Inaugural treatment bruises feelings of Hollywood elite

THE BALTIMORE SUN

HOLLYWOOD -- The town's celebrities, who are accustome to royal treatment, are colliding head-on with President-elect Bill Clinton's inaugural team, which is treating them like, well,

ordinary people.

With 10 days to go before the president's inauguration, and with several celebrities miffed at the way they've been treated, the Clinton team is mounting a virtual outreach program to the stars.

And like any other special interest group that feels mistreated, Hollywood wouldn't mind a little justice and equality.

The collisions, over invitations and which-star-goes-where, have resulted in nothing more than bruised feelings.

But when the feelings of people like Geena Davis, Kathleen Turner, Alec Baldwin, Kim Basinger, Robin Williams, Bette Midler and Richard Gere are bruised, somehow it takes on the dimensions of a train wreck.

As a result, the Clinton team was scrambling this weekend, making soothing phone calls and trying to heal the wounds in the entertainment world, whose denizens overwhelmingly supported the Democratic ticket and are expected to fly into Washington in unprecedented numbers.

Their enthusiasm for Mr. Clinton was summed up by Peter Guber, chairman of Sony Pictures Entertainment, one of the more high-profile executives planning to attend. He saw the inauguration as a "seminal event" for Hollywood, and viewed it, characteristically, in show business terms.

"This is the first time a president is younger than Mick Jagger," said Mr. Guber, who is 50, one year older than the rock star and four years older than the incoming president. "The Beatles are older than Bill and Hillary Clinton. When you recognize that, you say to yourself that this is going to bring a completely different judgment to all the issues that are going to face the arts and communications.

"Hollywood wants to be part of this inauguration, claim it, be a participant in it. This is a real John Doe goes to Washington. It's Rocky! A classic movie motif. An underdog. Some guy in his mid-40s who went to Oxford and Yale. Wanted to be president. Wanted to be champion.

"You would have said, 'No way, that wouldn't play in Peoria.' He kept getting knocked down like Rocky. He had an Achilles' heel. People counted him out. But he came back. He became champion. It touched a chord in some primal way. This is like the Academy Awards. This is when the guy stands up and wins best picture. You want to show up!"

And just about everyone in Hollywood is trying to.

What has seized the town is that this will be the first Democratic presidential inauguration in 16 years and that, in the 1992 election, Hollywood's view of morality and reality turned into a political issue involving "family values" and Murphy Brown's baby.

With the Clinton campaign enlisting numerous celebrities and raising millions of dollars in Hollywood, the inaugural was viewed as that special kind of event Hollywood craves. It enables everyone to be taken seriously, and it enables everyone to look forward to a party.

The problem is that the overwhelmed Inaugural Committee did not invite everyone to the party.

Nor did it treat celebrities in the way they are accustomed to being treated.

One prominent inaugural planner said, "Look, there are two stars here, Bill Clinton and Al Gore. Some of these people believe they should be holding the Bible. You have no idea."

In defense of the celebrities, Marge Tabankin, executive director of the Hollywood Women's Political Committee, a liberal advocacy group with numerous stars and executives as members, said: "Nobody's asking for special treatment. The people here just want to enjoy the inaugural and are looking forward to receiving the same invitations as all the other Clinton supporters who gave their time, money and talent."

The problems, according to several inaugural staff members, arose from a lack of coordination between planners of the various shows and events.

Despite numerous "celebrity coordinators," planners never really sat down with a list of the scores of celebrities who worked for the Democrats and made sure that, say, each of them who was asked to perform at one of the shows was also invited to join the inauguration festivities. That job was initially left to the producers of each show.

The overall result has been confusion, a situation inaugural organizers are trying to clear up.

Geena Davis, who campaigned for the Democratic ticket, offered to perform, but wasn't called back.

Bette Midler was invited to perform but was not asked to any inaugural events.

Robin Williams, who supported the Clinton ticket, had booked a hotel room but was not sent an invitation, and only in the past few days was asked to perform. (Mr. Williams has not yet decided what to do, an associate said.)

Campaign workers like Kathleen Turner didn't get phone calls returned, and Robert De Niro, Alec Baldwin, Kim Basinger and Richard Gere didn't get invitations although they worked for Mr. Clinton.

Even the invitation to Lou Wasserman, the chairman of MCA Inc. and one of the town's veteran power brokers, appears to have been misplaced for a while, inaugural officials said. (Christine Hanson, an MCA spokeswoman, said she was unaware of this but that he had given up his hotel booking.)

On top of that, with Carrie Fisher and Penny Marshall unable to find a suitable hotel room, you have a Hollywood crisis.

"There were some glitches," acknowledged Madeline Peerce, a CBS vice president who is on leave while overseeing celebrity relations for the inauguration committee. "You had lots of celebrities on lots of different lists -- the Clinton list, the Gore list, the finance list, other lists. There were some oversights. It's been resolved."

But not without frayed feelings. Mr. Gere and his wife, model Cindy Crawford, decided not to show up. (Their room was scooped up by Ms. Fisher and Ms. Marshall.)

As of the end of the week, Ali McGraw and Jennifer Grey, who had campaigned especially hard for the ticket, were not going because they had not been invited.

One inaugural planner, sympathetic to the celebrities, said: "Everyone decided celebrities should come to the inaugural but said, 'We'll tell them where the parties are and they'll be fine.' But the point is, celebrities need invitations. They have egos."

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