Here’s a quiz: Where are women banned from working, from attending school, and from being treated by male doctors or from being doctors themselves (you do the math)?
What government forbids women from wearing shoes that make noise when they walk? Where was a woman shot because her ankle peeked out while she was bicycling?
If you didn’t know the answer was Afghanistan under the Taliban regime, you’re not alone. The human rights abuses Hillary Clinton has castigated as “criminal, not cultural” haven’t been receiving much press.
Until now. Monday evening, dozens of high-profile Hollywood women turned out at the Directors Guild in West Hollywood to draw attention to the Feminist Majority Foundation’s campaign to stop gender apartheid. It was a rare display of female firepower for a political cause, with famous faces like Lily Tomlin, Wynonna, Ashley and Naomi Judd, Halle Berry, Marlo Thomas, Gillian Anderson and Alfre Woodard using their allure for the cameras to focus attention on the plight of Afghan women.
Other notables who participated in a two-hour program of speeches, film, music and dance included Sidney Poitier, Anna Eleanor Roosevelt, granddaughter of the late first lady, and Afghan activists such as Sima Wali, president of the Washington, D.C.-based Refugee Women in Development. The evening, executive produced by Linda Bloodworth-Thomason, was broadcast globally on Voice of America.
“I’m a really apolitical animal,” said Kathy Bates. “I think the last time I got involved in politics was when I marched for peace in Washington back in the ‘70s, but something about this situation just really hit a chord with me.”
Eleanor Smeal, the foundation’s president, couldn’t have been more pleased. “It’s so important,” she said of the celebrity turnout. “We’ve been working on this for 2 1/2 years, and we have had a very difficult time getting press coverage because it seems so far away.”
Outside, picketers demonstrated both for and against the Taliban’s policies, prompting tighter-than-usual security measures inside the guild. Mavis Leno, campaign chairwoman, responded to the protesters onstage.
“All I can say about the women in that picket line is they were free to get up this morning and put on the clothes they chose to wear, come down here on free and safe public streets and demonstrate without fear of any sort of reprisal. When women in Afghanistan can do the same, our work will be done.”
Attention, producer David Wolper. If you’re going to hold onto friends for decades and then invite them to the American Film Institute’s roast in honor of your 50th anniversary in show business, we think it’s only fair to warn you of one thing: We’re going to pump them for poop.
We started with his old pal, Art Buchwald, who flew in from D.C. for Friday’s event at the Beverly Hills Hotel. They hooked up as students at USC, where both worked on the campus humor magazine, Wampus.
“He used to select the girls,” Buchwald said. “They were sort of playmates of the month, but they had clothes on. David enjoyed that job very much.”
Needless to say, the evening, underwritten by Time Warner and Warner Bros., was elaborately produced. After all, the event bore the handprints of the father of the TV miniseries, the producer of “Roots,” who also made films and launched the early ‘60s TV series “Biography,” hosted by Mike Wallace. Indeed, Wolper’s roots in TV were apparent in the kindred spirits who showed up to roast him, among them Richard Crenna, Steve Allen, Red Buttons and Tom Smothers.
In between the slide show of guests and the red-white-and-blue send-off from USC’s marching band, Wallace emceed and taped the evening celebrating his old friend for an upcoming profile on “60 Minutes.”
“He’s a patriot to the soles of his feet,” said Wallace, who added that he “almost never” does segments on his friends. "[Executive producer] Don Hewitt said, ‘By all means, let’s do David because David has made such an immense contribution.’ ”
Irene Lacher’s Out & About column runs Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays on Page 2.