From the pages of

Hollywood Salutes a Republican!
by Martin Lewis
(First published September 25, 2000)

Saturday night saw the improbable sight in Beverly Hills of over a 1,000 of Hollywood's liberal elite all assembled to pay homage to one of the entertainment industry's most prominent conservatives.

The Republican in question was Bruce Willis. He was not of course being saluted for his right-of-center politics or his early George W. Bush endorsement. The award he received was one of those "Contributions To The Industry" trophies that the entertainment business is fond of handing out. Though to be fair to Willis - this was one of the most prestigious one can get - the much-prized American Cinematheque award - which has previously been given to to such liberal luminaries as Steven Spielberg, Rob Reiner, Michael Douglas and Robin Williams.

But giving such a prominent conservative a high-profile award just seven weeks before the presidential election - could be said to prove that the amorphously-named "Hollywood" really only salutes one master - success - be it artistic or commercial. Politics just don't enter into the industry's equations.

Willis, perhaps wisely though, refrained from any mentions of his political beliefs - though several of the celebrity presenters couldn't resist a tweak. Hosting the event at the Beverly Hills Hilton was British actor Alan Rickman - who played the German terrorist "Hans" in the first "Die Hard" movie. "Finding someone to host a night honoring a Republican in Hollywood is so tough that they had to get a left-wing actor from England" quipped Rickman - to the amusement of Willis and the crowd.

The final presenter was a translucently beautiful Julia Roberts - who in person turns out to be deceptively gamin. Before heading out to the podium, Roberts stood in the green room intently watching the other presenters on a TV monitor - and proclaiming quietly to a couple of people in the room how nervous she was to be giving Willis the award. Even film stars get the butterflies apparently.

Perhaps she was thinking of her infamous political debut just ten days earlier at Al Gore's Radio City fund-raiser - when she told the crowd how apt she thought it was that "Republican" was nestled in the dictionary right between "reptile" and "repugnant."

Finally Roberts strode purposefully out to the podium - and completely abandoned the carefully-written script on the teleprompter. "Bruce... I didn't realize you were a Republican" she dead-panned. She then went on to offer a tongue-in-cheek apologia to Willis for her recent comment about Republicans - which she made clear did not include him...

Bruce Willis was unfazed by the political banter. On collecting his award he first gave all the usual thank-yous. He turned out to be warmly supportive of the Cinematheque's mission of presenting movies from the past on the big screen - which endeared him further to the crowd. He also included a most un-conservative running gag - spoofing the religious gushers at Oscars and Emmys - by constantly thanking Jesus. "Now let's move on 2,000 years" he joked at one point - returning to a litany of agents and co-stars.

Finally he turned to Roberts - who like Willis was dressed in white open-necked shirt and black suit. "Is this going to be on TV?" he asked. "Oh I don't care... I have a HUGE crush on you..."

Roberts blushed - most becomingly. And that was the end of the event. Both Willis and Roberts slipped away quickly from the usual post-show milling. Separately of course.

Maybe the long-time Republican (recently separated from Demi Moore) and the recently proclaimed Democrat will become a kind of movie-star Carville & Matalin. Willis already has the Corporal Cueball look. Moonlighting II anyone?

P.S.: To answer Willis's question, the event IS going to be on TV. Viewers who want to check out whether Bruce and Julia could be a match for Jim and Mary can see the extravaganza on TNT this Wednesday at 8 p.m. ET/PT.

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