President-elect Barack Obama's inauguration tickets elude even Hollywood A-listers
There hasn't been a hotter admission slip since someone started a rumor the Beatles were going back on the road.
A SEAT AT HISTORY: Tickets for the January inauguration of President-elect Barack Obama, shown on the campaign trail, are eluding even the biggest box-office stars. (Charles Rex Arbogast / Associated Press)
If anyone ever writes a history of scalping, this will be called the first must-have ticket of the 21st century. And we're not even talking about the post-parties; this is just for the swearing-in ceremony.
So when you're a star -- even a costar -- and are used to getting tables for four at 8 p.m. at Spago, you assume that there's an inaugural ticket waiting somewhere with your name on it.
It's all a matter of whom you know -- or at least having a well-connected publicist.
That's why some of Hollywood's best-known career strategists are spending a big part of their hectic days hustling inaugural tickets, which are set to be handed out next week, for clients who think they can pull them out of the air. A lot of celebs kept a low profile during the campaign because the Obama camp feared it would backfire on the Democrat's campaign (remember the Paris Hilton ad that Sen. John McCain ran?). But now that Obama has won, they're ready to step into the limelight.
You can take the star out of Hollywood, but you can't take Hollywood out of the star. In this town, when some people roll up enough screen credits, they start treating life like a catered lunch.
"I'm reaching out to everyone I know," said longtime publicist Jerry Digney, who represents celebs such as B.B. King and the Neville Brothers. "I have one client who will never forgive me if I don't get tickets. Everyone wants to be there. This is the hottest ticket of the decade. And I'm really drilling down to find a pair."
Alan Nierob, who represents A-list clients including Steve Martin and Denzel Washington, said he too is hoping to score tickets for his clients.
Meanwhile, publicist Howard Bragman said he has given up trying and is referring his clients to Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who is overseeing the inauguration.
"Everyone has called me," Bragman said. "They think I know everybody. I tell them to call Feinstein. I know my limits.
"It's really hard to get tickets and it's really expensive. It's like a rock concert. People are already selling tickets to the parties for thousands of dollars on EBay."
Having campaigned for Obama certainly might help, but nowadays there are more people in the entertainment industry who claim to have done that than who say they were at Woodstock or the last Clash concert.
To be sure, the major Obama fundraisers already have their spots, and the smart ones are angling for an invitation to Nicole Avant's party (she was Obama's chief Hollywood fundraiser). They're never going to turn away Kelly and Ron Meyer or the Medavoys, who were there with Obama from the start. And Oprah Winfrey, Matt Damon and Scarlett Johansson, all highly visible Obama supporters, no doubt could have seats in the VIP bleachers if they wanted. (You might find David Geffen and Barbra Streisand standing to the left, the far left, of Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr.)
If all else fails, CNN will have continuous coverage of the event and festivities. But there's nothing like a close-up.
Turning up the heat on Lieberman
If the incoming Obama administration expects lock-step support from the film community, it didn't reckon with Robert Greenwald, Rick Jacobs and others involved with Brave New Films, an organization closely aligned with activists at MoveOn.org.
The president-elect has signaled that he doesn't want to see independent Sen. Joe Lieberman -- who spoke out forcefully at the Republican National Convention in support of McCain and campaigned extensively on his behalf -- stripped of his committee chairmanship or the right to caucus with the Democrats. Even some of the one-time Democratic vice presidential nominee's supporters (yes, he really was Al Gore's running mate) think he went too far in his convention speech when he criticized Obama's supposed lack of credentials rather than simply praising McCain, his longtime friend.
Director-filmmaker Greenwald and company don't agree with Obama's willingness to put the last few months behind him. And they are still in campaign mode.
This week, the group posted its "Lieberman Must Go Once and for All" video, with clips of the former Democrat from Connecticut making negative comments about Obama's patriotism and ability to lead.
As Greenwald blogged to sympathetic members of his audience: "We ask you to help us escalate the pressure" by contacting members of the Senate Democratic Steering and Outreach Committee.
Dissent is a habit, and it doesn't stop just because your guy is in charge.
Emanuel should keep on his toes
About.com's political humor blogger Daniel Kurtzman (http://politicalhumor.about .com/b/) this week showcased an old C-SPAN video of Obama making the rounds at a 2005 roast of Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.), the future president's future chief of staff. (Emanuel is the brother of Ari, the Hollywood super-agent.)
In the video, Obama pokes fun at Emanuel for being a ballet dancer in his youth.
"Very few people know . . . that he studied ballet for a few years," Obama quips. "In fact, he was the first to adopt Machiavelli's 'The Prince' for dance. It was an intriguing piece, as you can imagine, there were a lot of kicks below the waist."
See, there's humor to be had in an Obama administration -- even if comics don't have George W. Bush to kick around anymore.