"Where's Goldie?" The hushed question ripples through the advance team that is responsible for the TV cameras ready to roll near United Airline Gate 75 at LAX--and the celebrities packed into a private room adjacent to all the commotion. Worried glances are exchanged; phone calls ordered. It's 25 minutes to flight time. "We're just waiting for Goldie Hawn to get here," Senate candidate Leo T. McCarthy, the state's lieutenant governor, says heartily to a couple reporters.
The clock is ticking; the news conference will have to start without her. Behind the podium, a door opens and stars pour out. Bruce Willis, with "Moonlighting" co-star Curtis Armstrong and "Die Hard" co-star Hart Bochner. Joanna Kerns of TV's "Growing Pains" and Robert Walden of Showtime's "Brothers." Emmy winners John Larroquette ("Night Court") and Rue McClanahan ("The Golden Girls"). Howard Hesseman of "Head of the Class." "Big" co-star Elizabeth Perkins and he's-such-a-heart-throb-he-needs-no-introduction Rob Lowe. "Less Than Zero" star Robert Downey Jr. and "Star Trek's" LeVar Burton.
Space is running short behind the podium, but stars keep coming anyway. "L.A. Law's" Jimmy Smits and Robert Foxworth of "Falcon Crest" fame. Akosua Busia of "The Color Purple" and Morgan Fairchild. "Knots Landing's" Terry Austin and John Ratzenberger of "Cheers." Michael Gross and Justine Bateman may have a hit show in "Family Ties," but they'll just have to squeeze in.
Politicians speak, then move aside for Lloyd Bridges. "I like pure clean water to dive in," the actor says with as much passion as he can muster on four hours' sleep. "The environment is very important to me and it's suffering." Lowe and Willis follow, exhorting the TV audience to vote, preferably Democratic. There's a final boarding call for United Flight 1202 to Seattle, and they're off.
Over the next three days, most of these actors traveled by plane and bus to 10 cities from Seattle to San Diego, stumping for the Democratic ticket. At each stop, the stars gave civic-minded speeches on the importance of voting, but their goal was unabashedly partisan: They hoped to register enough voters to tip the balance in Washington, Oregon and California--where polls show George Bush and Michael Dukakis running neck and neck--to the Democrats. Time was running short. In California, today is the deadline for registration.
There is no shortage of activism among Hollywood's luminaries. Former candidate Gary Hart, in particular, was adept at drawing on the stars' drawing power. But Dukakis is just now beginning to tap Hollywood's potential. Richard Gere, Robert Redford, Rob Lowe and Daryl Hannah have all appeared for him on the campaign trail. Last weekend's "Star Spangled Caravan," however, was the first time this season that a crowd of Hollywood celebrities turned out for Dukakis.
Despite a hotel fire in Sacramento, a flat bus tire in Seattle and baseball and football games that kept a lid on the number of people attending rallies in Oakland and San Francisco, the caravan drew enthusiastic crowds at every point. The only major hitch came Sunday night, when organizers decided to let the weary travelers go home instead of registering voters in Westwood movie lines.
The organizers had planned to let two big names who had stayed home over the weekend, Cher and Bruce Willis, star in the Westwood event. But Cher was a no-show, leaving Willis--who had a sick baby at home--alone in the paparazzi- packed crowd. For half an hour, Willis was besieged by near-hysterical college students. Finally, some savvy crowd-controllers made way for him to sit down at a table next to State Controller Gray Davis and begin registering voters.
The Republicans have their own, though smaller, group of stars to call on. George Bush supporters include Frank Sinatra, Bob Hope, Charlton Heston, Cheryl Ladd, Pat Boone, Arnold Schwarzenegger and teen singer Tiffany. A Bush bus trip through California is in the works for this weekend. Among the Hollywood lights being invited are Chuck Norris and Tony Danza.
"I am not as liberal as the guy I play on 'Family Ties,' " Michael Gross told an audience of about 700 that had gathered amid the ivy-covered brick buildings at the University of Washington in support of Dukakis. "I voted for Nixon at one point in my life."
No matter how many times you tell yourself that Michael Gross is not Stephen Keaton, the ex-hippie father who never let go of his '60s politics, it's jarring to hear him call himself a "fiscal conservative" who opposes abortion.