CAUSE CÉLÈBRE: Ready to give Barack the part

Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

ON desks all over Hollywood, there’s a note this morning waiting to be sent:

Memo to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton: We think you’re aces. Really. And we love your husband. But we’re running off with Sen. Barack Obama. Hope you understand. It’s all about being part of history. We’ll do lunch after the inauguration.

Of course, in certain Westside mansions, loyalty to the Clintons runs deeper than any primary result. But in a town that for many months has been divided by head and heart, a lot of entertainment industry people who chose Clinton because she was the smart choice, the “inevitable” Democratic candidate, are going where their hearts have long wanted to take them -- to a place on the Obama bandwagon (and nobody wants to miss the last seat).

From the beginning, Hollywood has loved Obama’s story -- his “pitch” as they say -- but were wary of his real box office potential. Iowa and now possibly New Hampshire have lifted that uncertainty. The only thing the town likes better than a great story is a winning one.


Phones started ringing even before the junior senator from Illinois had completed his Iowa victory speech, which hardened political pros compared to legendary addresses given by the Kennedys, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and President Ronald Reagan. West of La Cienega, the clips on cable news were the best audition tapes anybody had seen in a long time.

If Clinton loses in New Hampshire tonight, predicted longtime political operative turned Hollywood producer Brian Quintana, Hollywood “will defect to Barack in droves.”

“It is not a question of loyalty; Barack is simply too close to making history for Hollywood not to be part of it,” Quintana said. “For most of us, Hillary was our first choice, but she has come up short. Barack has become a movement.”

David Geffen, an early Obama supporter who is looking even more prescient than usual, shared a celebratory call over the weekend with Kelly Meyer, wife of NBC-Universal chief Ron Meyer. Kelly stepped out as one of Hollywood’s early fundraisers for Obama, even though many of her industry friends were going with Clinton. She said Geffen had given her sound advice: Follow your heart.

Now she’s getting calls from Clinton supporters who want to join the Obama team.

“It’s contagious,” Meyer said. “People are invigorated.”

Obama supporters Irena and Mike Medavoy spent the weekend calling their Clinton-supporting pals in Hollywood to see if they wanted to switch sides. (They are also helping host a fundraiser in the Pacific Palisades for Obama on Jan. 16.)

“Before, there was a sense that Hillary’s nomination was inevitable and Obama didn’t have a chance,” said Irena Medavoy. “Iowa gave people a lot of hope. I’m not going to name names, but there are people who were supporting Hillary who now want to help Obama.”

“As an African American who has supported Hillary, it’s tough,” said one industry executive who asked not to be named. “You listen to Obama’s speech in Iowa, and it’s like your DNA kicks in. That’s hard to ignore. I’ve been very loyal, very dedicated. But this is rough. I don’t know what I’m going to do.”


Norman Lear, liberal Hollywood’s elder statesman, is remaining neutral during the primaries. He said Monday that it gives him the benefit of pursuing his real passion in this election, which is organizing young voters to go to the polls. In that sense, Lear -- who founded the voter registration drive “Declare Yourself” -- is set to emerge from the primaries as big a winner as anybody who had their name on the ballot. Iowa had a record turnout among young voters last week, and the same is projected for this week in New Hampshire.

“Young people have a natural sense of spirit and enthusiasm,” Lear said. “And Obama was just the guy to capitalize on it.”

And everyone knows Hollywood loves the young demographic.