Of course Hollywood has been busy imitating those nutty Washington types lately for our fun and its fortune. But far be it from us to suggest that people of the political ilk can’t stand on their own two feet when it comes to entertaining the masses, and we’re not referring to recent headlines.
Take Dee Dee Myers, former White House spokeswoman and current contributing editor to Vanity Fair.
Why, just the other day she was introducing her former work pal George Stephanopoulos at an Entertainment Industry Foundation cocktail party in Beverly Hills, sponsored by Vanity Fair and designer Ermenegildo Zegna. And wouldn’t you know it, but it turns out that Washington and Hollywood took a different view of President Clinton’s junior senior advisor when he was at the White House.
“In Washington, what people appreciated most about him was that he was involved in every single policy initiative of President Clinton’s first term,” she said.
“But I think in Hollywood, what people appreciated was that he actually breathed new life into Michael J. Fox’s career. It wasn’t enough that Michael played George in ‘The American President.’ He got a whole sitcom out of it.”
But seriously, folks . . .
Of course, Stephanopoulos isn’t quite as popular in Washington these days, now that he’s become a running dog of--for lack of a better term--the media. Indeed, the ABC News commentator was positively Leno-esque at the fund-raiser. After all, who better than a former Clintonian to have the deep background to tell a Monica Lewinsky joke?
“An important message in this whole Monica Lewinsky affair--I know you’re not supposed to use that word--but I remember the movie ‘Swimming With the Sharks,’ about how you torture your assistants here in Hollywood. I am very grateful in the last six weeks that I was always very nice to my assistant.
“Because the truth is--and I’ll try to say this modestly--but Monica Lewinsky was after me.”
Ba dum dum.
“I would see her at Starbucks. She would come in every morning with a double tall latte, and my assistant would never let her in. Thank God.”
Tell your friends. Or don’t. The White House is miffed enough at Stephanopoulos these days, now that he’s abandoned his former career of spin doctor. He’s been accused of hypocrisy for wagging his finger at Clinton after cleaning up his campaign messes, and of being opportunistic, carving out a distinct profile with his outspokenness. As for Stephanopoulos, who likes to remind crowds he’s the scion of a family of Greek Orthodox priests, he says, “I’m just trying to speak about this as clearly and honestly as I can.”
We chatted briefly after his pep talk urging young execs to help change the world. Stephanopoulos is saving the best stuff for his $2.5 million book, and for some reason he resisted our entreaty--"Who are we going to tell?” Still, he’s ragging on the White House for being selectively mute. He said it behooves Clinton to clear up the Kathleen Willey matter.
“I think she sounded credible on ['60 Minutes’]. At the same time, the book deals raise questions. I don’t put too much stock in the letters. I think that anybody who remembered the Anita Hill experience knows that simply staying on a job or wanting to stay on a job doesn’t disprove what might have happened. I’m much more concerned about the book deals and the Star [tabloid] because I think that speaks to motive.
“But who can know what happened in this room between two people? The question I have for the White House is, you release the letters on this. I think that bolsters the opinion of people like me and Leon Panetta who believe that the president should just come on and address the whole issue and put it away. Because I think the people would give him a break.”
We leave the question of the American people’s ranking in the Laid Back Index for another day and another column. Instead, we leave you with another laff from the George Stephanopoulos Show.
“The word ‘politics’ is Greek. It comes from the Greek word poli, which means many. And ticks, which are blood-sucking insects.”
Hey, but seriously . . .
Adding Some Variety: When is a trade paper not a trade paper? When it covers an industry so all-encompassing it has zoomed past aerospace as the No. 1 U.S. export.
“It used to be a trade paper,” Variety Editor in Chief Peter Bart is saying of his bailiwick. “The thing is, when you have reporters all over the world, you have so many industries, at what point are you still called a trade?”
Behind Bart sprout the petrified white palms of the St. James Club pool and “The Player.” He’s here to celebrate the launch of Daily Variety’s New York edition. And Industry-ites are here to play kissy-face with those other producers, the ones who produce their daily bible.
“Congratulations, honey, I’m so excited,” Sherry Lansing, Paramount Motion Picture Group chairwoman, coos to Bart. “Who was I talking to in New York who was reading it? Was it [producer] David Brown who was reading it right away? They were so excited.”
More excitement. “Titanic” co-producer Jon Landau to Bart: “I started in the film industry in New York, and I always yearned for the information your publication held and I could never access readily.”
Did someone say “Titanic”? We interrupt this item for yet another opinion on why Leonardo didn’t show up for the Oscars.
Here’s Landau’s: “Leonardo, as I understand it, is doing press for ‘The Man in the Iron Mask’ in New York because they’re still opening in certain territories. I think Leo never envisioned this part for him as something that would even be considered for an Academy Award. He’s out there doing the Gilbert Grapes of the world, and those are the parts that [get nominated].”
Back to Variety. The daily Gotham edition made its maiden voyage--sorry, came out with its first issue on March 16--93 little years after Variety started publishing a weekly edition in New York. The trade paper (whatever) is expanding its coverage to embrace other industries that link up with entertainment--book publishing, fashion, advertising and marketing and finance.
“Because the entertainment business as we know it is no longer three pieces--film, television and live entertainment,” says Variety Publisher Gerry Byrne. “It’s all these different industries coming together, and most of them are headquartered in New York. Even three of the studios report into New York. And there’s been a huge demand within the industry to physically see the paper in the morning.”
As opposed to checking out the new https://www.variety.com, which is not A Train-friendly. God save the subway.
Words and Music to Party By: The postmodern brew thickens. Book publishing and show biz aren’t the only worlds colliding these days. So are the planets of classical and movie music. Composers Phillip Glass (“Einstein on the Beach”) and Jerry Goldsmith (“Chinatown”) were getting cozy over drinks poolside in Beverly Hills the other day, proving that, in the end, Hollywood conquers all.
The occasion is the pre-Oscar bash given by the Society of Composers & Lyricists, which honored both nominees for the tidal-waved films “Kundun” and “L.A. Confidential.” This year, Goldsmith’s other brush with Oscar included his regal little ditty “The Academy Award Fanfare,” the gold man’s first theme song in 70 years.
Other nominees and celebrants included “Titanic” lyricist Will Jennings, “My Best Friend’s Wedding” composer James Newton Howard, “The Full Monty” composer Anne Dudley, “Anastasia” composers David Newman and Stephen Flaherty, “Anastasia” lyricist Lynn Ahrens and Oscar-winning director Robert Wise.
Phillip Glass might not be the next name to spring to mind, but if Glass was spoon fed on ballet and opera, don’t think he doesn’t appreciate the K.O. of B.O. Hey, even PBS gets better ratings than Carnegie Hall.
“When I did Godfrey [Reggio]'s film [‘Koyaanisqatsi’],” Glass says, “it was played on PBS and I was told that 3 million people saw it. That’s more people than had seen all the concerts and all the operas I’d done. And then they played it again three months later, so another 3 million people saw it, and we’re just talking PBS.”
Martin Scorsese’s “Kundun” has introduced millions more to Glass’ hypnotic style. But kids, don’t try this at home.
“The impact is enormous, and the trick for somebody who comes out of classical music is to hold onto the musical idealism that I think empowers the work, and at the same time be aware of the fact that I’ll be listened to by an audience that has not had the preparation of a concert audience.
“So the real challenge is to maintain the identity of style, which is very hard-won and has taken 30 years to do, and do that in such a way that people aren’t going to scratch their heads and go, ‘Huh, what was that?’ ”
Glass is coming full circle next month with his production of “Monsters of Grace” with Robert Wilson, which uses films of Wilson’s face scanned into a computer. He calls it “digital opera in 3D.”