Stars Take Detour From Political Trail

Times Staff Writer

"It's a glitter question." That's how Patricia Duff Medavoy described the problem of matchmaking celebrities and Democratic Senate candidates. Despite a plethora of politicized personalities, this year's heavily contested campaigns for control of the U.S. Senate have seen only a few famous faces on the national campaign trail. And this, despite earlier promises, that stars would light up politics this year.

Two problems of using stars-and-politics have emerged--lots of stars were well-intentioned but busy, and more interestingly, lots of campaigns just didn't want the help of flashy and perhaps controversial stars.

'Negative Perception'

Pam Lippe, on the staff of Committee for an Effective Congress, said that the "negative perception" of some stars "is an important factor this year, largely because many of the states (with Senate) races are farm states. And there are states, like North Dakota, where they just don't like outsiders."

Stars don't have to appear with the candidate to do harm. Insiders said that Missouri Lt. Gov. HarriettWoods, a Senate candidate, was so badly burned by a controversy involving a contribution from Jane Fonda that she has been reluctant to accept financial help from identifiable Hollywood sources. (Steve Rivers, a spokesman for Fonda, said the furor over the $2,000 check was a "Republican-manufactured outcry.")

Last spring, Fonda's husband, local Democratic Assemblyman Tom Hayden, looked like the top purveyor of star power, since his "Network" had several hundred celebs involved. But that potent political push has gone heavily into the California Toxics Initiative.

Some Stars Are Reluctant

Havi Shindler, Hayden's political director--who earlier this year was optimistic that stars could play a role in elections across the county--said that despite such hopes, stars were "really reluctant to go stump for a candidate that they didn't really know."

Lippe this year has nonetheless managed to put Christopher Reeve in Vermont, Stephen Stills in Washington and said "the old standbys" of Mike Farrell, Robert Foxworth and Ed Asner were busy on the trail.

"A candidate may need a celeb to boost an event, but if it's too much publicity, it has a negative affect," Medavoy said. In 1984, Medavoy coordinated campaigners for Sen. Gary Hart, including Jack Nicholson, Penny Marshall, Donna Mills and Debra Winger. This year, the wife of movie exec Mike Medavoy had expected to pair stars and candidates--but admits she's disappointed.

Shindler said that the controversy involving Fonda's contribution to Woods had made her "afraid to be too heavy into the Senate and congressional campaigns. The last thing we wanted to do was to hurt anybody."

CHANGE OF SUPPORT--Shirley MacLaine, once a clearly designated liberal, tells Linda Ellerbee in the November issue of Redbook, that "far-right Republicans" are the most open-minded about her concepts of reincarnation and out-of-body experiences. "I think it's because they're used to the idea of the authority of God and God energy and they feel more comfortable discussing it than do left-wing intellectuals."

KID'S STUFF--So Bruce Corwin is finally getting what he deserves. He's getting honored. Corwin, one of L.A.'s favorite philanthropists (and regular all-round good guys) gets his due at the Nov. 1 party raising money for the L.A. Children's Museum. The party at the Century Plaza, Corwin revealed, will allow adults who have not experienced the "wonderful laughter and thrills of the museum to see it in miniature form." Fire trucks and motorcycles will replace the more conventional decorations and benefit-goers have been instructed to "dress for fun" at the party chaired by Jo Usher and Victoria Waller, with Roz Wyman and Jane and Michael Eisner lending their names and help.

HONORED--The friends of Justice Vaino Spencer, the presiding justice of the 2nd District Court of Appeal, got together Saturday at her home to celebrate her 25 years on the bench. Justice Mildred Lillie (she will soon celebrate 40 years as a judge) was there with her husband, Frank Falcone. Rounding out the contingent from Division 7 of the Court of Appeal were Justice Leon Thompson with his wife, Gloria, Justice Earl and Barbara Johnson along with former Rep. Yvonne and Bill Burke, Roz Wyman and son Bob, Ruth Washington, publisher of the Sentinel, Roger M. Grace, co-publisher of the Metropolitan, and Judge Joan Dempsey Klein and husband Conrad Lee.

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