WASHINGTON – Fearless celebrities — the unexpected guests, fresh out their natural habitats and plunged into the epicenter of the political universe, which at least this week is the Democratic National Convention (search) — were easy to spot in Boston.
All anyone had to do is follow the blasting camera lights and the audio booms extending over jumpy, gawking crowds. Chances were that one would find a celebrity in the center of the morass near the banks of the Charles River.
Sometimes, the scene would be fluid, like one amorphous life form –- the celebrity being the nucleus, of course — gliding down a hallway or sidewalk.
But just because the celebrity unit was easy to glimpse, the famous haven't always been easy to trap. The elusive prey was usually trying to distance itself from the throng, busily heading off to one of dozens of VIP events for which they are uniquely credentialed to attend.
But why were these celebrities — these Ben Afflecks, Spike Lees, Sarah Jessica Parkers and Matthew Brodericks, not to mention less familiar faces, like musician Boyd Tinsley and comedians Fred Willard and Harry Shearer — here?
While they were clearly not pols or delegates with funny hats or even part of the 15,000-strong media force at the convention, most said they were here to make a statement, though it was sometimes difficult to discern the details of it.
On the other hand, some celebrities were on a mission. Actor Billy Baldwin, one of the famous faces behind the Creative Coalition (search), said the Democratic convention was an opportunity to bring attention to First Amendment rights, funding for the arts and what he called "runaway production" or the outsourcing of manufacturing jobs.
"I am here also in support of the Democratic Party and the Kerry campaign because I think what is going on with the war in Iraq and the War on Terror is important," Baldwin told FOXNews.com. "I don’t think we handled it very well, I think we've made a lot of mistakes."
Baldwin was babysitting a boxful of Creative Coalition t-shirts by radio "Talk Show Row" on the street level of the FleetCenter (search), one of the best places for a celebrity sighting. Guest bookers, after all, found that no matter what level of political expertise a celebrity has, he or she was always a hot commodity. Talk Show Row was also a magnet for Hollywood types because two of their own, "Air America" founder and comedian Al Franken and commentator and comedienne Janeane Garofalo, broadcast from this location.
As a herd of popping flashbulbs and microphones strolls by with controversial filmmaker Michael Moore apparently at the center, Baldwin interrupted an interview with a BBC reporter to reach for a t-shirt to hand to the director of "Fahrenheit 9/11 (search)."
Moore was another celeb who appears to have broken with the mold during the convention. Unlike Spike Lee, who was clearly running away from reporters Wednesday night to duck into a restricted party, Moore yielded to media requests, even one from FOXNews.com.
Asked what he was getting out of his travels around the FleetCenter this week, Moore said he had witnessed an absolute sense of unity.
"One thing is very clear here –- everyone is on the same mission, everyone from conservative Democrats all the way over to the Greens and the far left, and that mission is to remove George Bush from office," he said.
Jerry Springer (search), king of the ambush television talk show, is a former Cincinnati mayor and currently a Ohio delegate. Despite the flurry of college-age fans around him all week, he has been giving some substantive interviews about his interest in running for governor of Ohio.
"I am looking very seriously at running for governor -- that's no secret," Springer told FOXNews.com early in the week. He talked about the loss of manufacturing jobs in Ohio and the need to create incentives for new industries with better paying jobs to come and stay in his home state.
And though he is willing to shut down the Jerry Springer Show for a year and a half should he choose to run, he believes his appeal to a mostly younger audience will only help his electoral chances and the political landscape.
"I can bring in new voters, that's the basis for my running," he said.
Boston son and movie star Ben Affleck, who was hardly a surprise sighting considering the amount of ink he got on his arrival, his party-hopping and even the body language employed during a hug with one of Kerry's daughter's Wednesday night, has been "on point" all week too.
His message, however, was apparently taken straight from the Kerry-Edwards presidential campaign Web site and while he appeared perhaps less than convinced during an interview with Bill O'Reilly earlier in the week, he was a regular at Democratic National Committee-sponsored events.
Other unexpected guests appear to be just that -- guests. Squired around by one special interest group or another, these celebrities make parties shine and bring a level of excitement to the room that dour wonks -- although perhaps more influential and agile on the issues -- could never bring.
Take Sarah Jessica Parker for instance – she arrived at FleetCenter and the entrance hallway transformed into a red carpet paparazzi cliché – complete with flash bulbs popping, fans shouting questions, lights and cameras rolling. She smiled excitedly while her husband, actor Matthew Broderick, looked slightly less amused. Beaming young would-be political wonks followed the sparkling couple up the escalator.
Rapper and entrepreneur Sean "P. Diddy" Combs took some questions from celebrity hunters on Thursday, but his answers did not suggest a committed political persuasion.