Business as usual for celebs at Convention
Ben Affleck packed boxes at a local food bank on Wednesday morning. In the afternoon, Josh Brolin delivered a staged reading from Chris Moore’s film “The People Speak.” In the early evening, Sean Penn was to participate in a protest to call for including Ralph Nader in the presidential debates.
On the third day of the Democratic National Convention, it is no longer a novelty to spot a celebrity walking the streets, chatting up a politico or superstar media figure.
But with the proceedings starting in the late afternoon, what are they doing to occupy the rest of their time?
There’s an easy answer: official business.
The crush of media has also delivered unlimited opportunity for publicity, with the likes of Morgan Fairchild just as likely to get screen time as Spike Lee.
And a host of events scattered throughout Denver have at the very least given performers a sense that there’s a reason for them to be here beyond just watching, as is often repeated this week, the spectacle of “history being made.”
The result are a series of common scenes not all that different from what may be encountered in Los Angeles.
On Tuesday, at the home of Scott Coors and David Hurt, a contingent of Obama donors and fund-raisers like J.J. Abrams, Cameron Crowe, James L. Brooks, Michael and Jamie Lynton, Paula Weinstein, Joe Pichirallo and Charles Rivkin mingled with such politicos as Evan Bayh, Jonathan Alter and Howard Fineman.
Steven Spielberg was due to arrive in Denver for the Wednesday convention screening of a seven-minute documentary short on veterans, produced by James Moll, Bruce Cohen and Dan Jinks and narrated by Tom Hanks, with music by John Williams. Andy Spahn served as consultant to the project.
At an event for the Children’s Defense Fund at the Denver Art Museum, Jennifer Lopez leaned against child welfare advocate Marian Wright Edelman, and posed stylishly in a shapely, red dress for pictures in front of a three-deep phalanx of photogs.
“I wanted to figure out how to make a real difference,” Lopez told the gathered politicos and journalists, including “Entertainment Tonight” and “The Insider” as well as outlets like E!
Some crews could be overheard asking who were the two men in business attire accompanying her. They were Sen. Ken Salazar (D-Colo.) and Bill Richardson, the New Mexico governor and former presidential candidate.
In the crowd at the Denver Art Center was Connie Britton, a star of “Friday Night Lights,” who had just arrived in Denver on Wednesday morning.
“I am still kind of figuring it out, really,” said Britton, who was anxious to get to the Pepsi Center. “Right now, this all feels like ‘What am I doing here?’ ”
The Creative Coalition, which has sent a Hollywood contingent here to promote funding for the arts, among other issues, has a lineup of events for the likes of her, including another event in the same building promoting mental health.
On Wednesday morning, Spike Lee hung out for a bit at the CNN Cafe, a restaurant that the cable news outlet had set up just inside the security perimeter. He said he had little doubt that he wanted to be at the convention, “with this phenomenon that can’t be stopped.”
Nevertheless, the Creative Coalition requested that he come as part of its entourage.
“They asked me, and I said I’m in,” he said, relaxing on at a patio table before another appearance on Soledad O’Brien’s show. “They got us going morning to night.”
Nearby, with his g.f., Charlize Theron, in the audience, Stuart Townsend screened “Battle in Seattle” on Tuesday at the Starz Film Room, part of a weeklong series of screenings and panels organized by SeaChange Communications and the Impact Film Festival. Daryl Hannah was due to screen film “The Garden.”
Drawing participants wasn’t too difficult.
“People who are here are very willing to participate,” said Victoria Hopper, who organized the SeaChange panels along with Jamie McGurk. “It’s a rare moment when so many people converge in one place.”
But there have been so many events with a celebrity on the schedule that it beginning to seem ho-hum to some journalists. Some have backed off covering the relentless numbers of parties, most guarded by red velvet ropes. Others were frustrated that too few top stars had arrived.
Some industry figures, like Crowe, made no bones about their reasons for attending: just to be at a convention.
At his first such gathering, Crowe said that since childhood he’d wanted to attend a convention and walk the floor. He did that Monday.
“I am going to events and just listening and taking it all in,” Crowe said. “It is just a thrilling thing on all levels.”
He got a chance to visit the Brown Palace Hotel, where he had last stayed when covering Led Zeppelin for Rolling Stone, for an event featuring the Kennedys. “Instead of Jimmy Page, it was Ethel Kennedy sitting there,” he said. He had substantive chats with a number of politicos, including Mark Warner and Chuck Schumer, he said.
“I am such a great fan from afar,” he said.
Britton, who also attended in 2000, had another comparison.
“Basically, isn’t it all like high school, at the end of the day?” she said, as Lopez was just arriving.
“Let’s face it. I am small potatoes as J.Lo is coming in. But I am so honored to be part of the process.”