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CAUSE CÉLÈBRE / TINA DAUNT

His Hollywood ties aren't binding

September 07, 2007|TINA DAUNT

Politician turned actor turned politician Fred Thompson may have a Hollywood strategy when it comes to his presidential run (after all, he did announce his candidacy this week on the Jay Leno show), but he'll have a hard time getting a Hollywood audience.

For starters, the entertainment industry Democrats are much too busy shuttling between Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton fundraisers to even think about helping out a fellow actor, let alone a conservative Republican one. And the Hollywood Republicans -- what few there are -- already have yard signs out for the far more moderate Rudolph W. Giuliani.

So what's Thompson to do? Take the show on the road and rake in the dollars elsewhere. The place that made the former Tennessee senator rich as an actor cannot be counted on to pour cash into his presidential run, especially if he's going around bashing gay marriage and Roe vs. Wade. The minute he comes out strong against embryonic stem cell research -- a fervent Hollywood cause -- he'll be banished from every cocktail party north of Sunset Boulevard.

"You're asking me if people here will support Fred Thompson?" said Donna Bojarsky, a longtime industry political consultant. "How do I put it? No. No. And no."

Politico Andy Spahn, who has enough Hollywood clients to pack a Directors Guild gala, was more diplomatic.

"I think he will raise some relationship money from people who know him and have worked with him," Spahn said. "But I don't think he'll raise much beyond that here. His political views are out of sync with the community."

And Spahn is not just talking about the Hollywood Democrats. Thompson's political views are at odds with those of many industry Republicans, who tend to be fiscally conservative but socially progressive.

That's why Giuliani --pro-abortion, pro-gay and 9-11 tough guy -- has found a foothold. "He's the only Republican I ever hear anyone talking about," said Bojarsky.

Giuliani's campaign contributions reflect the popularity.

His donors include actors Adam Sandler, Ben Stein, Melissa Gilbert, Kelsey Grammer and Kevin James. Producers Joel Surnow and David Zucker have also written checks.

On Thursday, the Giuliani campaign announced that actor Ron Silver, who backed George W. Bush during the last go-around, was onboard as an advisor to the former New York mayor's campaign.

"His record of accomplishment is extraordinary and his vision will serve America well," said Silver, a native New Yorker. "He is committed to keeping our nation on the offense in the terrorists' war on us, and I am proud to support him."

On Wednesday, Robert Duvall and his wife, Luciana, came out in support of the former mayor. (The Duvalls will host a fundraiser for Giuliani at their Virginia home later this month.)

"Rudy has consistently proven he's ready to confront tough challenges," said Duvall in a statement. "I don't normally get involved in politics, but I think the stakes are too high this election."

Thompson's visit to the Leno show looked to some like a remake. (It was Arnold Schwarzenegger's venue of choice when he announced that he was running for governor of California.)

"People have seen the great success Arnold has had and they're all trying to follow his lead," said Rick Caruso, the Cecil B. DeMille of mall developers. "But there's only one Arnold."

Caruso, a Republican and longtime friend of the Schwarzenegger family, was a key advisor in the governor's campaign. These days, Caruso is busy raising money for Mitt Romney. "I think Fred Thompson has been a good legislator and I think he's smart," Caruso said. "But he's coming in late in the game. It's going to be hard to gain the traction."

Certainly, getting in early is a big deal among the west-of-Doheny set. This is a crowd that loves to be wooed. Politicians spend months and even years courting industry politicos before running for president. Clearly, that's not Thompson's game plan (a calculated decision that may pay off by appealing to voters outside the Hollywood stratosphere).

Perhaps it is still possible to rally Thompson's entertainment support -- although that would be a little like filming "Titanic" in six weeks on a $100,000 budget. Of course, in a place where you can rewrite the ending, anything could happen.

tina.daunt@latimes.com

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