GOOD MORNING: “Showbiz is showing a new stronger image this campaign” — I wrote on Oct. 22, 1964 — as the LBJ-Goldwater race headed for the finish line. And Tuesday evening, that “stronger image” from showbiz-Kerry supporters was evident well in advance of the party’s convention. As it had been for Clinton campaign fund-raisers, the Ron Burkle (former Harold Lloyd) estate in Beverly Hills was the site –and the anticipated crowd almost doubled the anticipation. The result was $3.2 million raised for Kerry, another million for the Demos’ National Committee. They’ll need it and more judging by the start of the Hollywood-like commercials starring George W. Bush already on the air. Kerry met with the heavy hitters before making his appearance on the stage built on the Burkle estate. They included Sherry Lansing and Billy Friedkin, Ron Meyer, Barbra Streisand and Jim Brolin, Jim and Ann Gianopulos, Chris and Jamie McGurk, Ben Affleck, Quincy Jones, Laurie and Larry David, Mary Steenburgen and Ted Danson, Leonardo DiCaprio, Sharon Stone, Eric Braeden, Garry Shandling, Rhea and Danny DeVito, Brian Grazer, Arianna Huffington and Shirley and Saul Turteltaub. The Turteltaubs are longtime friends of Teresa and John Kerry, neighbors in Idaho, also having attended their wedding in Nantucket. Among others at the event, John Davis who when asked whether his parents Barbara and Marvin Davis are Demo supporters, said they split their vote, one Demo, the other Republican — but he wasn’t sure which was which. Pat and Michael York are enthusiastic about voting for the first time — having become U.S. Citizens last year. Also there: Jason Alexander, Jay Kanter and former Governor Gray Davis. Antonio Villaragosa m.c’d and intro’d “Curb Your Enthusiasm’s” Larry David who hysterically explained why he should be Kerry’s vice-presidential running mate: “I’m a natural, a nincompoop, I’m chicken and a liar.” Onetime Secretary of State Warren Christopher intro’d Kerry who in turn extolled his works and character. Kerry intro’d wife Teresa (who returns April 23 at a cocktail’er at the home of Heather Thomas and Skip Brittenham). Their daughter Alexandra, a Brown grad, is a second-year felllow at the AFI where she graduates in June, now completing her directorial project, “The Last Full Measure.” Kerry praised his and Teresa’s children and wound his stand by graciously introducing “my friend,” James Taylor.

MEANWHILE, BACK AT CHAPPAQUA, N.Y., Bill Clinton is racing the clock to finish his book which has a June deadline and is skedded to hit the stalls before the election. Much of the book takes place before he leaves Arkansas and Harry Thomason who has read a portion, proudly says, “Mark Twain would be proud.” Meanwhile “The Hunting of the President,” the film version of Gene Lyons and Joe Conason’s bestseller, hits screens June 11 at N.Y.’s Angelika and followed by individuals screenings in L.A. from Regent. And 20th Century Fox has seen the film and will do the DVD version — also to be on sale before the election. Thomason, who wrote and directed this powerful chapter(s) of American history, says there was much “wonderful and scary” film left out of the film and it will now be used as part of the DVD. I have seen the film (first shown at Sundance) and promise you will be shocked to see how both Bill and Hillary Clinton were “hunted” from Little Rock to Washington. Another sad commentary on the dirty tricks of politics — the media included… Thomason and wife Linda Bloodworth Thomason’s next film is “Southern Comfort,” based on a Sundance docu to star Sissy Spacek — playing a man.

ALTHOUGH THE ACADEMY Board of Governors voted to hold the 2005 Oscars on Feb. 27, there were some who wanted the awards to be given even earlier — but were outvoted. And a topic to be taken up at the next meetings is how to make the membership of the Academy more selective… Wish Doris Day a happy 80th birthday Saturday… The 60th anni of the making of MGM’s “Meet Me in St. Louis” is celebrated with the preem of the Warner Home Video DVD version Sunday with a bash at the DGA. Margaret O’Brien, who’ll be there, was 6 when the film was made and she recalled to me “I had a happy life as a child — my mother made sure I had a normal life — the studio included.” She said, “I love Judy and Vincente Minnelli and we all got along wonderfully. It was a safe time to be under contract. It’s harder for kids (in showbiz) today.” And the film’s Oscar-nominated screenwriter Irving Brecher (90) told me how he convinced Judy Garland to play the role — “Joe Mankiewicz told her Margaret O’Brien would steal the picture. So when I read Judy the script, I threw away Margaret’s lines — she agreed and they made the movie.” WB Home Video continues its DVDs of classics with “GWTW” in a four-disc set at year’s end… At Friday’s America India Foundation gala, started at the Roseland Ballroom, seguing to a preview performance of “Bombay Dreams” at the Broadway and then to post-parties back at the Roseland and K Lounge. Sakina Jaffrey, who has appeared in four of Ismail Merchant and James Ivory’s pics, emceed the gala night. Ismail reminds me it was Bill Clinton who helped found the America India Foundation. Funds this year will help the quake victims… Merchant will film “The Goddess” in India with Tina Turner and Mathew Modine, “The White Countess” in China and New Zealand and just wound “Heights” with Glenn Close, Isabella Rosselini and George Segal.

THE DEATH PENALTY FOCUS awards will be held April 20 at the BevHilton… The 31st Annual Vision Awards, June 24 at the BevHilton will toast: David Lynch, Mike Figgis, Robert Cort, Marshall Herskovitz, Barrie M. Osborne, Peter Liguori, Kathleen Dore, Melissa Gilbert, Louis Scali, Alan and Marilyn Bergman, Harry Belafonte, Jennifer Connelly and award the Agrama Harmony Gold and Light Award to Bill Austin…. Robert Wagner, who again hosts the Jimmy Stewart Relay Marathon in Griffith Park (April 18), received the Harvey Award from the James Stewart Museum Foundation. (Chris O’Donnell will act as co-host at the Marathon)… Nia Vardalos is interviewed in April 27’s the Advocate by thesp Alec Mapa — they became fast friends during the making of the Vardalos/Toni Collette co-starrer, “Connie and Carla” –“girls will be boys will be girls.”

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