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INSIDE POLITICS

Comedians Get Laughs at Front-Runners' Expense

September 15, 2003|Patt Morrison | Times Staff Writer

Are we there yet? Well then, can we have some laughs along the way?

The haute Hollywood fund-raiser/roast for gubernatorial candidate Arianna Huffington had a couple hundred paying guests trampling the grass at the home of producer Lawrence Bender to hear satirist-comedians Bill Maher, Rob Schneider and Harry Shearer deliver lines like: "A guy [Cruz Bustamante] who can make gambling casinos give him money is way ahead of the game." "The reason Arnold chose Oui magazine [for a raunchy 1977 interview] over Swank is that Oui submitted the questions in advance" -- a dig at Schwarzenegger's decision to take part in only one debate, the one giving out the questions in advance.

And again about Schwarzenegger: "The last time I saw someone who was that qualified for office, Arianna was married to him" -- a reference to Huffington's ex-husband, Michael, the failed U.S. Senate candidate.

Senate Gets a Reminder About Politics of Movies

Politicians routinely deplore all that sex and violence in movies, but evidently some aren't all that pleased about the politics in movies either.

With HBO in D.C. to shoot its new series "K Street" -- the boulevard where the capital's lobbyists lavishly spread influence as thick as foie gras -- the Senate had to be reminded: "Filming involving or related to commercial ventures, including fictional movies, is expressly prohibited." So said a letter sent to the Capitol Hill Hundred by the Senate Ethics and Rules committees. Some unnamed senator had permitted HBO to shoot inside his or her office, and only afterward had thought to check on the policy -- hence the stern memo. "This is not a movie set," Mississippi Republican Sen. Trent Lott told Reuters.

Maybe what really unsettles them is the nature of the series -- an "experimental fusion of reality and fiction" -- and its cast members, such as Clinton advisor James Carville, former Cheney advisor Mary Matalin and onetime Reagan advisor Michael Deaver -- whose reputation as a producer-director of brilliantly staged White House photo ops rivals any in Hollywood. Deaver was convicted of perjury for lying to Congress about his lobbying activities -- a real-life K Street story line.

So just where, then, did they make all those political movies, if not in situ? The 1939 classic "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" ran its filibuster on a Hollywood set of the Senate chamber. But the 1961 film "Advise and Consent" was filmed in Capitol Hill interiors, and even hired real senators, staff and reporters as extras. The Senate's associate historian, Don Ritchie, says the process was "so intrusive that the Rules Committee decreed no more interior shooting."

L.A. City Hall has welcomed filmmakers for decades, at the pittance price of $300 per diem, plus damages, which can be considerable, and which don't include the annoyance factor for city workers. Still, City Hall has cameoed as itself in productions such as "Dragnet," and was destroyed by Martians in "War of the Worlds." Its interiors have doubled as Congress and -- even more incredibly -- the Vatican.

Cybill Shepherd Came Face to Face With Davis

The wink-wink, nudge-nudge notoriety about youthful indiscretions revealed in Arnold Schwarzenegger's 1977 Oui magazine interview -- in which he confessed to drugs (marijuana and hashish) and sex (group) but no rock 'n' roll -- completely eclipsed the modest declaration by actress Cybill Shepherd that a younger Gray Davis, whom she met on holiday in Hawaii, was quite a good kisser.

But Davis didn't shrink from a bit of off-color experience, as recounted in "Brown," the biography of Gov. Jerry Brown, by Orville Schell. Davis remembered running for state treasurer in 1974, and being stuck alone in Sacramento after his two aides had been bumped from an overbooked flight from L.A. On top of that, Davis arrived at his press conference to find ... no press. So "here I was with absolutely nothing to do. So I went over and saw 'Deep Throat.' I suppose if I'd told the press I was coming to Sacramento to see 'Deep Throat,' they all would have come over to a press conference." And still would.

Some Reporters Uneasy About Bush 'Keepsake'

White House reporters who travel with President Bush have to wear press tags made specifically for each trip, tags ordinarily bearing some image relevant to the destination. But when Bush came to the Marine Corps Air Station Miramar near San Diego last month, the tags bore a picture of the First Fellow himself -- a campaign-ready photo-op image from Bush's landing on an aircraft carrier.

It made some journalists feel as if they were being used like sandwich-board ad men, which White House spokesman Scott McClellan pooh-poohed. He said a "nice keepsake" shouldn't make anyone feel like "a propagandist for the president."

Points Taken

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