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CONVENTION 2000 / THE DEMOCRATIC CONVENTION | EXTRACURRICULARS
/ A Party Roundup

After the Speeches, It's Party Time

August 15, 2000|J. MICHAEL KENNEDY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

After President Clinton addressed the Democratic convention Monday night, the partying began in earnest at Paramount.

About 10,000 people, including delegates, state and local officials, members of community organizations and the press converged on Paramount Studios in Hollywood for the California Welcome Party, hosted by Gov. Gray Davis.

Although held on the studio's "New York" back lot, the bash showcased California's culture, with wines from Napa and Sonoma valleys, California cheeses and garlic from the Central Coast.

Entertainment offerings included mariachi bands, Chinese lion dancers and, yes, even extreme-sports athletes. (This is California, after all.)

The tab for the blowout? About $1.4 million, organizers said.

As the guests arrived at Paramount, they were welcomed by a six-member mariachi group standing near 30-foot-tall towers of red, white and blue balloons that gyrated in the breeze.

A red carpet walkway similar to that used at the Academy Awards was unrolled for the occasion. And golden Oscar replicas on lighted pedestals completed the effect.

Movie star impersonators lined the carpet, including Jim Carrey, Joan Rivers and Marilyn Monroe look-alikes.

"It's good to have the Democrats back after 40 years," said Todd Needham of Burbank, the Carrey impersonator.

Among the first attractions for partyers was a carnival-like midway with water games and food booths offering corn dogs, churros and nachos.

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Unlike college, presidential political reunions happen every four years. For the veterans of the '92 Clinton campaign, this is their second time around.

On Wednesday, those who earned their stripes during Clinton's first campaign, then left for other callings, will trade stories at Manhattan Wonton Co. on Melrose Place. Borrowing from Clinton's Fleetwood Mac anthem, the night's theme is "Don't Stop Thinking About Yesterday." Yes, there will be T-shirts.

Clinton will have left town by then, but former administration heavyweights George Stephanopoulos, Thomas "Mack" McLarty and Dee Dee Myers are on the guest list along with many other former staffers who defected to Hollywood. Political operatives Paul Begala and James Carville are bankrolling the fete.

Former advance man Ben Austin declared this convention week "a total West Coast reunion of the '92 crew. Just walking down the street, you run into people every five minutes."

Austin, whose job used to entail herding Clinton's press corps, is now the communications director for the convention's L.A. host committee. "This is the first time that we've actually been in positions that we're running anything," he said, "which is rather frightening."

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About 500 people showed up Monday to honor state Sen. Hilda Solis, the winner of this year's John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award. The keynote speaker: Kennedy's daughter, Caroline.

The award, named after Kennedy's 1957 book, was given to Solis for her efforts to protect low-income and minority neighborhoods from receiving a disproportionate share of new landfills and dump sites. Solis became embroiled in a controversy over whether she could keep a $10,000 silver lantern that went with the $25,000 cash award. In the end, she prevailed, convincing the Fair Political Practices Commission that keeping the lantern was not a conflict of interest. The event was put on by the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund and Sempra Energy.

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Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) was honored Monday at a private party at the Conga Room, a mid-Wilshire club. Los Lobos performed for the group, and other entertainers were due to sit in on a late-night "jam session."

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Times staff writers K. Connie Kang, Booth Moore, Jeannine Stein and Michael Quintanilla contributed to this story.

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