In 1986, a contingent of entertainment figures got behind the campaign for Proposition 65 and barnstormed up and down California by bus to draw attention to the “Clean Water” initiative. When the votes were tallied, the proposition had passed by a nearly 2-1 margin.
With that success in mind, entertainment industry figures are rallying behind this year’s campaign for Proposition 128, a far-reaching environmental measure on the Nov. 6 ballot that has been dubbed “Big Green” by supporters. The campaign is drawing across-the-board support from perhaps a heavier and more visible show-business set than in any previous California campaign. Not only are they putting up hundreds of thousands of dollars, they are backing it up with personal effort.
Polls have shown the public to be generally confused about the proposition, and the gubernatorial candidates are split--Democrat Diane Feinstein supports Prop. 128 and Republican Sen. Pete Wilson is against it.
If adopted, the measure would set up strict enforcement practices for environmental laws and provide for an elected environmental “czar.” The opponents brand Prop. 128 as “the Hayden Initiative,” a reference to the measure’s controversial co-author, Assemblyman Tom Hayden (D-Santa Monica), who, many suggest, may seek the new office should it be created.
The wide range of supporters brings together a mix of Establishment Hollywood and new Hollywood: Gregory Peck, Michael Eisner, Jack Lemmon, Paul Newman, Joanne Woodward, Barbra Streisand, Elizabeth Taylor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Carol Burnett, Robert DeNiro, Kirk Douglas, Whoopi Goldberg, Dennis Hopper, Oliver Stone, Larry Hagman, Esai Morales, Madonna, Randy Quaid, Mickey Rourke, Sylvester Stallone, Stevie Wonder, Michael Ovitz, Peter Guber, Sidney Sheinberg, Spike Lee, Neil Simon, Ray Stark, Jerry Bruckheimer, Susan Harris, Paul Junger Witt and David Geffen are among the dozens listed on campaign documents as contributors. The papers show that most contributions range from $200 to $2,000.
Also making donations are such corporations as Capitol Records and Columbia Pictures Entertainment, Walt Disney Co. and Twentieth Century Fox, as well as the International Creative Management and William Morris agencies, several prominent show-business law firms and the American Society of Composers, Authors & Publishers.
The campaign also has re-teamed actress-activist Jane Fonda with her former husband, Hayden, as well as brought Fonda’s current significant other, media mogul Ted Turner, into California politics in a major way. Campaign officials report that Turner has contributed $100,000 and Fonda $40,000. The second-largest donation from a show-business figure is $50,000 from Alan Horn, a partner in Rob Reiner’s production company, Castle Rock Entertainment.
The entertainment effort has been largely coordinated by Patrick Lippert, the director of a Culver City-based political action committee known as the Entertainment Industry Support Coalition for the Environmental Protection Initiative. An organizer of Hollywood support for political issues over the last five years, Lippert was active in the successful 1986 campaign to pass Prop. 65. That campaign, he said, drew a cross-section of support among entertainers. “But this level of support (for Prop. 128) is unprecedented, in my experience,” he said.
Acknowledging the long list of names he has helped to assemble for the current campaign, Lippert said most came forth on their own. “This is the first opportunity since the ‘Clean Water’ initiative for the show-biz community to really sink their teeth into a campaign that will allow them to translate their concerns about environment into law.
“When you’re up against the oil industry, timber, chemical--all these well-monied industries, it’s important to have the entertainment industry as an ally for several reasons,” Lippert said. “They can help us get the message out and raise a lot of money.”
Meanwhile, a spokesman for “No on 128" acknowledged that star power poses a formidable challenge. “Because of the celebrities involved, I can understand that there is all this coverage in the media of the parties and fund-raisers,” said Scott Macdonald. “But it comes off as a one-sided, glitz-and-glamour story.”
Asked whether there was any show-business support for his side, Macdonald couldn’t say for sure. “Our celebrities come from the medical and science field,” he said, citing former U.S. Surgeon General C. Everett Koop as an example.
“Yes on 128,” on the other hand, can’t seem to stop the name-dropping.
“We’re proud of their support,” said Duane Peterson, spokesman for the campaign. He said entertainment support helps to balance the sizable budget amassed by the opponents of Prop. 128.
Papers filed with the California Secretary of State’s office, Peterson said, reveal that contributions from the entertainment industry have so far totaled $450,000, more than 25% of the total raised for the campaign. The funds raised to date by “Yes on 128" may appear substantial, Peterson said, but the campaign estimates that the “No” forces have amassed about $15 million.
Already, the campaign has benefited from a half-hour video, prepared by a group of celebs, that has aired on television and cable, including Turner’s WTBS. Campaign officials said the video, which debuted at a Creative Artists Agency reception in Beverly Hills, has generated contributions that have more than covered the cost of making the video and buying air time.
The campaign also has raised money with three Los Angeles-area concerts: the kickoff show last November by Bonnie Raitt, a program in March by the Go-Go’s, a concert in April reuniting Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young (plus Don Henley) and a Sacramento show in June featuring Henley.
Earlier in the summer, a party for 300 people at Chevy Chase’s home, co-hosted by Martin Short and Jeff Bridges with Kenny Loggins performing, raised more than $125,000. In June, such visual artists as David Hockney, Sam Francis, Ed Ruscha and John Baldessari joined musician Stephen Bishop for an art-auction fund-raiser in Santa Monica.
Chase, who appears in the video, echoed the comments of several stars in a telephone interview. “When a person has the money and the ability as a celebrity to get to other voters through the media, it’s the most important thing we can do. We can start the ball rolling and really make it roll.”
That momentum continues next Thursday with the campaign’s largest fund-raiser to date, at the Greek Theatre--the use of which has been donated by the Nederlander Organization, which leases the venue.
The program, “Friends for the Environment,” bills Meryl Streep, Bette Midler, Olivia Newton-John, Cher, Goldie Hawn, Lily Tomlin and Robin Williams--doing excerpts of their own material and reflecting on Prop. 128. The show, produced and directed by Jeff Margolis, will air Sept. 19 as an environmental special on ABC, minus the stars’ campaign pitches for Prop. 128.
The concept for the Greek Theatre program was developed by Nancy Gould-Chuda, a former reporter with ABC’s “Home” show and KABC-TV, who covered the 1989 Alar apple scare. That incident turned the reporter into an activist, and Gould-Chuda aligned herself with Meryl Streep’s efforts against the chemical and in support of Mothers and Others for a Liveable Planet.
Gould-Chuda predicted the Greek Theatre concert would generate more than $500,000 for the campaign.
A month after the concert, on Oct. 11, Canada’s Cirque du Soleil opens a monthlong Los Angeles stand with a benefit performance for Prop. 128.
For weeks, the “Yes on Prop. 128" committee has been airing ads that end with the required disclaimer about sources of support: “Major funding from . . . the entertainment industry.”
On Aug. 23, “Yes on 128" supporters filed suit against “No on 128,” charging that its ads failed to disclose who was backing its campaign.
The next day, “No on 128" pulled its ads for revision. According to the “No” campaign’s Macdonald, the ads now begin with the disclaimer, “Major funding from chemical and allied products industry and other corporations.”
The change is regarded as a minor victory by the “Yes” campaign, Peterson said. Their opponents, however, said they only learned their ads were in violation of state law when the lawsuit was filed.
“I’m puzzled by celebrity support for the initiative,” said Macdonald. “In other states, celebrities have come to the aid of family farmers. In California, celebrities are attacking the family farm.”
Macdonald charged that Prop. 128 would ban at least 40 chemicals that he said California farmers need, which in turn would drive up the cost of agricultural products to consumers. “I question how in touch these people are with family budgets,” he said of the pro-128 celebrities.
Chase, however, sees the issue not about being for or against farmers or any other group. Rather, he said, it’s an issue about the future. “We’re worried about many cancer-causing elements in the air and food. And we’re a little bit frightened.”