In Washington, Sharon Stone meets the press and becomes part of the show


For 63 years, since Franklin Delano Roosevelt inaugurated the program in 1932, no luncheon speaker at the storied National Press Club has been introduced as being successful for not wearing skivvies.

Until yesterday.

Actress Sharon Stone, famed for her portrayal of the hedonistic, undergarment-impaired femme fatale in the movie "Basic Instinct," was presented to a sellout audience by club president Monroe Karmin as achieving fitness and health because "she never wears underwear."

Clad in a silk pinstriped pantsuit and blinding white canvas Keds, a nonplused Ms. Stone said, "Frankly, I don't know what to say about that."

The Hollywood diva's appearance at the normally staid club caused elevator gridlock and attracted hordes of pen-and-book-bearing star seekers and photographers who failed to show earlier this week for Bosnian Prime Minister Harris Silajdzic.

The 87-year-old club is renowned for being host to news makers and leaders from around the world. Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and Speaker Newt Gingrich are scheduled to appear in the next three weeks.

Ms. Stone sold out all 400 seats, a feat that easily eluded recent guest speakers former President Gerald Ford, Sens. Edward M. Kennedy and Phil Gramm, and even billionaire populist H. Ross Perot, usually a big attraction.

Actors Kirk Douglas and Michael Keaton also did not fill the hall.

Ms. Stone, who was in Washington to participate in a fund-raising event for breast cancer, was immediately confronted with Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole's broadside against Hollywood's predilection for violent and sexy movies.

"If you don't want to see films about sex and violence, don't go," Ms. Stone said. "The support of these films will mean further funding for those types of films."

The actress, 37, said that it was "pretty easy" for Mr. Dole "to throw tomatoes in a general direction."

She castigated the GOP presidential front-runner as "petty" for attempting to undermine the film community's support for President Clinton.

Over the course of a one-hour appearance, broadcast on National Public Radio and taped for broadcast on C-SPAN, Ms. )) Stone said she really wanted to be a fireman, her favorite all-time movie was the animated version of "The Jungle Book," and it was tough trying to be beautiful all the time.

"Every time I pull off another cosmetic miracle," she smiled with ruby-red lips, "I drop to my knees and thank God."

As celebrity chairwoman, Ms. Stone is set to participate today in the sixth annual National Race for the Cure, a fund-raising 3.1-mile run for the Komen Breast Cancer Foundation. Vice President Gore and his wife, Tipper, are also scheduled to run.

Ms. Stone revealed that she had her own brush with cancer, testing positive twice for lymph tumors four years ago before a subsequent test showed no evidence of cancer.

She attributed part of her "holistic healing" program to giving up caffeinated coffee.

The Meadville, Pa., native said she acquired her middle name -- Vaughn -- from an aunt who survived two radical mastectomies 10 years apart.

Ms. Stone strongly endorsed self-examination to detect lumps in the breasts, and encouraged women to employ their partners in the activity and "live it up."

"There are a lot of people in this room that paid $7.50 to see mine, so I guess it's interesting," said Ms. Stone, drawing applause and laughter.

Ms. Stone was trailed everywhere by a battalion of cameras. Asked during the luncheon about the price of fame, declared, "I've had it with people disrespecting the fact that I'm a human being."

Human, but a diva, too.

Her two-limousine arrival at the press club was 50 minutes behind schedule. The late arrival meant she stood up the small crowd invited to the private reception held before the lunch.

Ms. Stone arrived in Washington Thursday night and immediately switched hotels, losing her Race for the Cure escort in the process, according to a press relations assistant.

"She's been very difficult, very high-maintenance," said the assistant, Kristen Carr of Holman Communications.

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