Hollywood's candidate got people in Hollywood talking this week.
"People in this town just enjoy gossiping generally," entertainment industry publicist Michael Levine said.
Unquestionably, the reason the scandal hit close to home is Hart's considerable California connections. The candidate has been the leader in courting show-business power players "early and ardently," in the words of one. Warren Beatty and tycoon Marvin Davis and son John are just a few of the celebrities and moguls who have been raising money for Hart's candidacy.
And, of course, Donna Rice had a couple of bit parts as an actress.
Take, for instance, a typical luncheon where Beverly Hills met Bel-Air.
Wendy Goldberg (wife of the 20th Century Fox Film Corp. president, Leonard Goldberg), Jane Eisner (wife of Disney chairman, Michael Eisner), Wanda McDaniel Ruddy (a former society columnist), Susan Strauss and Marcia Wolf were celebrating a friend's birthday where "we absolutely talked at length about the Gary Hart business," Goldberg said.
The women all were "very informed" about the incident. "We'd done our homework and read every word," Goldberg explained. "One of the ladies even knew him pretty well."
Now, Goldberg isn't sure she can speak for the entire group. "But the feeling was that everybody was very disappointed in Hart. It showed bad judgment. And although these things do happen," she noted, "we just felt that he is married and that he betrayed a trust."
The discussion went on for 20 minutes. Goldberg mentioned that at a Beverly Hills cocktail party she had attended the night before, "If you had taken a poll, the consensus would have been that he had committed political suicide."
Getting out of his car to attend that same cocktail party, Marvin Davis, a fellow Coloradan, refused to say anything substantive when reporters peppered him with questions Tuesday. "No, I don't want to talk about it," he said. "I've just been kidded about it all day."
His son, John, reached at his office Wednesday night, also seemed devastated by the incident. "Part of my reaction to this may be because I've grown up with Gary. His was the first Senate campaign I ever worked in. He's had a forceful impact on my political ideas and beliefs," he said.
Still, he clings to hope. "While I think this has really hurt him, I see in him a determination to fight through this issue and continue his campaign. He may even be able to give his campaign a second life. And I believe it's possible."
Another political player in Hollywood, Bob Burkett, vice president for Interscope, also felt personally touched by the scandal. Even though Burkett has already helped raise half a million dollars for Sen. Joe Biden (D-Del.), he said, "my thoughts go out to Gary and his family.
"I feel awful."
Mickey Kantor, the L.A. attorney who chaired Walter Mondale's campaign in California in 1984 and ran Jerry Brown's presidential bid in 1976, was "loitering" around the state Legislature in Sacramento after news of the Hart scandal broke. "I saw a lot of people, and it's the first, last and only thing people raised. There is no other issue in Democratic politics right now."
Kantor found that "those who are supporting Gary are reserving judgment." Kantor himself thinks "those who are pronouncing his campaign dead on arrival are probably reacting too quickly.
"I think you've got to let these situations settle."
Gary Hart was even, literally, in the air over Southern California.
Kathleen Brown, an attorney and sister and daughter of two former California governors, found everyone talking about Gary Hart in the first-class compartment of United Airlines on a Los Angeles to New York flight. "It was much more the subject of conversation than the congressional hearings," she recounted. "It seemed to be the dominant news item, period."
Brown thinks "it's a death blow to the Hart candidacy. It wasn't as if he was with the chairman of the Democratic Women's Political Committee or an executive in the office of a corporation or a female labor leader. It was bad judgment."
Meanwhile, Brown, ever the loyal sister, noted that Hart's problems might present an opening for her politically ambitious brother. "Maybe," she said, "the Democrats will be ready for Jerry Brown and his Jesuit ideas."
A Westside attorney walked in on a fight between two cafeteria workers inside a Century City office building Tuesday morning.
"I don't see why everybody is so hot and bothered about this Gary Hart business," the male worker said. "What difference does it make what he does or doesn't do?"
The female worker was in a rage. "You couldn't be more wrong," she responded. "It's awful. It's wrong. You can't be running for President and running around with 20-year-old blondes, too."
At TGIF's in Marina del Rey, the singles and softball crowd interrupted their mating and mingling to ponder Hart's personal life instead of their own.