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CAUSE CELEBRE / TINA DAUNT

Biden's Hollywood wingman

August 26, 2008|TINA DAUNT

DENVER — SOMETIMES life really does imitate art.

As the Democratic National Convention was kicking off, actor Richard Schiff, who played the White House communications director on "West Wing," was holding court with a pack of reporters on a concrete version of a red carpet outside of a restaurant here.

The Emmy Award-winning actor was completely at ease talking about real-life politics and his favorite politician, Sen. Joe Biden.

Schiff met Biden several years ago and immediately saw him as the "real deal." He was so impressed with the Delaware senator that he decided to campaign for him in Iowa. After presumed presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama announced Saturday that Biden would be his running mate, Schiff was among the first in Hollywood to publicly praise the ticket during an appearance on "Larry King Live."

"I just realized that there was something special about the guy," Schiff said in Denver on Sunday night. "He's so dedicated to public service. And I love how personable he is."

Even so, Biden's Hollywood support historically hasn't been particularly broad -- mostly moguls, musicians and a sprinkling of actors. Supporters have included Schiff's "West Wing" colleague Bradley Whitford, Michael Eisner, Jeffrey Katzenberg (though probably not in the same room with Eisner at the same time), Barry Diller, Rick Hilton (a John McCain supporter and Paris' dad), Barry Manilow, Don Henley, Richie Sambora and Cher. It wouldn't make a bad concert or a record company.

Schiff, who joins a glittery potpourri of celebrities this week at the DNC, helped get the party underway Sunday at the Creative Coalition's celebration of African American artists and political activists at the downtown Denver restaurant Mezcal. He hopes to catch up with Biden after the senator accepts the vice presidential nomination this week. The "West Wing" actor wonders whether Hollywood was so excited about Obama and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton that it looked past Biden's qualities. (According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the Delaware senator raised only $111,442 from the entertainment industry during his recent presidential bid.)

While Schiff was musing about Biden's appeal, other celebrities were joining the parade through the well-watched doors of Mezcal, including filmmaker Spike Lee, actress Kerry Washington and actor-director Giancarlo Esposito, who arrived in a van promoting his new film, "Gospel Hill."

On the way into the party, Washington stopped to chat about why she's in Denver: It's all about Obama. She noted that she's been on the road campaigning for the senator, making stops in nine cities over the last year. She plans to head to Ohio, a critical swing state, over the weekend.

"At first I was torn over whether to support Obama because, as a woman, I liked Hillary Clinton," she said. After she met the Illinois senator in person, her mind was made up and there was no way she was going to miss the DNC and its many parties.

Lee, the headliner for the Creative Coalition's first Denver celebration, breezed past reporters who had gathered on the sidewalk outside the restaurant, an unlikely spot on a gritty block of Colfax Avenue. However, actor Matthew Modine, decked out in a black jacket and canvas Vans adorned with an orange koi fish print, chatted up the crowd about his personal cause: getting everyone on bicycles -- at least for a day.

"It's to empower people to restore and protect the environment," he said.

Modine handed little lapel pins imprinted with a drawing of a bicycle to his fellow celebs. Schiff put his on upside down.

You take your political endorsements where you can get them.

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tina.daunt@latimes.com

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