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Star Makers Eye the Candidates : Experts Offer Unsolicited Suggestions to Presidential Hopefuls After Debates

December 03, 1987|DEBORAH CAULFIELD | Times Staff Writer

Pierre du Pont could use a turn on the boards as Stanley Kowalski. Paul Simon seems better suited at present as Pee-wee Herman's father. Jesse Jackson needs to commit to consonants. And most of the Republican presidential candidates should start humming in their spare time if they want to catch voters' attention.

And Tom Brokaw should consider a run at the Oval Office.

So concluded three Hollywood professionals who evaluated the candidates' television performances during NBC's presidential debate Tuesday night. Who looked, sounded and acted presidential by Hollywood standards? Who had It ?

Acting teacher Dan Fauci, voice coach Rowena Bolas and casting director Mike Fenton all concluded that no candidate really has It yet. And only one or two candidates even come close at this point to having Something.

If he were casting the role of President from among the dozen Republican and Democratic contenders, said acting teacher Fauci, he'd think about issuing another casting call. "There's no one I can see as President of the United States," he said shortly after the debate ended. Then, he added, chuckling, "Well, except Tom Brokaw."

For the Record
Los Angeles Times Friday December 4, 1987 Home Edition Calendar Part 6 Page 20 Column 1 Entertainment Desk 1 inches; 18 words Type of Material: Correction
Voice coach Rowena Balos' name was misspelled in Thursday's story on Hollywood experts evaluating the presidential debate.

How does someone act presidential?

Fauci, a former New York-based acting teacher whose students include Ted Danson, Lisa Bonet and Woody Harrelson, evaluated the candidates in much the same way he's worked with actors.

"I look at their presence--bodily, intellectually and emotionally. Are they really in touch with their belief system, their passion, their vulnerability--or are they just playing to the audience?"

Fauci also watched for a candidate's "sense of danger. Do they take stands or compromise?"

What about sounding presidential? Voice coach Bolas--who has worked with Joanne Woodward, Judy Davis and Barry Bostwick, among many others--said she listened to--rather than watched--the debate.

"I tried not to listen to the politics, but to leave myself open to what caught my attention. Was it tension in the throat, nasality, vocal quality? What one wants to hear from a politician isn't the voice. You want to hear the passion. We were all aware of John Kennedy's accent, but what we really heard was his passion."

Was there a presidential look?

Casting director Fenton, a veteran of hundreds of feature and TV movies (the most recent was "Hoover vs. the Kennedys") didn't watch the debate at all. Much as casting directors do when selecting actors for a project, Fenton reviewed a tape of the proceedings to determine who seemed "right" for the part of President.

Their conclusions:

The Rev. Jesse Jackson got high marks from the group for his overall performance.

"He was the best 'pleader' of causes," said Fauci. "He's committed, passionate and he can laugh at himself." Jackson's shortcomings, he said, were a "little" tendency toward self-aggrandizement, 'we-they' politics and exaggeration."

Fauci said if he had Jackson in his acting class, "I'd make him play a billionaire capitalist who ran a sweat shop, so he wouldn't seem so holy."

Bolas said she appreciated Jackson's "cleverness and imagery. But it's hard to understand his vowels and consonants. He's so committed as a person. He needs to practice committing to each vowel--to make it part of his philosophy that each T is not just a t --it's the best T ."

Fenton's only comment about Jackson: "He, strangely enough, seemed nervous. I don't know why, he's done so much public speaking. And I had trouble understanding him."

Fauci also put Rep. Jack Kemp (R-N.Y.) atop his list of good performances. "Although he was a little hostile in his communication, he did have something to say. He was the clearest of the Republicans and had a strong point of view. He didn't talk in generalities."

But Fauci would work on Kemp's sensitivity: "I'd have him play someone very vulnerable, like Tom from 'The Glass Menagerie" to work on compassion.

Bolas found Kemp clear, but tense: "I wanted him to clear his throat. It made me nervous. His passion was trying to come out, but was stuck in his throat. Bolas' remedy: "He could do with a lot of humming and connecting more with his breathing. He also talked too fast at times."

Bolas put Massachusetts Gov. Michael S. Dukakis at the top of her vocal list, but felt the Democrat needed significant improvement: "He was easy to listen to, but a little tight in his throat. He's closest to Jackson in his dynamic, but a little bit too jerky. He needs to relax his jaw."

Fauci liked Dukakis' "street-fighter attitude" but felt he asked "mealy-mouthed" questions and "sidestepped" questions fired his way. "I wouldn't cast him as President," said Fauci, "but he'd make a great grouchy old doctor on 'St. Elsewhere.' "

Fenton's top selection was Sen. Albert Gore Jr. (D-Tenn.) whom he described as "having a J.F.K. feel. I'd cast him as President."

But Bolas and Fauci found Gore young and inexperienced. "I'd like to see him in eight to 12 years," Bolas said. "He has a lot of potential."

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