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Mixing politics with show business makes for star wars in Hollywood

By
IRIS KRASNOW

WASHINGTON -- While President Reagan and Walter Mondale debate the 'Star Wars' issue, they've got their own star wars raging in Hollywood. Hordes of sparklies have squared off in clashing political camps.

Reagan has attracted the predictable cast of golden oldies -- Frank Sinatra, Jimmy Stewart, Helen Hayes, Charlton Heston, Dorothy Lamour, Dean Martin, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Cary Grant, Mickey Rooney and Bob Hope.

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Then there's also a younger crew of New Righters, among them Jaclyn Smith, Stephanie Zimbalist, Lee Majors, Susan Howard and even Arnold Schwarzenegger -- despite his romance with Eunice Kennedy Shriver's daughter, Maria Shriver, a CBS-TV correspondent.

These names are part of the six dozen that comprise the 'Celebrities for Reagan-Bush '84' list put out by Republican campaign headquarters in Washington.

In Mondale's corner, things are hardly this formal.

'We don't have a LIST,' sniffs Scott Widmeyer, Mondale's deputy press secretary. 'The president began in the television and movie business -- of course he has a list. Mr. Mondale's background has been 30 years of public service.

There is, however, an unofficial roster of dazzling Democrats, says Widmeyer -- 'a scattering of people who help with fund-raising or have expressed their support' -- like Paul Newman, Joanne Woodward, Norman Lear, Margot Kidder, Robin Williams, Eddie Murphy, Lily Tomlin, Barbra Streisand, Ed Asner and Lauren Bacall.

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Joining them are Jane Fonda, Bonnie Franklin, Hal Linden, Neil Diamond, Jack Lemmon, Sally Field, Bruce Springsteen, Christie Brinkley, Billy Joel and Goldie Hawn.

Warren Beatty is still thick with Gary Hart, but has also given the nod to Mondale and Ferraro. During the mid-'70s Beatty was deemed such a political kingmaker that presidential contender Sen. Henry Jackson openly courted his endorsement for the movie colony vote.

Many of these big names were in a crowd of 900 who attended the recent $1,000-a-head Mondale-Ferraro bash at the Beverly Hilton. Other stars who came out that night were Morgan Fairchild, Jean Stapleton, Randy Newman, James Coburn, Linda Evans and John Forsythe.

Hal 'Barney Miller' Linden has a personal theory on how Hollywood breaks down politically.

'Interestingly enough, I find that the better the actor, the more liberal he is,' he assesses. 'The actor who can assume many different identities has the ability to appreciate many different points of view and to assume another person's experience. Whereas the actor who is a personality and singular and constantly plays the same character seems to demonstrate an inability to walk in another person's shoes.

'There are exceptions,' Linden quickly adds, after the Reagan-Bush list is read to him. 'Charlton Heston happens to be a very good actor.' ---

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Just because Americans love Linden on the tube or can't get enough of Heston on the screen, does that mean they'll follow their heroes to the polls?

'An actor or a public figure cannot deliver votes,' is the word from Buddy Ebsen of TV's 'Beverly Hillbillies', 'Barnaby Jones' and 'Matt Houston'. 'I have too much respect for the voters of the country to think they'd vote how I suggest they voted.' Ebsen has been behind President Reagan since 1966.

'A celebrity endorsement doesn't bring votes with it, but there certainly is an attraction,' says Mondale spokesman Widmeyer. 'It made a difference with Gary Hart in the California primary. A lot of those celebrities (now) for Mondale were on board at the time with Senator Hart. These people carry a lot of clout.'

Even with a stellar following in Los Angeles, Mondale still doesn't have a prayer in Reagan's home state, scoff the Republicans.

'I don't think a campaign is won or lost on the Hollywood battleground,' says Tucker Eskew, a spokesman for Reagan-Bush campaign headquarters. 'Walter Mondale's chances in California are not going to be raised one whit by that glittery, liberal, elite-studded affair he held out in Hollywood.

'The people of California are going to vote to re-elect Ronald Reagan regardless of what Jane Fonda or Warren Beatty say. Walter Mondale is just their newest liberal cause.'

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How about the 'elite-studded' affairs that have greeted Reagan on every stopover of his campaign, like the hoedown during the Republican convention tossed by Bunker Hunt on his Texas ranch? Pat Boone was emcee and Bob Hope performed.

'A lot of these people have been associated with the president since his days in California,' explains Eskew. 'Having the stars is an attention-getting move on our part but that's what politics is all about - if we can get the public's attention, then we can drive home our message.'

Blackening the fantasy-scape of show business with the grit of personal politics has put some actors on a blacklist, they claim. Asner, who 'automatically questions the humanity of someone who is a Reagan supporter' says, 'I don't work a lot'.

Insiders point to Asner's lashing out against U.S. policy in Central America as the prime reason his 'Lou Grant' TV series was cut.

'You'll never get a straight answer from anyone on that,' says Linden, who has been criss-crossing the country on behalf of Mondale. 'But remember, TV deals with advertising agencies -- shows need those sponsors.'

It doesn't seem to have harmed her mega-million-dollar status one cent, but anti-war activitist Jane Fonda is also considered too hot to handle by many film people.

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Vanessa Redgrave is currently battling in the courts, claiming the Boston Symphony Orchestra canceled her scheduled 1982 appearance due to her pro-Palestine Liberation Organization views, a move she says damaged her career.

'Paying a price for being a Democrat happens in slight, insidious ways,' says Asner. 'It would be on the grounds of individual producers not using you, but not on a mass industry scale,' such as was the case during the McCarthy era.

'The Republicans can be open about what they're believing because Republican money is usually fostered in the Republican camp and they are generally in the managerial positions,' continues Asner. 'So whenever there was an organized blacklist it did not come from the Republicans.'

Liberals aren't the only faction getting doors slammed in their faces, according to Boone, a rock-solid Reaganite. Having views to the right of most of Hollywood 'makes a lot of people in the industry feel uncomfortable around me,' he says.

'There have been variety shows and dramatic shows where somebody, a friend, wanted me on the show and then the producer, or a network executive said: 'Oh no. He's either associated with right wing-causes or he's too conservative or he's too preachy',' recalls Boone.

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Boone headed up the anti-pornography campaign in California -- 'can you imagine how popular that was?' -- is strongly anti-abortion and pro-prayer in the schools. His 'frame of reference is the Bible.'

He 'even went so far' as to host a Hollywood function for Jerry Falwell and the Moral Majority, sending 150 invitations to members of the film business. 'It wound up that six came,' Boone says with a wry laugh.

'But since I have a direct connection with the public, I've been able to ride over the resistance to me in some quarters,' he adds. 'I've stayed busy with concerts and out of the blue there will be a major event and I'll be asked to host it.'

Fellow bedrock conservative Ebsen doesn't believe his politics have cost him friends or jobs.

'I'm happy to say my continuity for employment has been uninterrupted for the last 24 years,' reports the actor, who puts his age at '105.'

'At the time I did the 'Hillbillies,' Paul Henning, producer and creator of the show, and his wife were enthusiastic liberal Democrats. Some of my dearest friends are liberal Democrats.'

That includes Nancy Culp, 'Miss Hathaway' on the series, who ran as a Democrat for Congress in Pennsylvania. Ebsen sent a campaign donation to her opponent.

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