Hol­ly­wood en­dorse­ments not all A-list: Porn star, madam back Hil­lary

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - By An­drea Billups

The queen of vam­pire Goth lit — check.

Hol­ly­wood’s fa­vorite she-pimp — right on.

The list of new celebrity en­dorse­ments con­tin­ues to mount for the Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial run of Sen. Hil­lary Rod­ham Clin­ton, who leads the pack in elec­tion polls, all the while pick­ing up an ever-more in­ter­est­ing cadre of an­nounced po­lit­i­cal ad­mir­ers.

“I’m a big fan of Hil­lary’s. Any wo­man who’s smart, how can you not be?” Demo­crat Heidi Fleiss, 41, told the Las Ve­gas Re­view-Jour­nal last week.

“Even if you’re a Repub­li­can, if you’re a wo­man and you’re smart, you have to re­spect her,” she said.

Pow­er­ful stuff from a wo­man who did hard time for rout­ing gla­ma­zon sheet surfers to Left Coast power play­ers, and who owns a yup­pie laun­dro­mat and plans a Ve­gas-area brothel with a cun­ningly fem­i­nist twist — fe­male cus­tomers, male em­ploy­ees.

The newly born-again Chris­tian Anne Rice an­nounced her sup­port for Mrs. Clin­ton on her Web site in a long let­ter posted Aug. 10, tout­ing Mrs. Clin­ton’s Demo­cratic val­ues as be­ing clos­est to hers.

But the Fleiss pro­nounce­ment was un­ex­pected if not pos­si­bly un­wel­come. And came while skin­nierby-the-mo­ment porn star Jenna Jame­son, who an­nounced her re­tire­ment from adult films, re­cently set the pub­lic record straight that she is also solidly in the Clin­ton camp.

The ques­tion re­mains: Does celeb power trans­late into po­lit­i­cal clout or is it more hype de­signed to make the fa­mous look thought­ful?

“Celebri­ties like to en­dorse can- di­dates be­cause it gives them the ap­pear­ance of be­ing in­tel­li­gent,” said William McKeen, a Univer­sity of Florida pro­fes­sor who stud­ies pop­u­lar cul­ture, pol­i­tics and the me­dia. “I think ac­tors are hy­per-con­scious of fash­ion and will be the first to test the wa­ters of hip, de­ter­mine who the hip can­di­date is and jump on that ship.

“When I hear all th­ese peo­ple talk­ing about [Illi­nois Sen.] Barack Obama and his ideas, I keep think­ing: ‘Wait a minute. That chain-smok­ing lit­tle cuss hasn’t been around but 12 min­utes. He may be a swell guy but for God’s sake, do what Percy Sledge’s mama said to do: Take the time to get to know him,’ ” he said.

As the long­est-ever run-up to the pri­mary and nom­i­na­tion process un­folds, the value of Hol­ly­wood and the use of star names to cre­ate star can­di­dates con­tin­ues to be de­bated.

Since the 2008 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion is pre­dicted to be the most ex­pen­sive in his­tory, with es­ti­mates that as much as a bil­lion dol­lars will be spent by the time a new pres­i­dent takes of­fice, fast funds from Tin­sel­town do help with fundrais­ing for front-run­ners, all ea­ger to out­play, out­last and out­spend in what was de­scribed as a “money pri­mary.” The price tag just to get in the game: $100 mil­lion by some es­ti­mates.

Al­though Mrs. Clin­ton set the bar high with her name recog­ni­tion and her hus­band’s po­lit­i­cal clout, the bless­ing of Tin­sel­town could be key for the lesser-con­nected but charis­matic Mr. Obama, who is win­ning new friends — and big checks — from the glit­terati, thanks to the bless­ing of the Big O.

Me­dia mogul Oprah Win­frey adopted Obama as her can­di­date of record and is set to host a mas­sive fundraiser Sept. 8 in her Cal­i­for­nia mega­man­sion with a guest list that will re­port­edly in­clude A-list film stars and Os­car win­ners Halle Berry, Ge­orge Clooney and Jamie Foxx, as well as stu­dio turbo-hon­chos David Gef­fen and Jef­frey Katzen­berg.

But she re­cently told CNN’s Larry King that it’s more her seal of ap- proval than the cash it­self that will help Mr. Obama.

“My money isn’t go­ing to make any dif­fer­ence. My value to him, my sup­port of him is prob­a­bly worth more than any other check that I could write,” Miss Win­frey said.

Rob Pfaltz­graff, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Mov­ing Pic­ture In­sti­tute, a foun­da­tion with of­fices in New York and Los An­ge­les that sup­ports in­de­pen­dent film­mak­ers who want to make movies con­trary to Hol­ly­wood’s usual val­ues, said the Hol­ly­wood po­lit­i­cal score­card is valu­able for pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates look­ing not only for money, but power by as­so­ci­a­tion and name recog­ni­tion. Such en­dorse­ments, he re­minded, are his­toric.

“In An­cient Rome, the sup­port of fa­mous gla­di­a­tors and stage ac­tors was prized by can­di­dates to elected of­fice. It is no dif­fer­ent in mod­ern Amer­ica. The Kennedys have used ties to cul­ture and art to great ad­van­tage,” he said. “Oprah holds up a book on her show and it be­comes a best­seller. Why wouldn’t her choice of can­di­date gar­ner a sim­i­lar boost for her fa­vorite? It’s a no-brainer that this mat­ters.”

But get the wrong folks in your camp and it could also hurt, Mr. Pfaltz­graff said.

“Sean Penn cham­pi­ons left-wing dic­ta­tors who hate Amer­ica,” he said. “If you were run­ning for of­fice, would you want Penn’s en­dorse­ment?” Mr. Penn met with such tyrants as Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez and Iraq’s Sad­dam Hus­sein.

Even when a celebrity doesn’t come with much po­lit­i­cal bag­gage, it’s of­ten hard to see the im­pact.

Madonna’s ring­ing en­dorse­ment of for­mer Gen. Wesley Clark in 2004 earned men­tion in the en­ter­tain­ment press but did noth­ing for his can­di­dacy. And while the af­fa­ble ac­tor Ben Af­fleck did his bit by arm­candy stump­ing for John Kerry — a boon for the MTV set — his pres­ence likely did lit­tle to ul­ti­mately rock the vote.

Vir­ginia-based Demo­cratic strate­gist Dave “Mud­cat” Saun­ders said he won’t dis­count celebrity en­dorse­ments, de­pend­ing on how in­volved and com­mit­ted the ac­tor or artist wants to be.

“If they are just show­ing up and say­ing ‘I’m for you,’ then it doesn’t mean much. The ones who re­ally come out into the heart of Amer­ica, if they’ll get out with you and work on the cam­paign, then I do think it means some­thing. Put it this way: You got to have a good horse to en­dorse.”

Mr. Saun­ders, who ad­vises the John Ed­wards cam­paign on its rural ini­tia­tives, added that who you have with you mat­ters. In Ap­palachia, for ex­am­ple, Mr. Ed­wards is pair­ing with blue­grass icon Ralph Stan­ley, who will work the home­folk in the hills and hol­lows.

While he doesn’t have the broader mar­ket­ing mojo of Oprah, “Out there, his name means some­thing,” Mr. Saun­ders said.

Adds Florida’s Mr. McKeen, au­thor of an up­com­ing bi­og­ra­phy of celebrity po­lit­i­cal writer Hunter S. Thompson:

“The cul­ture is ob­sessed with celebrity in an ob­scene way and the elec­tions show us that. En­dorse­ments are of­ten more about the celebri­ties than the can­di­dates. I’m sure en­ter­tain­ers check with their pub­li­cists to see which can­di­date en­dorse­ment would do the most for them. All I know is that Gary Cole­man has not been wrong about the win­ner of a pres­i­den­tial elec­tion since [Jimmy] Carter nudged out [Ger­ald] Ford in 1976. My rule has al­ways been sim­ple: Whoever Judd Nelson sup­ports, gets my vote.”

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XXX-cited about Hil­lary: Porn star Jenna Jame­son

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