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Lieberman Takes on Entertainment Industry His Way

Democrats: A day after lambasting Hollywood, Gore's running mate appears on late-night TV.


NEW YORK — Excessive? Yes.

Entertaining? Absolutely.

One day after Democratic vice presidential candidate Joseph I. Lieberman testified on Capitol Hill on what he considers Hollywood's tawdry marketing of sex and violence to children, he stood on the stage of a campy late-night comedy show and belted out Frank Sinatra's "My Way."

It's doubtful Lieberman bootlegs will be circulating soon, but the studio audience of mostly twentysomethings at NBC's "Late Night With Conan O'Brien" went wild. And sitting in with the band that backed Lieberman: rocker Ted Nugent of "Cat Scratch Fever" fame.

Before the Connecticut senator sang, O'Brien had said he couldn't have been more relieved by Lieberman's willingness to be on the show.

"I thought you were shutting us down," O'Brien told him. "I mean, have you seen our show?"

(Moments earlier, the tall redheaded host stormed into the studio crowd in Elvis persona, gyrating a few feet away from a blond audience member who swiveled her hips.)

Not to worry, Lieberman assured him. With an air time of 12:30 a.m., the viewers were probably mature enough to handle the content. Then, on a show that reaches an estimated 2.5 million "mature" viewers, Lieberman played on his status as the first Orthodox Jew on a major presidential ticket. He said when his wife, Hadassah, leaves the house, he puts on his VCR and watches the love scenes from "Yentl."

He wasn't the only one baring his darkest secrets on late-night comedy. Lieberman's running mate, Vice President Al Gore, appeared on CBS-TV's "Late Show With David Letterman" and took Letterman's ribbing about the seven-second kiss he gave his wife, Tipper, at the Democratic National Convention. "To me," Gore said, "it was just a little peck."

When Letterman suggested it was meant to signal that "I've got a wife I'm crazy about, I'm not going to be chasing interns," Gore said, "Come on, come on. Give me a break."

But New York offered the candidates more than a few laughs. After his Frank impersonation, Lieberman pulled in $500,000 after a 30-minute fund-raiser in the Fifth Avenue penthouse of Lillian Vernon, a catalog sales maven.

He then reunited with Gore at Radio City Music Hall, where the candidates and their wives were feted by A-list movie mogul Harvey Weinstein and such recording artists as David Crosby, Sheryl Crow and Paul Simon.

At the fund-raiser, Gore echoed Lieberman's call for the entertainment industry to show restraint in how it handles the marketing of violent or sexually suggestive material. "It's wrong to market inappropriate material to children."

Thursday's entertainment-industry activities inflamed Republican National Committee Chairman Jim Nicholson, who described it as "cozying up" to Hollywood. "That's hypocritical," Nicholson said outside Radio City Music Hall. "He [Gore] takes their money with a smile. What does it say about his credibility?"


Times staff writer James Gerstenzang contributed to this story.

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