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Walking his beat

LAPD chief Bill Bratton schmoozes with billionaires, judges and A-list entertainers.

November 19, 2002|Gina Piccalo | Times Staff Writer

Just three weeks into the job, L.A.'s head crime-fighter, Bill Bratton, is already making his mark on the party circuit, moving from one fete to another where, it seems, everyone is eager to win him over. In fact, the invites are so plentiful, he said, "I actually lose track of the functions."

It's a tough job, but somebody's got to do it.

On Thursday night at the Fulfillment Fund gala, hosted by News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch and held on a glamorously draped 20th Century Fox soundstage, Bratton sat in the golden circle of billionaires. Haim Saban was just behind him, Marvin and Barbara Davis at a table to his left. Bratton's escort for the evening was entertainment attorney Howard Weitzman, whose clients have included Michael Jackson, Ozzy Osbourne and Sean Penn.

"We're so excited that he can help us that we're all rushing in," said Weitzman's wife, Margaret. "He's having his debutante ball!"

(Three nights later, the Weitzmans opened their Pacific Palisades home to honor Bratton and his wife, Court TV anchor Rikki Klieman, an old friend, with an intimate party of actors, studio execs and judges. On Wednesday, the Bratton party moves to the home of former chief executive of Universal Studios and Viacom Inc. Frank Biondi and his wife, Carol.)

Weitzman led Bratton to Murdoch, then Annette Bening. As Cindy Crawford chatted about her new infomercial, the chief exchanged witticisms with Bening, whose smirking husband, Warren Beatty, stood nearby.

"One of the great things about the job of police chief is that you get to travel in so many circles," Bratton said early on in the evening. "I start my day in an impoverished neighborhood and end my day at a function like this. Later, I'll go back to the office."

He said Thursday began with a 1 a.m. helicopter tour of the San Fernando Valley. At some point, he spotted crews filming ABC's update on the classic cop show "Dragnet," so he stopped by to say hello to the show's creator, Dick Wolf.

During dinner (salmon and caviar), but long before Roger Daltrey took the stage, a series of wealthy well-wishers stopped by Bratton's table to welcome him to the job. "You've gotten a tremendous start!" said investor John Kissick, chucking Bratton on the back and shaking his hand.

Moments later, Kissick was honored for donating $2 million to the charity, a mentoring and scholarship program for economically disadvantaged students.Saturday night the party was at the newly renovated Sowden House, a $4-million Decoziggurat in Los Feliz designed in 1926 by Lloyd Wright. Here, the crowd was decidedly low on billionaires and the mood mellow. A jazz band performed standards from the master bedroom, which opened onto the colorfully lighted pool. Journalists hovered around Bratton and Klieman. "I grew up fah from where the Kennedys were from," Bratton told someone in his thick Boston accent.

Later, he announced to the crowd that he and Klieman would be making Los Feliz their home. "L.A. is a great city," he said, "and it's going to be the safest city." At least in his new neighborhood, some murmured.

It was the third party of the week at the spectacular house, owned by real estate entrepreneur Xorin Balbes. Writer Cliff Rothman organized the event, a fund-raiser for several Los Angeles Police Foundation programs that drew journalists, agents and publicists, as well as police investigators, uniformed officers and Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley.

Cooley said he met the police chief two weeks ago and has yet to sit down with him for a formal conversation. That said, however, Cooley already recognizes the man as "a visionary. He definitely is confident. Very quickly he's made an impact."

Dozens of entertainment industry folks lingered around the pool and a free-standing fire pit, sipping cocktails with glow-in-the-dark ice cubes. "This is like 'Raiders of the Lost Ark,' " said one guest, staring at the home's exotic accents. "But more tasteful."

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