"Fidel Castro is a genius!" gushed Jack Nicholson after a visit with the Cuban Führer in 1998. "We spoke about everything," the actor rhapsodized further. "Castro is a humanist like President Clinton. Cuba is simply a paradise!" Jack Nicholson has been saying such things for years now. Many of his Hollywood cohorts follow suit.
"Socialism works. I think Cuba might prove that" (Chevy Chase).
"Castro is very selfless and moral, one of the world's wisest men" (Oliver Stone).
"If you believe in freedom, if you believe in justice, if you believe in democracy, you have no choice but to support Fidel Castro!" (Harry Belafonte).
"It was an experience of a lifetime to sit only a few feet away from him (Castro)" Kevin Costner.
"The eight most important hours of my life," Stephen Spielberg describing his dinner with Castro.
But there might be more to these celebrity plugs for a tyrant who jailed more of his subjects than did Hitler or Stalin than the usual celebrity vacuity upstairs.
"My job was to bug their hotel rooms," says high-ranking Cuban intelligence defector Delfin Fernandez. "With both cameras and listening devices. Most people have no idea they are being watched while they are in Cuba. But their personal activities are filmed under orders from Castro himself."
And according to some sources, Havana, given the desperation of its brutalized and impoverished residents, has recently topped Bangkok as the world mecca for child sex.
"He [Delfin Fernandez] has not only met some of the most famous men in the world," says the London Daily Mirror about the Cuban defector, "he's also spied on them and been witness to some of their most innermost secrets."
"When the celebrity visitors arrived at the hotels Nacional, Melia Habana and Melia Cohiba," says Fernandez, "we already had their rooms completely bugged with sophisticated taping equipment. But not just the rooms, we'd also follow the visitors around. Sometimes we covered them 24 hours a day. They had no idea we were tailing them."
Famous Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodovar was a special target for this bugging, but nothing of value for Castro came of it. "Everybody already knows I'm a maricon!" Almodovar laughed at Castro's blackmailers. "So go right ahead! Knock yourselves out!"
"Fidel Castro is a special connoisseur of these tapings and videos," Fernandez says. "Especially of the really famous."
And not even his closest "friends" are safe from this bugging. The best example is Castro's longtime "friend" Nobel Prize-winning novelist Gabriel Garcia Marquez. In what appeared as a touching act of generosity and friendship, Castro gave his friend "Gabo" his very own [stolen] mansion in Havana.
"We had remodeled it right before," remembers intelligence honcho Fernandez, "and we installed more cables for bugging devices than for the normal electrical appliances. We taped everything! Fidel doesn't trust anyone."
Castro's top intelligence people would gather for the screenings of these tapes almost like Hollywood types for an upcoming movie. "Hmmmm, these scenes are more scandalous than anything in any of her movies!" Fernandez recalls a top intelligence officer chortling while watching the nighttime cavortings of a famous Spanish actress.
"Now it really seems to me, compañeros," the Castro intimate chortled as he looked around the room, "that this señora should be making more respectful comments about our regime, right?"
"But famous Americans are the priority objectives of Castro's intelligence," says Fernandez. "When word came down that models Naomi Campbell and Kate Moss were coming to Cuba, the order was a routine one: 24-hour-a-day vigilance. Then we got a priority alert," recalls Fernandez, "because there was a rumor that they would be sharing a room with Leonardo DiCaprio. The rumor set off a flurry of activity, and we set up the most sophisticated devices we had."
"The American actor Jack Nicholson was another celebrity who was bugged and taped thoroughly during his stay in the hotel Melia Cohiba," states Fernandez, the man in charge of the bugging.
Turns out, however, that at least one visiting dignitary foiled Castro's intelligence. On his visit to Cuba in 1998, Pope John Paul II's assistants discovered and removed several bugging devices from His Holiness's guest house.
Perhaps Castro had a grudge against the papacy. Most don't recall, but in January 1962 Pope John XXIII excommunicated Fidel Castro from the Catholic Church. It seemed fitting, considering the hundreds of Cuban men and boys crumpling to Castro's firing squads while yelling "Long Live Christ the King!" during their last seconds alive.
Oddly (at first), Hollywood A-lister Charlize Theron traveled to Cuba in 2007 and returned without the paeans to its Stalinist regime that habitually issue from her colleagues after such visits.
So pigs worldwide started sprouting wings.
During her Cuban visit Ms. Theron helped produce a documentary ("East of Havana") on Cuban hip-hop artists that cast the Castro regime in a negative light.
Pigs worldwide started flapping and taxiing down the runway.
On ABC's "Good Morning America," Charlize Theron said: "I think the (Cuban) younger generation is starting to say, 'You know what? It doesn't work. We're not happy. We want to have freedom of speech. We want to be able to travel.'"
By now every pig from Bangkok to Stockholm was galloping madly and flapping furiously while nearing the end of his runway.
During a subsequent interview on CNN, anchor Rick Sanchez started to ask Theron about the lack of freedoms in Cuba. She interrupted the question with the following: "I would argue that there's a lack of freedom in America."
Whoops!--Pigs worldwide promptly cocked their ears and started slowing down both their hoofbeats and wingbeats.
"I seem to recall," explained the Academy Award winning Best Actress, "some time ago some reporters being fired from their jobs for speaking up on television about how they felt about the war."
"But do you think the lack of freedoms in Cuba are parallel to the lack of freedoms in the United States?" asked CNN's Sanchez.
"Well, I would," answered Theron. Pigs worldwide now stopped flapping and cupped their ears in rapt attention. "I would compare those two," continued Theron. "Yes, definitely."
Inches from the end of the runway pigs worldwide dug in their heels and jammed their engines into reverse, thus remaining earthbound. "Ah!" they squealed. "Now this is more like it!" Their wings retracted and they returned to their wallows, grunting contentedly.
After many nights of scrutiny and meditation, the best my team of analysts can determine is that Charlize Theron equates the policies of a regime that incarcerated political prisoners at a higher rate than Stalin's, that machine guns to death entire families for attempting to travel abroad, that mandates (under penalty of prison or firing squad) what its subjects, read, say, eat, earn, eat (both substance and amount), where they live, travel or work -- she equates this regime with a government under which a private corporation owned by stockholders terminated some employees for violating company guidelines.
OK, so Cuba's a repressive place -- but no more repressive than the U.S. Charlize Theron made this clear. So let's give her time. As a political philosopher, she's obviously not shoulder to shoulder with Hollywood's best and brightest just yet. But she's off to a promising start. By Hollywood standards her logic seems airtight.
Humberto Fontova is the author of four books including Exposing the Real Che Guevara. Visit hfontova.com.