Aaron Russo

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Aaron Russo

Russo promoting his film America: Freedom to Fascism
Born February 14, 1943
Brooklyn, New York, U.S.
Died August 24, 2007 (aged 64)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Known for Music Manager, Film producer, libertarian politician and activist
Religion Judaism[citation needed]

Aaron Russo (February 14, 1943 – August 24, 2007) was a Jewish businessman, film maker, and political activist.

Early life

Born in Brooklyn into a Sephardic Jewish family originally from Italy, Russo was raised on Long Island. He began promoting rock and roll shows at local theatres while still a high school student. He then worked for his family's undergarment business.

Entertainment career

Five years later the twenty-four-year-old entrepreneur opened his own nightclub in Chicago called the Kinetic Playground. The club became a driving force in the music business, where Aaron helped create the careers of many legendary performers. He also promoted some of the Sixties' most successful rock acts, including The Who, Janis Joplin, The Grateful Dead, Led Zeppelin and Jefferson Airplane.

In 1972, Russo began his seven-year partnership with Bette Midler, who became a superstar during his management of her career. In 1975 he produced the Tony award-winning Clams on the Half-Shell Revue, which starred Bette Midler and Lionel Hampton. At the time it was the most successful ten-week Broadway revue in history, grossing more than $1.8 million. While serving as Midler's manager, Russo created and managed The Manhattan Transfer. Later his roster would include such personalities as David Keith, Frederic Forrest, Susan Sarandon and other notable clients.

When Russo turned to producing feature films, his production of The Rose, introduced Bette Midler to motion picture audiences. Midler received a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Actress. The Rose is considered by many to be the classic rock 'n' roll film. Russo also produced Trading Places, starring Eddie Murphy and Dan Aykroyd, which has become a Christmas classic, and Teachers, starring Nick Nolte, Morgan Freeman, and Ralph Macchio.

Russo received numerous awards for his achievements. They include a Grammy, a Tony, an Emmy (for producing the best television special of 1977, Ol' Red Hair is Back, starring Bette Midler, Dustin Hoffman, and Emmett Kelly), plus many gold and platinum records. His films were nominated for six Academy Awards, as well as seven Golden Globes. His films have won three Golden Globes, as well as the Image Award.

In the 1990s he ran into trouble with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and eventually found himself with $2 million in liens against him. Years later in 2005, he wrote, produced, and directed a feature film/documentary titled America: Freedom to Fascism, billed as an exposé of the IRS. He also took to describing himself as a freedom fighter.

Political career

Russo became involved in politics in the early 1990s. Inspired by the success of independent presidential candidate Ross Perot, he announced the formation of the Constitution Party, with a limited-government platform similar to that of the Libertarian Party. The party never ran any candidates, and Russo shut it down after 18 months. In 1999, the U.S. Taxpayers Party renamed itself the Constitution Party, but that organization was unrelated to Russo's effort.

In 1994, Russo created a one-hour, politically themed TV show entitled Aaron Russo's Mad as Hell. The programme, part stand-up comedy monologue and part political rant, offered Russo's views where he criticized the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the War on Drugs, the concept of a National Identity Card, IRS, Social Security, and the federal budget. When he was unable to find a syndicator for the show, Russo sold it as a video.

Russo made his first run for political office in 1998, when he ran in the Republican party primary for the Governor of Nevada. He came in second in the primary, winning 25.9% of the vote in a four-way race. He then endorsed the Democratic candidate, Las Vegas mayor, Jan Laverty Jones, who lost to Republican Kenny Guinn. Russo then joined the Libertarian Party in 1999, saying it was his "true political home." In 2000, he delivered a fiery speech at the Libertarian National Convention, calling Libertarians the "last, best hope for freedom in America." Russo subsequently planned to run for governor in 2002 as a Libertarian, but he was temporarily sidelined by cancer.

On February 15, 2004, Aaron Russo endorsed the Free State Project (FSP).

In January 2004, Russo announced he was seeking the Libertarian Party's nomination to run for the President of the United States. Russo told LP News (February 2004) he was running because the United States is "heading to totalitarianism. I have a sincere belief [in] the Constitution and Bill of Rights as envisioned by Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and Benjamin Franklin. Unfortunately, neither political party respects the vision of our Founding Fathers, and these documents have been relegated to the dustbin. I want to dust them off and restore them to their proper role in our lives." At the Libertarian National Convention in May 2004, Russo received 258 votes, as opposed to 256 for Michael Badnarik and 246 for Gary Nolan, a majority being required to receive the presidential nomination. Russo was be defeated on the third and final ballot by nominee Badnarik by a vote of 423-344. While some questioned his style,[4] others argued his media experience would enable him to pose a serious threat to incumbent President George W. Bush, pulling enough votes from otherwise likely Bush voters to affect the outcome in battleground states, in the same way that Ralph Nader was considered to be in relation to Democrat John Kerry.

In 2006, Russo wrote, produced, directed, and starred in a documentary feature film entitled America: Freedom To Fascism. The film questioned the legality of the income tax and attacked the growing authoritarianism in American life. The film was made after Russo had over $2 million of tax liens filed against him by the Internal Revenue Service, the state of California, and the state of New York for unpaid taxes. In an interview with the New York Times, however, Russo refused to discuss the liens, saying they were not relevant to his film.

In early 2007, an interview with the radio talk show host Alex Jones saw Russo discuss his friendship and conversations with one Nicholas Rockefeller, whom he said was a member of the famous Rockefeller banking dynasty. In it he describes how Nicholas Rockefeller had revealed to him 11 months previous to the September 11th attacks on the World Trade Center in 2001, that "an event" would happen that would lead to an invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq, and would lead to the unwinnable "War on Terror". Russo also said that Rockefeller was part of a ruling elite whose end goal, as stated by Rockefeller himself, is "to create a one world government, where everybody has an RFID chip implanted in them".

On January 14, 2007, Russo announced his full support for U.S. Congressman Ron Paul's 2008 presidential bid. Russo also joined the advisory board of Jews for Ron Paul 2008.


Russo died of bladder cancer at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, California on August 24, 2007, at age 64

External links

Part of this article consists of modified text from Wikipedia, and the article is therefore licensed under GFDL.