From the pages of

Joe Sees Stars!
by Martin Lewis
(First published September 15, 2000)

On the surface, last night's long-planned DNC fund-raiser at Radio City could have presented an uncomfortably awkward moment between event instigator and co-producer Harvey Weinstein and co-honoree Joe Lieberman. Lieberman had spent the previous morning speaking at the congressional hearings on entertainment industry issues, at which Lynne Cheney had railed specifically against Weinstein - though she seemed to have difficulty pronouncing his name.

But both sides moved to defuse the problem. Lieberman and Gore have deftly shifted their focus from the First Amendment-troubling issue of entertainment content to the safer terrain of how adult content is marketed at kids. And Weinstein led the film industry with an immediate response from his company, Miramax Films, agreeing to monitor such marketing.

But the real test was how they would greet each other in public. The ebullient Weinstein used his trademark wry humor to introduce Lieberman. "Here's a man who's not making my job any easier," he stated dryly, and the Radio City audience caught his rueful tone. Lieberman was spry and expansive, greeting Weinstein with a big bear hug.

Was it just for the cameras and the world outside, or has the campaign and one of its most influential fund-raisers actually found a genuine rapport?

Weinstein is one of the industry's most effective operators, and if the star-studded lineup of musicians he and his coproducers (VH1 boss John Sykes and Rolling Stone publisher Jann Wenner) assembled last night wasn't enough, Weinstein had a second card to play.

He unveiled an impressive list of actor endorsements of Gore-Lieberman (most of which Weinstein personally secured). Some came from actors on hand at the benefit. Others came from actors unable to attend because of filming commitments, but who literally telegrammed their support in.

Expected supporters were such Democratic stalwarts as Michael Douglas, Harrison Ford and Paul Newman. New to the fray, offering presidential endorsements for the first time in their careers, were Julia Roberts, Tom Cruise, Leonardo di Caprio, Matt Damon and Ben Affleck. Democrats hoping to stir up an apathetic youth vote could do far worse than tap into those endorsements. At the moment Bush has Bo Derek, Bruce Willis and wrestling star The Rock. If this was a WWF bout the referee would call it off as unfair.

Meanwhile Joe Lieberman seemed more interested in working Harvey Weinstein than in courting the film stars. During the show's preamble, he proudly related an anecdote about his wife's sassy qualities and then turned to Weinstein and joked that he should consider Hadassah for a film role.

Conservatives trying to fuel a rift between the Gore-Lieberman team and the entertainment industry will obviously have to try harder.

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