A group of A-list Hollywood stars met last night to discuss ways to protest the war in Iraq. The meeting took place at a private home in the posh Hollywood Hills only an hour or so after President Bush took to the airwaves to announce the commencement of the military conflict.
The group -- called Artists United to Win Without War -- has already gained notoriety on the East Coast with members Susan Sarandon, Ethan Hawke and Jessica Lange speaking out.
Last night's group featured Rob Reiner, two-time Oscar winner Sally Field, Blythe Danner, Christine Lahti and husband Thomas Schlamme (director of The West Wing), MASH star Mike Farrell, Dharma & Greg's Mimi Kennedy, Bradley Whitford (of The West Wing) and wife Jane Kaczmarek (Malcolm in the Middle), writer/director Audrey Wells, producer Robert Greenwald, actress Fionnula Flanagan, TV stars Lindsay Wagner, Daniel Benzali, Sharon Lawrence, David Clennon and rising star Troy Garity, the son of Jane Fonda and Tom Hayden.
It was announced at the event that the Barbra Streisand Foundation was donating $5,000 to keep the group going.
The evening's featured speaker was Major Scott Ritter, a former UN weapons inspector and former Marine who says he voted for George W. Bush in the last election. Ritter now describes himself as an intelligence officer.
His message, which was delivered to the crowd with an orator's passion, was that "there is a war at home against the Constitution. Those in power have successfully exploited fear and ignorance. This is the beginning of a never-ending series of wars from the Bush Administration."
But Ritter stressed he was completely backing American troops in the Middle East.
"I wish them rapid victory. We are not against the troops who are willing to die for you. But passive citizenship is not citizenship. The key to victory is the election in November 2004."
In fact, the theme of the many speeches at the event was support for American troops but criticism of President Bush.
The other theme of the night was the right of celebrities to use their fame as a forum to speak out against the war. This poses a problem for some who believe anti-war celebrities run the risk of being blacklisted. Yesterday, a newspaper article listed the names of actors who had spoken out against the war and suggested a boycott of their work.
"That's more un-American than anything we're doing here," Rob Reiner said to me. "We've certainly seen blacklisting before. I don't think anyone would be so stupid to do it again."
Lahti, who has won an Oscar, an Emmy and two Golden Globes, said she hadn't thought about it at all. "It's not something I'm worried about," she told me.
Ritter reminded the crowd: "America is about dissent. Remember what it means to be American. We have been lied to."
There was much talk about recent attacks on celebrities who had been critical of the Bush presidency, including the Dixie Chicks. The popular country trio now finds their CDs being destroyed by angry fans over comments they made in England against Bush.
The Artists United group is planning a number of organized protests over the weekend in Los Angeles.
Way across Los Angeles, Womens Wear Daily hosted its annual pre-Oscar party. The venue was a magnificent Spanish-style mansion owned by Keanu Reeves' mother. The house is famous for having been built by Cecil B. DeMille for his daughter so he wouldn't have to see her so often. (He lived around the corner.)
Reeves told me was definitely not going to play Superman in the upcoming film. "There's a curse!" he said, alluding to the suicide of George Reeves and the terrible accident suffered by Christopher Reeve.
Aside from casting, which is at a standstill, the project faces other challenges. Director Brett Ratner's option to direct Superman has run out. The word around town is that Warner Bros. once again wants the cutting edge director known only as McG, of Charlie's Angels fame, to come back to the project.
Meanwhile, Six Feet Under star Rachel Griffiths, rap impresario Damon Dash, the gorgeous Peggy Lipton, hot young actress Zoey Deschanel, Antwone Fisher star Joy Bryant, and producer/musician Donovan Leitch were among the well-known faces who made the WWD scene.
Hard to ignore was 20-ish heiress Paris Hilton, who seemed unaware that a war had commenced only a short time earlier. She sported $10,000 in diamonds which ornamented a skimpy dress and a large headdress.
My dear friend -- and really, the friend of many in the business -- Lois Smith got a surprise yesterday. Nominated for a Publicists Guild lifetime award, Smith won. She knew a second in advance though since her longtime client Martin Scorsese made a cameo appearance to introduce the award.
Lois, whose career dates back more than 40 years, is the Earth Mother of all publicists. She is also the real mother of actress Brooke Smith, who just had a baby. Lois's loyal clients include Robert Redford, Michelle Pfeiffer, Cher, Scorsese and Meryl Streep. Everyone loves her, but more importantly, they respect her.
In her acceptance speech, Lois -- a partner in powerhouse firm PMK HBH -- said she was receiving the award for all the New Yorkers in the room. She is a class act.
The Publicists also gave an award for best campaign to the Sony publicists who worked on Spider-Man.
But this is California, and some things can not be omitted. During the cocktail hour, a 32-year- old man approached veteran CBS TV employee Charles Cappleman, who was showing off some classic TV cameras. The younger man asked the veteran when television first came into existence. "1948," replied Cappleman but his answer was met with incredulity.
"Really? Television is only 50 years old? Are you kidding?"
Cappleman wasn't and neither am I. You can't make this stuff up.