November 21, 2014
I was quite surprised when the NSSF sent out a press release announcing former "Tonight Show" host Jay Leno as the feature entertainment for its annual State of the Industry banquet at the SHOT Show. Leno is well-known as a car enthusiast, but I'd never heard of him being a gun owner.
Well, it turns out he must not be one, because under pressure from Bloomberg-financed anti-gun groups, he canceled his appearance. Predictably, a lot of people on our side are saying a lot of nasty things about Leno: I think they are missing the point.
Why, exactly, do we need any mainstream entertainer at our functions? Is an industry dinner somehow a bigger or more important event because a comedian, of whatever stature, is telling jokes? The Leno booking was a departure: previous dinners have seen a long string of country music figures, who presumably are immune to pressure from Bloomberg front groups.
The gun culture has always stood outside the celebrity culture, and I've always thought that a good thing. But celebrification has come through our windows, too, with well-known musicians, athletes and reality television stars hawking products. I'm not wild about it, but you can take that with a grain of salt if you want, since celebrity endorsement fees are usually paid with money robbed from magazine advertising budgets.
Tying yourself to a celebrity can backfire, as I am sure Jell-O is finding these days with its former pitchman Bill Cosby in hot water over rape allegations. In our own industry, Ted Nugent has caused his endorsement partners sleepless nights with some of his more acerbic commentary and violations of game laws. But gun culture is part of American culture, so I guess we are along for the celebrity ride, like it or not. Just no Kardashians, if you please.
If Leno doesn't want endlessly to be hassled by Bloomberg-funded astroturf groups over one night's work, I can't really blame him. I would point out, however, that anti-gunners primarily watch Letterman.