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March 27, 2003|Adam Bregman,Carolyn Patricia Scott

For Vidal,

a warm Westside welcome

The crowd was well heeled, very Westside and about 99% white, made up of retired protesters of past wars, bookworms, liberals of every stripe and a few student activist types. They came to hear novelist and political critic Gore Vidal speak on the eve of war, and he did so eloquently, answering questions with witty and poignant quotes from Greek philosophers and former presidents. Every seat was taken at this free event March 18 at UCLA, and outside there was a two-block line of folks without tickets. In his opening statement, Vidal mentioned that he was a veteran of World War II and that, after the war ended, he thought, "Well, that's that. After this, no one will ever need to do this again." But there were numerous wars to come, most of them pointless in Vidal's eyes. Of our invasion of Panama to remove Manuel Noriega, Vidal said drugs are still flowing with the same ease as before. In the case of U.S. bombing of Moammar Kadafi's compound in 1986, which reportedly killed Kadafi's daughter, he wondered if it was Kadafi's eyeliner that had offended us.

Interviewed by radio host Laura Flanders, author of an upcoming book, "Bush Women: Tales of a Cynical Species," Vidal, whose latest book is "Dreaming War: Blood for Oil and the Cheney-Bush Junta," predicted that "Bush will end his office as the most unpopular and hated president in our history" but said he hopes he will be impeached before then.

The impeachment idea, no matter how unlikely a proposition it might be, drew a flurry of applause every time it was mentioned to the crowd. But then, an elderly French woman who asked a question also received a round of cheers simply for being French.

-- Adam Bregman

Welcome to the land of 'Oz'

It was certainly not a literary evening. The author couldn't make it; instead the characters from his book signed "Oz: Behind These Walls: The Journal of Augustus Hill." The fans, who started lining up outside the Barnes & Noble at the Grove for the event earlier this month, generally conceded they were there for the stars, not the stories. Still, many were buying episode highlights and sidebars drawn from HBO's much-praised prison drama "Oz," which filmed its final episode last year.

The book and the series were the brainchild of series creator and producer Tom Fontana.

As the actors arrived, the men who had portrayed murderous thugs, racist felons and each other's archenemies hugged and recalled their seasons on the show.

Some little shuffling and minor delays later, things got underway. Hundreds had lined up by the time security escorted Ernie Hudson, Dean Winters, Lee Tergesen, Scott Winters, Kirk Acevedo, Reg E. Cathey, Andrew Barchilon and Harold Perrineau out to cheers from the crowd.

Susie Deniz, 26, was typical of the crowd. She stood in an aisle just out of range of security, looking on: "I love the show. I've watched it ever since it started."

Carolyn Patricia Scott

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