Scan any list of the Dems' biggest givers and money-raisers and you'll find the names of Haim and Cheryl Saban, but their most recent cause is a decidedly local one with deep roots in their hometown: restoration of the landmark Wilshire Theatre in Beverly Hills.
The media mogul and his wife have agreed to donate $5 million to restore the historic theater's proscenium and orchestra area as well as to refurbish the marquee, which will soon display the name "Saban Theatre."
The couple usually give to education and children's and women's health care in the United States and Israel, but they were drawn to the theater's preservation efforts not only because it provides a local venue for art films and live dramatic, comedy and musical performances -- as well as a home for the Young Musicians Foundation -- but also because it houses the Temple of the Arts, a Jewish congregation that serves the creative community, particularly during the High Holy Days.
The restoration work on the theater, built in 1930, already has uncovered lovely Art Deco architectural details long hidden behind wall panels. Haim Saban said he was excited that his name would be on the marquee as a token of his care for his community. Known for his big, gregarious personality, Saban joked: "We intend to live for many years, but when we go on to our next adventure, we want to leave behind a legacy that will create an amazing gathering place for the Temple of the Arts and the city."
Cheryl Saban added: "The arts bring a richness to our lives, and they contribute to the wellness of the city. It's a nod to the community and also a shout-out to all the others who feel the same to get involved."
The Sabans' support for the restoration of the theater hardly signals a narrowing of the power couple's wider political concerns. They already have plans to host 18 major charity events and political fundraisers over the next year, including efforts on behalf of Democrats' congressional committees. (It's never too early to get ready for those midterms.)
On the state level, neither has made a choice for governor, though Haim Saban remains enthusiastic about their old friend Arnold Schwarzenegger, who the mogul insists isn't "really a Republican." "He's a Democrat who for some reason likes to say he's a Republican," Saban said. (This might surprise some, especially members of the Bush family, whom Schwarzenegger has supported over the years.)
Meanwhile, the Sabans, as longtime supporters and close friends of Bill and Hillary Clinton, give President Barack Obama their highest marks for the "very smart" selection of his former rival as secretary of State.
You can bet the Sabans will be extending invitations to the Clintons and the Obamas when the Wilshire is officially renamed, probably in September. There's a very good chance that most of Beverly Hills and half of Washington will be there.
Brad and Steve go to Washington
Speaking of acting locally and getting Washington to do the same, Brad Pitt and producer Steve Bing are in D.C. this week to enlist the Democratic leadership in the House and Senate to support their continuing efforts to restore decent housing to New Orleans' storm-ravaged 9th Ward.
The power pair already met with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. (Green construction as well as low-income housing are longtime interests of the Hollywood friends.)
Sources say Pitt and Bing were accompanied by two former Clinton White House staffers, Chad Griffin and Trevor Neilson, who provide strategic political advice to celebrity activists. Both have worked on Make It Right, the umbrella organization that has undertaken the 9th Ward project. (When was the last time an affordable housing development made the cover of Architectural Digest? Well, just put Brad Pitt on the front porch.)
You too can win a celebrity iPod!
And speaking of recovery plans, August Tonic, which campaigns to preserve and extend the distinctive musical traditions of America's central Gulf Coast, plans to hold a series of auctions in which celebrities' personal iPods -- autographed, of course -- will be put up for bid.
First up is former President Clinton's nifty red number with a playlist that reflects the eclectic tastes of a onetime Arkansas drum major, jazz saxophonist and Rhodes Scholar.
Along with the ex-chief executive's signature, the winning bidder will get an iPod pre-loaded with his favorites, including "Brown Eyed Girl" (Van Morrison), "I Get Along Without You Very Well" (Carly Simon), "Bahia" (Stan Getz with Charlie Byrd), "Bridge Over Troubled Water" (Simon & Garfunkel), "Angel" (Sarah McLachlan), "Philadelphia Freedom" (Elton John), "English Folk Song Suite [1-3]" (North Texas Wind Symphony), "A Song for You" (Willie Nelson), "Winds of the Old Days" (Joan Baez) and "Concierto de Aranjuez [1-3]" (John Williams).
Now that's what politicians call a big tent.