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Hollywood's Party Politics : Clinton, Kerrey Front-Runners on Democratic Circuit

January 31, 1992|DIANE HAITHMAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

It's too early in the presidential race to dub any Democratic hopeful the "Hollywood candidate," but Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton appeared to retain strong backing among entertainment industry activists this week following his denial of accusations of adultery, first carried by a tabloid newspaper.

In a community where keyhole journalism is often the source of anguish and lawsuits, even supporters of other popular Democratic candidates, such as Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin and Nebraska Sen. Bob Kerrey, expressed sympathy for Clinton over the allegations carried in the Star.

The incident came at a crucial time. With the year's first presidential primary only 18 days away in New Hampshire, Hollywood Democrats are busy lining up behind their favorite candidates, bringing substantial financial clout and--probably, more important--the aura of star power to the favored camps. Fund-raising parties and meet-and-greet sessions have been taking place from the Valley to Bel-Air.

And recently, Clinton appeared to be picking up support among filmdom's elite. By week's end, indications were that despite the tabloid-inspired uproar the Arkansas governor's star had retained much of its luster in a community that is particularly sensitive to personal intrusions.

For the Record
Los Angeles Times Saturday February 1, 1992 Home Edition Calendar Part F Page 2 Column 3 Entertainment Desk 2 inches; 42 words Type of Material: Correction
Misattributed quote-- Due to an editing error, a caption accompanying an article in Friday's Calendar on Hollywood politics misattributed a statement to Sally Field. The statement was made by Bob Burkett, financial chairman for Sen. Bob Kerrey (D-Neb.). Field was not interviewed for the story.

Danny Goldberg, president of Gold Mountain Entertainment and a Harkin backer, said the incident may cause some Democrats to "re-evaluate their perception that the nomination of Clinton was a fait accompli ," but he added: "I think tabloids have a much lower image among people in entertainment than in any other business."

Goldberg, whose company represents music industry clients including Bonnie Raitt and Nirvana, noted: "Some of my own clients have filed lawsuits against the Star."

Even Kerrey's financial chairman, Bob Burkett--who lent his Cheviot Hills home for an Oct. 23 fund raiser for Kerrey hosted by Sally Field--said testily: "I think there's no room in this campaign for tabloid journalism . . . he (Clinton) is getting a raw deal."

From Clinton's own camp came vows of continued support.

"My sense is, if we're going to judge every candidate to the presidency by some prurient standard, I don't think anybody's going to go into politics," said TriStar Pictures Chairman Mike Medavoy.

The Star's accusations against Clinton came from Gennifer Flowers, 42, a former television reporter and sometime nightclub singer who also was a receptionist at the Arkansas unemployment appeals board. Flowers, who was fired from her state job earlier this week after failing to report to work, said she had been involved in a 12-year affair with Clinton. The Star paid an undisclosed sum for the story and held a news conference for Flowers, who played tapes she said were of telephone conversations she had with Clinton.

Clinton categorically denied the charges. He and his wife, Hillary, appeared on a special "60 Minutes" segment on Super Bowl Sunday to refute Flowers' claims, at the same time acknowledging past marital problems, which, they said, were nobody's business.

Producer Dawn Steel, who backed Kerrey early on in the Democratic campaign, has become an avid Clinton supporter since meeting the Arkansas governor on a social visit to the Medavoy home in mid-October. Steel said the recent events will in no way persuade her to return to Kerrey. "If we keep trying to disqualify our candidates for human behavior, we will have no candidates left," she said.

Steel added that she was encouraged by public praise for Clinton on the radio and TV talk shows after his Sunday appearance with his wife on "60 Minutes." "I thought it took enormous courage to go as far as he did; he told us more than we were entitled to know," she said.

"I don't care if he had an affair--I don't think it is an indication of how well he can run our country," Steel continued. "If you had told me he had harassed a woman in a job, or if you told me he was a wife beater or a rapist, or anything like this, I would agree that this man cannot be President of the United States. But he hasn't."

Steel said she was impressed by Hillary Clinton's choice to appear on "60 Minutes" in support of her husband. "If it's OK with her , it's OK with me," Steel said.

Donna Bojarsky, political consultant to actor-activist Richard Dreyfuss, said that Dreyfuss continues to support Clinton but noted that the recent developments "put the campaign in a bit of a holding pattern. There's no road map for how something like this will turn out. But in talking to political people all over the country, I don't see any massive shifts or defections."

Last week, before the Star story broke, some Hollywood politicos were observing a growing interest in Clinton that reflected the mood of the country--a mood that landed Clinton on the cover of Time magazine. A few, such as Steel and Medavoy's wife, producer Patricia Duff Medavoy, had openly switched from Kerrey to Clinton as long ago as last fall.

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