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Party's on, just plug in the prez

October 24, 2008|TINA DAUNT

Everyone knows the groom is not supposed to see the bride's dress before the wedding day, but apparently there is nothing wrong with previewing the reception plans.

At least that's what the people at the Creative Coalition must think, because they announced publicly this week that they are busily making arrangements for its fabulous nonpartisan presidential inaugural celebration -- even though the race for the White House is still on. Given the politics of the coalition's members (mostly Democratic actors), it's not hard to imagine whom they envision dancing first at the party. (Does Barack Obama know how to waltz?)

People still may have questions about how seriously to take Hollywood's varied policy agenda, but no one doubts their ability as party planners. California has given 20 cents of every dollar donated to Obama and nearly as high a percentage to John McCain, and apparently that buys the right to decide how the victory is celebrated.

The Creative Coalition, which made a point of creating a presence at both parties' conventions this year, has already staked a first-comer's claim on the 8 p.m. time slot on Jan. 20 in Washington. (If there's one thing these guys understand it's how to program prime time).

The Coalition, a nonprofit social advocacy group for the entertainment industry, already has an impressive lineup of stars for the soiree: Spike Lee, Kerry Washington, Susan Sarandon, Alfre Woodard, Barry Levinson, Dana Delany, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Peter Sarsgaard, Wendie Malick, Josh Lucas, Matthew Modine, Rachael Leigh Cook, Alan Cumming, Connie Britton, Richard Schiff, Ellen Burstyn, Giancarlo Esposito, Gloria Reuben, Lynn Whitfield, Tamara Tunie, Tom Fontana, Tony Goldwyn and Tim Daly. (Musical talent to be announced; in Denver with the Dems, the group's headliner was the Black Eyed Peas. In Minneapolis with the GOP, it was the Charlie Daniels Band.)

The coalition envisions using the gala as a fundraiser for charity. Which charity? That's still up in the air. In fact, many of the details of the party -- most importantly, who the guest of honor will be -- are still sketchy. It's a little like casting a $100-million film without knowing who's going to star.

But the group has set up a portal on its website (www. for early ticket sales (standard admission starts at $10,000 for two. We're assuming there'll be an open bar).

There's a chance the coalition may have declared its plans too early, however. Some Democrats and liberal websites have begun calling for a boycott of all inaugural parties. They argue that because the economy is in such bad shape and so many people are suffering, these sorts of festivities would be inappropriate.

Industry execs, however, believe that nothing raises people's spirits like entertainment of one form or another. They made films during the Great Depression and during the extended recession of the 1970s. In fact, the products of both are regarded as artifacts of two of Hollywood's golden ages. The industry has a collective sense that its role in hard times is to cheer people up. (Besides, they have come to relish their unofficial role as the party wing of the political process.)

Maybe that's why Wall Street regards Hollywood as recession-proof.

Jonas Brothers on the Carousel

Like the rest of America, Hollywood divides over politics but comes together over human need -- that's the sentiment that has made philanthropist Barbara Davis' "Carousel of Hope" the town's biggest biannual charity event. Davis, regarded as the industry's grande dame of fundraising, created the event 30 years ago after her own daughter's diabetes diagnosis made her aware that there was a critical need for funding to combat the disease. Since then, the event (which has raised $75 million over the years) has become Hollywood's must-attend occasion, bringing together celebrities and executives of every generation and political persuasion. Diabetes doesn't check anybody's party registration.

This year, Davis has managed to secure the reigning teen supergroup, the Jonas Brothers, to headline the event. Their participation has an added resonance because one of the group's members, Nick, announced this year that he has diabetes. And he and his two brothers have even recorded a song about the disease.

Nick told one crowd recently: "At the beginning, I was asking myself, 'Why me?' Then I started asking myself, 'Why not me?' I could be here telling you guys about what I've been going through and singing and encouraging others who have it to be positive. . . . I decided I wasn't going to let this slow me down."

The event this Saturday -- which also includes performances by Josh Groban, Kenny "Babyface" Edmonds and Katharine McPhee -- is sold out. Dozens of celebrities are expected to attend the gala, which will be held at the Beverly Hilton. Pauletta and Denzel Washington will be honored for their work on behalf of children's issues.

It goes to show that it doesn't take politics to make a cause.


Tina Daunt's Cause Celebre column appears every Wednesday and Friday in

The Times.


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