Pundits buzz at Maher bash

Republican-free event draws famous Dems

NEW YORK — MSNBC’s “Hardball” host Chris Matthews showed a softer side at the opening-night bash for “Bill Maher: Victory Begins at Home” in Gotham Monday. Pressed into having his photo shot with politically hot-as-a-pistol Michael Moore, Matthews goggled, “Who wants to have a picture taken with me? You mean the Michael Moore?”

The Academy Award-winning filmmaker was equally reticent about the matchmaking. “Aw, why do you want to do that to the poor guy?” Moore demurred.

Once thrust into each other’s arms, however, the two raved over Maher’s political zingers. “I’m a big supporter of anyone who supports free speech,” Matthews said. Moore was already gearing up for the one-man show he wants to do in New York during the Republican Convention. “I’ll be trying to convert them,” he said.

Maher, meanwhile, was affability itself, glad-handing guests like columnist Ann Coulter, author Salman Rushdie and actresses Janeane Garofalo and Lynn Redgrave, and unperturbed by the absence of Republicans at the feast. “I’m not too popular with Republicans,” he said. “I know that George W. Bush has a restraining order out on me — and I’m not kidding about that.”

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