By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
By Dennis Romero
"Unbelievable! Unbelievable!" The man in the gray suit stood on a chair, waving his hands in the air to get the attention of the crowd in the overpacked living room. "If we were all 16 years old, this would be everybody's worst nightmare."
Former five-term Vermont governor and current Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean, 54 years old, looked as amazed as everyone else in the room that this Thursday-night gathering, what should have been another sedate Westside fund-raiser, had suddenly taken on the rambunctious energy of an Animal House toga party.
"I'm tired of being beat up for sympathizing with human rights!" Dean shouted as the crowd warmed to him. "I'm tired of getting beaten up for supporting equal rights! Tired of being beat up by right-wing talk-show hosts! Time to stand up and take America back!"
The former stockbroker and doctor has set off a loud buzz within Democratic ranks by taking an unwavering stand against the war in Iraq and by repeating over and over again the old Paul Wellstone line that he now "represents the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party." Which explains why more than twice the 150 people who called in RSVPs to attend the reception ($100 a head, minimum) now were jamming into composer Mark Snow's Santa Monica living room, hallways and kitchen, all desperate to catch a glimpse of Dean. The sea of Swedish cars flooding north of Montana and frenetically searching for parking made it seem that every Volvo Democrat west of La Cienega was on hand.
More important, several powerful Hollywood liberals were on hand to check out Dean. An excitedly sputtering Rob Reiner, who co-chaired the gathering and is an early endorser of Dean, made a plea for those who liked what they heard to come up with a check for the full legal hard-money contribution of $2,000. It's impossible to know who did. But there were plenty of celebs in the crowd who, if they wished, could give Dean's campaign a PR boost. Actor/activist Mike Farrell was on hand, as was Blythe Danner, screenwriter Naomi Foner and world-class vegan Dennis Weaver. Of course, a lot of those present were still shopping for a candidate to back. Hollywood liberals are sizing up not only Dean — a relative newcomer to Left Coast politics — but old favorites Dennis Kucinich, who's also running, and Gary Hart, who might be running (and who recently made a campaignlike flyby through Los Angeles).
"It's too early to commit yet," said lefty producer/director Robert Greenwald, Farrell's partner in organizing the celebrity-led Win Without War outfit. "It's more important right now to build up a movement from the grassroots rather than jump right away on some candidate's bandwagon."
Meanwhile, Dean thrilled and chilled the assembled People in Black — all seemingly at wits' end to find some hero, any hero, to challenge Dubya — by blasting Bush and chiding fellow Democrats for not being confrontational enough with the White House.
Although the former governor sounds like a Hoover Republican when it comes to taxes, on most other issues he is positioning himself decidedly to the left of most of the Democratic field. He touts his Vermont program of providing health care to all children, as well as his signing of a bill legalizing gay and lesbian civil unions. Dean also calls for a reversal of the Bush tax cut, a position way beyond the Democratic mainstream.
For some odd reason, Dean made no mention of Iraq in his 20-minute presentation. "He probably just forgot about it in all the excitement," said writer Jeff Kaufman, who organized the event. But Dean did take the issue head-on during the Q&A session. And he showed some authentic political courage by putting the emphasis on solving the Palestinian side of the equation when asked about his views on the Middle East. I can't remember the last time I heard a presidential candidate answer that question without a preamble invocation of endless devotion to Israel's position in the conflict. Or maybe he just forgot that too.
CLASS ACTS: Jimmy Kimmel Live
Poor Jimmy Kimmel. It's tough being a talk-show host when you have no opening monologue, scarcely any jokes, and your celebrity guests are called Jeffrey Ross and Eugene Levy. But if Kimmel was unfortunate in his material, he was lucky in his audience. The crowd filing into the El Capitan Theater on Hollywood Boulevard to watch Jimmy Kimmel Live was young, loud and willing to laugh at just about anything.
A few minutes before filming began at 9:05 p.m. local time on Tuesday, March 11, Kimmel stepped onto the stage, sat down at his desk and picked up the phone. He was going to make a prank call, a feat he performs regularly for Crank Yankers, a puppet show on Comedy Central, and which he also does as an exclusive treat for the studio audience just before the taping of his own show. Tonight's victim was a guy who placed an ad in the Recycler offering to sell 10 pairs of a woman's used underpants he claimed to have found in a car.
The phone rang, a man picked up. "I'm calling about the underpants for sale," Kimmel said, but as it turned out, he called too late. The man had already taken the panties to a thrift store because he wasn't getting any calls. "Did you keep a couple of pairs for yourself?" Kimmel asked. The man said he hadn't. "Tell me about those things. Did they still have any smell in 'em?" Kimmel demanded. No answer. "Did you sniff 'em?" Kimmel pressed on. "Uh, no, I didn't," the man replied.