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Political Power Players Stake Out Hollywood

February 05, 1987|DAVID T. FRIENDLY | Times Staff Writer

When Sen. Bill Bradley (D-N.J.) hits Los Angeles next week, he'll be the first in a line of political power players courting show-business power players early and ardently.

About 500 A-list guests will gather for a $1,500-a-couple party hosted by Michael Eisner, chairman of Walt Disney Studios, and Michael Ovitz, head of the dominant Creative Artists Agency. Dustin Hoffman, The Times has learned, is scheduled as emcee and Whoopi Goldberg and others will entertain. The purpose of the affair is ostensibly to raise money for Bradley's 1990 senate race.

But party chatter doubtlessly will turn to presidential politics and Bradley's future. No wonder: The question surrounding the former Knick basketball star is not whether he will run for President, but when.

Later this year, powerful producer Jerry Weintraub ("The Karate Kid") says, "We'll do a big dinner" for Vice President George Bush, the man Weintraub is backing in 1988. "George has been a great team player and a great vice president," says Weintraub. "He has to remain loyal but he also has to assert himself and tell the people what he stands for. He is about to become his own man."

In April, department store heir and movie producer Ted Field ("Critical Condition," "Outrageous Fortune") will host a bash for Sen. Joseph Biden (D-Del.) at the Harold Lloyd estate. Biden has not officially declared his candidacy but should he announce before the party, the occasion will be used to raise funds, says Bob Burkett, public affairs liaison for Field.

With a full year before the New Hampshire primary, Hollywood's key movers and shakers--including stars, studio moguls and top producers--are gathering their troops and lending their formidable money-raising skills for the 1988 race. Says Weintraub, a veteran political insider: "It's clear the battle lines are being drawn."

Because of changes in federal political contribution laws and a heightened interest in politics, Hollywood's influence and participation in the election process has been steadily growing in the last 10 years. More and more stars have been stumping for candidates and the competition for their services is intense.

"There's some kind of implied credibility that comes with Hollywood dollars," says Seth Jacobson, a public affairs consultant who worked closely with Walter Mondale in 1984. "There is a fascinating connection here--politicians are enamored by Hollywood and Hollywood is enamored of politicians."

Political activism, like the popularity of horror movies, seems to run in cycles. These days, with a lame-duck President and a number of critical legislative issues that could affect show business, politics is strongly in vogue, not just with the established players but also among Hollywood's under-35 yuppie set.

"Activism is on the rise," says Patricia Duff-Medavoy, a member of the Hollywood Women's Political Committee and wife of Mike Medavoy, executive vice president of Orion Pictures. "It's a grass-roots movement filtering up, as opposed to the celebrities starting it."

Still, to politicians, celebrity stumping can be an invaluable no-strings-attached fund-raising asset. After all, what can Gary Hart (who will declare April 13, according to insiders) do for a Hollywood movie star if elected? Most of these celebrities have larger constituencies than the candidates they are assisting.

"Los Angeles is the only place in America where the people attending fund-raisers are a bigger draw than the candidates being honored," wrote Ronald Brownstein, a political reporter for the National Journal in a recent piece for the New York Times Op-Ed page.

Actresses Donna Mills and Debra Winger repeatedly stumped for Hart in 1984 but the senator's major celebrity trump card is Warren Beatty. Beatty, who has been politically active in Hollywood for years, will back Hart again, the actor told The Times through a spokesman.

In addition, actress Jane Fonda and state Assemblyman Tom Hayden appeared at a recent Hart fund-raiser here and a spokesman said they endorse the candidate. Mike Medavoy, who has been a Hart fund-raiser in the past, refused an interview request, but insiders say he too is a Hart backer.

Producer Irwin Winkler (the "Rocky" films) is an old friend and longtime contributor to New York Gov. Mario Cuomo. "There is no campaign right now as far as I know," Winkler said in a telephone interview from Paris. "If and when he decides to seek the Democratic nomination, I'll be happy to do whatever I can because he is a very good man."

Winkler says the confluence of Hollywood and Washington powers is really nothing new. "Throughout the history of Hollywood, there has been a long tradition of political involvement," he says. "Part of it is the extension of the need for power which is part of the Hollywood mentality. What is more powerful than politics?"

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