Beatty Mixes Family and Politics

If Warren Beatty ever stops toying with us and really runs for president, his 9-year-old daughter, Kathlyn, could become a key political adviser. Beatty said she helped him organize the speech he gave Sunday at a conference sponsored by Southern California Americans for Democratic Action.

Afterward, as he ducked into an elevator, Beatty invited us along. Ensconced in his suite at the Wilshire Grand Hotel, he bent our ear talking politics.

It was classic Beatty, which is to say he controlled the interview. He wouldn't discuss rumors that he and wife Annette Bening plan to spend the July 4 weekend with Sen. John McCain and his wife, Cindy. But Beatty did say he's a strong supporter of "friend" McCain's campaign finance reform bill.

"It's a good first step. Let's get rid of soft money," Beatty said. "It's really a terrible genie that has been let out of the bottle." He called campaign finance reform "the transcendent issue of American politics," pointing out that campaign contributions "now have a higher return" than any other investment.

Taking Wing

Writer and co-producer Lawrence O'Donnell Jr. is leaving "The West Wing" to work on other projects, including creating his own dramatic series about Washington and a CBS midseason replacement about the Supreme Court.

"It's a little bit like leaving a school that I loved, but it's time to graduate," O'Donnell told us. "I did two years on the hottest, best show on TV, and I think I did everything I could do there."

The witty and sarcastic O'Donnell, who lives in Santa Monica, will continue as MSNBC's chief political analyst and as a panelist on "The McLaughlin Group."

While he isn't revealing details about his new Washington series just yet, O'Donnell credits "The West Wing" for creating a "hot" market for political dramas. He spoke more freely about the CBS project, "First Monday," which stars James Garner as the chief justice, and Charles Durning and Joe Mantegna as other Supremes.

O'Donnell comes from a family of Boston lawyers, and a few years after graduating from Harvard, he wrote a book about one of his father's cases. "Deadly Force" was adapted as a CBS television movie in 1986, and O'Donnell got his first taste of Hollywood. A writers strike a couple of years later detoured him to Washington, where he worked as a senior adviser to New York Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, then as chief of staff for the Senate's Environment and Public Works committee and the Finance committee.

Along came "The West Wing." Despite reports that the Emmy-winning show's writers are unhappy that producers have reneged on expected raises and promotions for the show's third season, O'Donnell told us money had nothing to do with his departure: "It's very hard to leave. I love the show. I just had other things that it was time to do."

Still we couldn't help overhearing another "West Wing" writer griping at a party a few months back that the producers were so cheap they wouldn't shell out the extra money for canned soft drinks. Instead, they bought the writers huge plastic bottles of soda pop, which inevitably went flat. Let's hope "The West Wing" doesn't lose its fizz.

The Art of Politics

Mayor Richard Riordan's wife, Nancy Daly Riordan, recently surprised her husband with a painting by artist Jane Wooster Scott depicting the outgoing mayor's years in office. Work began in February, but Scott says she was making changes up to the last minute.

Just hours before the painting was to be delivered to the Riordans' home, Scott, who lives in Sun Valley, received an urgent call from the mayor's wife. Could she add son Robert Daly's new fiancee, Krishna? Done.

Titled "The Legend, the Legacy (Riordan)," the painting shows hizzoner in five scenes: biking with LAPD officers, playing chess at the beach in Santa Monica, reading to kids on a park bench, holding a child, and hugging his wife. The Riordans' nine dogs--five Yorkshire terriers, a black Lab, a golden retriever, a King Charles spaniel and a mutt--also appear.

Condit's Cameo

Those mischief makers at the Smoking Gun have uncovered an odd bit of movie trivia: Modesto Congressman Gary Condit, who's saying little about his friendship with missing intern Chandra Levy, makes an uncredited appearance in the 1988 cult classic "Return of the Killer Tomatoes." Condit, who's not saying anything in the movie either, was spotted in a fight scene that also features a young George Clooney. The proof is posted on http://thesmokinggun.com.

Turns out the movie was produced by Steve Peace, then a colleague of Condit's in the California Assembly. The scene was filmed at a pizza joint in Chula Vista.

Haiku and You

Web surfers also might want to check out http://yourcongress.com, which features haiku about our favorite congressfolk and senators. Condit's haiku goes like this: "One of the blue dogs/ could use hair to scrub the sink/ wire bristle brush." Here's McCain's: "The Straight Talk Express/ better than taking Greyhound/ more entertaining." Our favorite, though, is Sen. Ted Kennedy's: "Ted, what can be said/ that hasn't yet been published/ in the Enquirer?"

Alas, no haiku has been written yet for frosh Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton. Might we suggest: Sen. Clinton, where's Bill?/ Former first lady/ says "Monica who?"

Times staff writers Gina Piccalo and Louise Roug contributed to this column. City of Angles runs Tuesday-Friday. E-mail: angles@latimes.com.

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