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CAUSE CELEBRE

Was it just one of those things?

A brief fling with the Obama camp appears to be fading as Sen. Clinton's Hollywood support solidifies.

June 08, 2007|Tina Daunt | Times Staff Writer

It's starting to look like Hollywood's infatuation with Sen. Barack Obama was just a flirtation before it settles down with its longtime girlfriend, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Most of Hollywood may lean Democratic, but the direction of that inclination can be as fickle as the Santa Anas. During the last presidential election, some people changed their mind five times before they settled on Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.).

And, as it is with everything in this world of glitz, candidates -- like celebrities -- benefit from buzz.

So here's the buzz these days: Clinton's presidential bid has begun to regain momentum over Obama's in the entertainment industry.

In fact, it's become so strong that Steven Spielberg, once considered a solid supporter of Illinois Democrat Obama, is now believed to be leaning in favor of Clinton, according to longtime industry politicos. (Spielberg's political spokesman, Andy Spahn, was coy this week when asked about Spielberg's political thinking. "We have nothing to announce," Spahn said, but stay tuned.)

But behind the scenes, the signs are pretty clear. Last week, Clinton cruised through town raising a cool $1.1 million in one day. At a celebrity-studded reception at News Corp. President Peter Chernin's house -- an event co-hosted by Spielberg and television financier Haim Saban -- Clinton brought in $850,000. (Chernin's boss, Rupert Murdoch, currently bidding to take over the Wall Street Journal, is a political conservative who sometimes gives to Democratic candidates.) Even super-agent Ari Emanuel, who is one of Obama's top industry supporters, wrote a check to Clinton.

Later, the junior senator from New York went to director Brett Ratner's house, where she raised $250,000 at the event held in Ratner's downstairs disco. A variety of young Hollywood hipsters ponied up, including will.i.am, Eric Dane, Rebecca Gayheart, Alex Avant and Quincy Jones (the latter not exactly young but forever hip).

The former first lady wowed crowds last week, said longtime Hollywood political consultant Donna Bojarsky. "There was a good turnout of Hollywood folks at Chernin's -- J.J. Abrams, Jodie Foster, Tobey Maguire, Brian Grazer -- and they all seemed pleased and receptive," said Bojarsky, who has not yet announced whom she is supporting in the race. "She did a real tour-de-force analysis of the world."

Like Democrats across the country, Hollywood activists are still wondering whether Obama has the experience to tackle the country's problems in these dangerously troubled times. "Sen. Clinton continues to impress people, and the more times people see her and listen to her, the more they view her as presidential material, which she absolutely is," said consultant Noah Mamet, who represents Clinton loyalist Casey Wasserman. "She helps herself immensely every time she visits L.A."

Mamet thinks the industry's flirtation with Obama was just a passing fancy, a bit of what-if casting, as in, what if we could get Brad Pitt to play Albert Schweitzer?

"People were intrigued by [Obama], didn't know him, and came out to see and hear him for the first time earlier in the year," Mamet said. "He was like a big opening weekend for a film, which has a drop-off the next week."

Of course, the election is a year and a half away. Spahn says he still sees it as a "three-way race" that includes former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards.

All three front-runners are back in town this month to raise funds before the next filing deadline to disclose contributions. Obama and his wife are scheduled to be at a variety of events next week, most of them non-industry-related. Edwards will arrive later this month and Clinton returns on June 22 for an event co-hosted by Chad Griffin, Bruce Cohen, Roland Emmerich and Greg Berlanti to shore up her support in Hollywood's gay community.

So will Hollywood's hot, hip and influential fall in line behind Clinton? Right now, the smart money says yes, but then the smart guys always go to the Oscars confident that the best advertising campaign will win. Everybody loves a good story and a longshot, and Obama is both. He wouldn't be the first feature attraction to become the latest thing -- again.

tina.daunt@latimes.com

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