A Great Multi-Media Live Show About How the Red Scare Persecuted Musicians

Since October 2022, which marked 75 years since the House Un-American Activities (HUAC) began its witch hunting congressional hearings investigating “subversion” in Tinseltown, there have been a number of events commemorating the Hollywood Blacklist. Throughout last October, Turner Classic Movies presented a number of films dealing with what screenwriter Alvah Bessie, one of the Hollywood Ten, dubbed “the Inquisition in Eden.” Three Los Angeles museums followed, starting March 26, 2023, when the Hollywood Heritage Museum presented the Legacy of the Hollywood Blacklist program, which screened Judy Chaikin’s 1987 documentary of the same name and included live appearances by blacklistees’ children plus displays of related artifacts provided by screenwriter and collector extraordinaire Allison Burnett and others (see:

From April 13-30 the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures screened “The Hollywood Ten at 75” film series, which I presented (see: This was followed by the West Coast debut of “Blacklist: The Hollywood Red Scare,” an extremely comprehensive exhibition of related relics, film clips, photo murals and much more, taking place through September at the Skirball Cultural Center (see: Now, the Skirball and the Huntington Library in San Marino (the L.A. County town, not the diminutive republic inside of Italy) are mounting the latest program focusing on the Hollywood Blacklist/ McCarthy era – but with a major difference.

While the TCM and three L.A. museum endeavors concentrated on how the Red Scare affected members of the motion picture industry, “The

UnAmericans: Talented and Targeted” zooms in on how the Cold War’s repression persecuted performers of conscience and consciousness in the music industry (although a number of these artists also worked in the movies and on TV, too, so there is some crossover). Before the June 21 premiere (only two days after the 80th anniversary of the execution of the so-called “atomic spies” Julius and Ethel Rosenberg) of the live, multi-media show outdoors at the Huntington Library formally began, singer/activist Paul Robeson’s defiant testimony before HUAC was played over the public address system, while supertitles of his testimony appeared on a giant screen beside the stage.

In addition to Robeson, the other musical notables who, according to “The

UnAmericans: Talented and Targeted,” were blacklisted from the 1940s into the 1960s and commemorated during the about 90-minute show, included: Composer Yip Harburg; pianist Hazel Scott; singer Lena Horne; singer Harry Belafonte; Judy Holliday; stripper Gypsy Rose Lee; clarinetist and big bandleader Artie Shaw; folksinger Pete Seeger; actor/writer/director Charlie Chaplin (who composed the scores to his sound movies); and closed with a paean to the iconic Robeson.

The presentations included vocalists Angie Fisher and Tony and GRAMMY nominee Brandon Victor Dixon plus the DC6 Singers Collective, backed by the approximately 20-piece MUSE/IQUE orchestra, performing various songs (ranging from classical to jazz to big band to folk and rock and beyond) tied to the various talents being remembered for their artistic gifts and courage in resisting the epoch’s rightwing repressiveness. For instance, during the Harburg segment, his hits “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” (from 1939’s The Wizard of Oz) and the Depression era classic “Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?” (from Gold Diggers of 1933) were performed.

Some film clips were also projected from time-to-time onto the giant outdoor screen, such as Hazel Scott’s dazzling playing of two pianos at the same time. Periodically there was also dialogue read by thespians Wendie Malick (TV’s Just Shoot Me!) and Dan Luria (who played the dad in The Wonder Years TV series, produced by my cousin Bruce Nachbar), including a portion of Chaplin’s stirring speech that crowns his 1940 antifascist masterpiece, The Great Dictator.

Overall, “The UnAmericans” is a stellar production created by “MUSE/IQUE… a member-supported, nonprofit performing arts organization making radically engaging live music experiences accessible for all [that] pioneers new musical experiences for people by creating curated live music events and outreach programs, all aimed at inspiring the creative spirit, engaging the community imagination, and fostering new generations of music lovers,” according to its website ( Currently, MUSE/IQUE is mounting “an invigorating new season that explores the artists whose music propelled social change and made us feel like we could take on the world,” which also includes, premiering July 12, Central Avenue, which “honors and celebrates the legacy of Central Avenue and its impact on our city and beyond.”

MUSE/IQUE’s conductor and artistic and music director is Rachael Worby, who told the audience ensconced in rows of chairs and at tables topped with bakery cookies and bottles of wine and sparkling and still water that from 1945 to 1962, the so-called Land of the Free “was a country terrified of free expression.” (Not to mention of communism!) According to my deep research into Worby (translation: I googled her and read Worby’s Wikipedia page) she was born 1950 in New York and married West Virginia Governor Gaston Caperton and was the First Lady of the Mountain State. Interestingly, Worby also served as the conductor and music director of the Wheeling Symphony Orchestra, which is extremely ironic for someone helming an anti-Reds-under-the-beds show, because Wheeling, West Virginia is where fascistic Senator Joe McCarthy launched his anti-communist jihad on Feb. 9, 1950 with a fanatical Cold Warrior speech. I had wanted to ask Worby about this irony and more, but she declined my interview request due to, according to her publicist, time restraints.

Although I’m a Blacklist historian who has co-initiated commemorations of that American auto-da-fé (see:, I still learned a lot from “The UnAmericans.” For example, I had absolutely no idea that Artie Shaw had a brush with HUAC, which also investigated striptease artist Gypsy Rose Lee. However, there was some historical inaccuracy in “The UnAmericans.” At one point Worby referred to “Senators sitting on HUAC,” but there were absolutely no senators whatsoever on the HOUSE Un-American Activities Committee, because senators are in the senate, while U.S. representatives, aka congressmen/women/members, sit in the HOUSE of Representatives. This is a common mistake, as Senator Joe McCarthy chaired the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations of the Senate Government Operations Committee, which also specialized in anti-communist mania and persecution (largely, but not exclusively, of individuals in the State Department and military), starting a few years after HUAC launched its Red Menace Holy War concentrating on Hollywood by 1947.   

Nevertheless, the must see/hear “The UnAmericans” is an excellent, highly recommended program for both the Blacklist scholar and “newbies” unfamiliar with this sordid chapter of history in the “Land of the Free.” Don’t miss it!   

MUSE/IQUE’s “The UnAmericans: Talented and Targeted” is being performed outdoors at 7:30 p.m., June 22 at The Huntington Library, 1151 Oxford Rd, San Marino, CA 91108 and indoors at 7:30 p.m., June 25 at The Skirball Cultural Center, 2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90049. For details see:


Brandon Victor Dixon, Angie Fisher