Producer will prod Dems to deliver

Kirshner ready for politco battle at convention, against TV competish

The show must go on — a point not lost on producer Ricky Kirshner as he ventures forth with his third Democratic National Convention.

While the national political conventions long ago lost any element of surprise, that’s not going to stop Kirshner, whose credits include a string of TV extravaganzas, from trying to find water at the oasis when the Democratic confab gets under way Monday.

It’s the first time the Dems have descended on L.A. since 1960, when John F. Kennedy was nominated.

Kirshner was relaxed as he took Daily Variety on a tour of the Staples Center in downtown L.A., pointing out the 150,000 balloons being stored in 80 huge nylon bags that will be released Thursday night when presumptive presidential candidate Al Gore accepts his party’s nomination. A thousand pounds of confetti also will be dropped.

“Of course, we don’t dump it all on one person,” Kirshner joked.

He knows most of the news types by now and quickly helped out when a group of producers told him the state signs positioned throughout Staples were too high and spoiling their camera shots. No problem — the metal poles can be cut and shortened, Kirshner told them.

His immediate crew includes 500 stagehands, who run a complex network of lights, audio systems and cameras. The podium moves up and down — a maneuver that requires two keys. And there’s a 360-degree Webcam located in the podium for Internet fans at home.

Like Kirshner, most crew members seemed relaxed, at least compared to the politicos, who were handling the first wave of media arrivals. The adjacent Convention Center is devoted entirely to the 15,000 members of the media expected.

On the outside, the LAPD is preparing for a series of planned protests throughout the week. Political rock band Rage Against the Machine has applied for a permit to play on the Staples perimeter Monday. A police spokesman said no such permit has been granted yet.

Whether more airtime is given to the Democratic convention itself than to the Republican, held July 31-Aug. 3 in Philadelphia, remains to be seen.

“The surprise is someone who is going to go out there and mesmerize this place. It won’t be someone singing the national anthem. Hopefully, it will be Gore’s speech this year,” said Kirshner.

The Democratic National Committee on Thursday released its speaker list, which includes President Clinton, first lady and New York Senate candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton, New Jersey Sen. Bill Bradley, the Rev. Jesse Jackson and Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg.

Michael Sheehan, a prominent speech-writing consultant, has the task of prepping each speaker — even the candidates. He’s already set up in a room backstage, ready to fine-tune.

“We know,” Sheehan said, “that we’re up against ‘Survivor’ and ‘Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.’ “

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