Campaign trail returns to Hollywood

Hillary Clinton drew a mix of politicos and paparazzi in a series of events through Hollywood circles, showing continuing strength as she competes aggressively with Barack Obama and John Edwards for entertainment industry support.

At the same time she was raising money on Wednesday night, New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani was doing the same at a fund-raiser at the Beverly Hilton that featured comedian Dennis Miller.

With Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa joining her, Clinton raised $850,000 at an event at the home of News Corp. prexy Peter Chernin, and another $250,000 at the home of Brett Ratner, according to sources.

The latter fund-raiser was the media highlight of this visit. With a minimum ticket price of $250, Ratner’s event was aimed at “young Hollywood,” but the crowd would more accurately be described as “young-ish,” as it drew a mix of people in their 20s, 30s and 40s, hardly the hardcore tabloid-bred nightclub crowd of the Sunset Boulevard. Nevertheless, paparazzi was in full force as web site TMZ.com captured donors as they crossed Benedict Canyon Road to Ratner’s home, called Hilhaven. Inside, it was a bit more staid than when Ratner allowed “Entourage” to shoot a scene in which bikini clad women wandered around his property, a riff on his image as the consummate party host. He did, however, open up his basement disco, installed when Allan Carr lived there in the 1970s.

Stars such as Eric Dane, Rebecca Gayheart, Will.I.Am, Jeremy Piven, Angie Banicki, Michelle Trachtenberg, Brent Bolthouse and Chris Klein mixed with Steve Bing, James Toback, Quincy Jones, Brian Grazer, Kevin Smith, Holly Wiersma, Pauly Shore, California State Assemblyman Mike Feuer and political and fund-raising consultant Noah Mamet, among others. New NBC chief Ben Silverman also was there, often consumed with pressing business, and eying and typing into his Blackberry. Absent were any gift bags — people asked — as the campaign forbids such gifts at the risk of violating finance laws.

Clinton met one on one with VIP paying guests inside the home, with Ratner insisting that guests take off their shoes to protect the hardwood floors.

Later, Clinton, speaking from the veranda, delivered about 10 minutes of remarks to about 400 people gathered in the pool area. Clinton talked quite a bit about health care and her proposals, and when it looked as if an overhead light fixture was about to fall and injure someone, she quipped about not wanting to have someone face the insurance system.

Chernin’s event, co-sponsored by Steven Spielberg and Haim and Cheryl Saban, was a much more traditional fund-raiser, drawing a crowd that included Tobey Maguire, Jodie Foster, Jon Feltheimer, James L. Brooks, Michael Mann, Dan Glickman and Sam Gores, as well as Fox’s Jim Gianopoulos and Tom Rothman and other News Corp. employees.

After being introduced by Chernin, Clinton spoke and then took questions in what was a 20-minute Q&A, addressing her plans to get the U.S. out of Iraq and what to do about the threat of Iran. She also was asked about her competition in Obama and John Edwards — but she was nothing but diplomatic.

By and large, Hollywood continues to spread its wealth among multiple candidates. Spielberg, for instance, also co-hosted a February event for Obama at the Beverly Hilton, and Rothman co-hosted one in April for him as well. Some of those who attended that fund-raiser also were present at Chernin’s, including J.J. Abrams and Ben Stiller. As the campaign progresses, some of the more high profile figures, like Spielberg, are expected to endorse one candidate and participate in additional fund-raising.

At his event, Giuliani spoke about health care (comparing his approach to Clinton’s and Obama’s), terrorism and the economy. Although not aimed at Hollywood but a cross section of professionals, about 550 people packed into a Beverly Hilton ballroom, with tickets starting at $250 each. Radio hosts Ken and John opened up the event, followed by short speeches by Bill Simon and Brillstein-Grey’s Jon Liebman and an intro from Dennis Miller. Among those attending from the industry were Paramount’s Rob Moore and Brillstein-Grey’s Sandy Wernick.

Obama is scheduled to return to Los Angeles on June 11, and his wife, Michelle, will host an event the next day. Edwards is due later in the month. And Clinton has a return visit on the books, a fund-raiser at the home of director Roland Emmerich that is scheduled for June 22.

Even though recent events have drawn healthy crowds, as the year goes on fund-raisers expect it to get more and more difficult to find untapped donors.

So campaigns will have to step up efforts to reach groups that may not have been approached in the past. Clinton, for instance, has not only aimed at young Hollywood but at women professionals in their 20s.

One such person was Christina Martin of Equity Strategic Relations. She said she raised about $40,000 for the Ratner event, and was involved because Clinton is an inspirational figure. On the issues, “we are basically on the same page.”

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