ownership than he wanted to give up. So at that point Russo declined Disney's terms also.
"Mad as Hell" was the original name planned for the syndicated TV show that never quite happened. And when the pilot was released as a for-sale video, "Aaron Russo's Mad as Hell Video," was emblazoned across the front of the tape jacket. On the back was a picture of Russo at a desk, proudly beaming from behind a television Emmy he'd been awarded.
"It's time to stop


 
complaining about our politicians," said the jacket text. "If you're tired of the government and the way it's behaving, join Aaron Russo in his "Mad as Hell" crusade to restore the Constitution to its proper role as the law of the land.
In Nevada, Gardnerville publisher Dennis Grover saw the video (more fully described in
an earlier story), appreciated it, and invited Russo to bring his "crusade" to Nevada.
The production came first to Reno a year ago and then Las Vegas, a month later. Once again, Russo says, the level of interest, support and enthusiasm was




overwhelming -- far outstripping any expectations he'd had.
It was at that time, he says, that he first began hearing pleas that he run for governor.
Eventually, last fall, he took a trip back down to Tahiti, to take a month giving the question serious consideration.
It was then he decided to run.

Previous stories:

Hollywood Producer May Run for Governor

Russo Will Run, But in Which Party?


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