The cocktail party was organized to honor the work of Robert F. Kennedy (search), but the man everyone wanted to talk to was Alec Baldwin (search).

The actor was swarmed at a fund-raiser Monday evening for the RFK Memorial Foundation, with fans and stargazers — many of them members of the Kennedy clan — jockeying to have their picture taken with him. He was practically pressed up against the glass windows of a club 36 floors up.

The star of films including "Glengarry Glen Ross" and "The Cooler" greeted his admirers graciously, but seemed more interested in discussing the presidential election.

"I never saw a clearer choice in my life," Baldwin said, describing the Bush administration as being "good at only two things: the economy — and by that I mean stimulating the Dow, stimulating corporate profits and the Dow — and waging war. And they basically screwed up both of them, or they're in the process of screwing up both of them."

The 46-year-old actor took time out from vacationing with his 8-year-old daughter, Ireland, from his marriage to Kim Basinger, to participate in several events during the Democratic National Convention. They included a panel about the Supreme Court and a discussion on politics and the arts.

"My daughter and I are going to just travel around. My nieces live here, we're going to see the town," Baldwin said. "With my daughter, I could do anything and I have fun."

Maria Shriver (search) is back at the Democratic convention, but this time she's not here as a journalist.

The longtime television reporter gave up her job as a correspondent for NBC's "Dateline" in January to avoid conflicts of interest when her Republican husband, Arnold Schwarzenegger, became California's governor.

"It's the first convention I haven't covered in, like, four conventions, so it's bittersweet that way," she said. "I'm a big believer that you take what life gives you and you move on and you make the best if it."

Shriver has taken part in some events during the convention, though.

Besides Monday night's fund-raiser, she attended the dedication of the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway, named for the matriarch of the Kennedy clan who was Shriver's grandmother. She exuded California chic in a pink sleeveless dress and spiked heels.

She brought along her four kids. Her husband remains mired in a budget battle with the California state legislature.

Shriver will also be on hand at the Republican National Convention in New York month, where Schwarzenegger is a featured speaker.

Christine Baranski is singing at a tribute to Teresa Heinz Kerry on Tuesday, but warmed up by singing her praises Monday night.

Baranski, who made an appearance at the RFK Memorial Foundation party, said she reworked the words to Peggy Lee's sassy classic "I'm a Woman" with John Kerry's wife in mind.

"She's a great lady to write lyrics for because she's so interesting, she's so multifaceted," said the actress, who co-starred in the sitcom "Cybill" and has appeared in movies including "Chicago" and "Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas."

"I like that she's direct, that she's earthy, that she's very intelligent but she's soft-spoken," Baranski said. "She values her femininity."

With his shaggy blond hair and spider-web tattoos that coursed down his arms, Everclear lead singer Art Alexakis stood out at the 1996 Republican National Convention in San Diego as he interviewed delegates as a reporter for MTV.

Alexakis has since traded his shag for a spikier hairdo, but he remains a political convention standout — this time as a Democratic delegate from Oregon.

While business suits were the choice for most delegates at the Democratic convention, Alexakis showed up for Monday's state delegation meeting in jeans and a cowboy-cut, short-sleeved shirt that exposed his many tattoos.

His MTV duties long behind him, Alexakis now is being trailed by a camera crew for VH1, and has bookings with network reporters intrigued by his efforts to whet an appetite for politics among young people.

"When they saw that I can articulate more than the average rock 'n' roller guy, they wanted me to speak at political events," said the 42-year-old Portland rocker, whose band rose to national fame in the mid-1990s.

His politics are less radical than his appearance, he says.

"I'm tattooed, but I'm pretty middle class," he said. My idea of a good time is sitting at home with my family eating popcorn and watching a movie."

Robert Gant's character on "Queer as Folk" recently married his partner in Canada, only to cross back into the United States and find that the marriage wouldn't be recognized legally.

In real life, Gant says he'd like to walk down the aisle, too — he just hasn't found the right guy.

"I would love to get married!" the actor said with a smile during Monday evening's fund-raiser for the RFK Memorial Foundation. "For mom's sake, it might be a big, fancy thing. I always wanted the formal kind of sha-bang. Maybe it would be at a bed and breakfast or an inn."

Gant says he doesn't just want a boyfriend anymore: "I'm more interested in having a partner. But unfortunately, unlike on television, it's something you can't just script."

The actor, who plays Professor Ben Bruckner on the Showtime series, is being honored with other cast members Tuesday night by the National Stonewall Democrats, a gay political group. One of the event's hosts is Rep. Barney Frank, D.-Mass., who also is gay.

Most of those in the audience were too young to vote, but just the right age to dash toward the stage and scream their heads off for hip-hop stars including Wyclef Jean (search), Reverend Run (search) and Lloyd Banks (search).

About 2,000 people — most of them kids — attended the Boston Hip-Hop Summit on Monday, one of about two dozen voter registration events hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons has staged across the country.

"God knows all the old people are across town talking about our lives and our politics," Simmons, chairman of the Hip-Hop Summit Action Network (search), said on the first day of the Democratic National Convention.

The co-founder of the Def Jam record label, who's also behind the Phat Farm fashion line, said "old people" don't respect the audience's language, music and clothing — and at 46, he didn't include himself in that category.

"They need our direction. They really don't know how to govern themselves," Simmons said. "They've gotten all of us into a lot of trouble."

Sharing the stage with him on a panel about motivating young people was Simmons' brother, Reverend Run of the rap group Run-DMC. He had two pieces of advice for the crowd.

"No. 1 is believe in God," he said. "No. 2 is find out what you want to be and what you want to do and what you want to have. People start a process and then they give up. The key to success is continuing on."

And Jean, formerly of the Grammy-winning group The Fugees, had this bit of encouragement for the crowd: "I used to work at Burger King and the supervisor said I wouldn't amount to be nothing."

Lloyd Banks isn't thrilled about having his music labeled "gangsta rap." He says he's just trying to tell the truth in order to help other young men, like the ones who attended Monday's Boston Hip-Hop Summit.

"My message comes across aggressive because of where I come from," said Banks, whose solo debut, "The Hunger for More," was recently at No. 1 on the Billboard album chart. "I put my message out there without it being censored in hopes that someone growing up in another neighborhood won't go through that."

The 22-year-old, who grew up in the violent Jamaica section of Queens in New York, received the loudest cheers during the event.

Massachusetts delegates downing cups of coffee and scrambled eggs Monday morning were expecting a rousing political speech from House Democratic firebrand Rep. Charles Rangel of New York, and maybe a Kennedy sighting or two.

What they got was Ben Affleck.

Stunned delegates grabbed their cameras and rushed to the front of the room when the actor and Bostonian stepped out from behind the curtains as a guest of Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass.

Already a common sight at the convention — he'd attended the Red Sox game Sunday night and has several appearances planned throughout the week — the star of "Pearl Harbor" and "The Sum of all Fears" launched into a stump speech for Democrat John Kerry.

"I saved more than a million dollars in taxes last year, but we lost 3 million jobs," because of the Bush tax cuts, Affleck said.

The 31-year-old actor later referred to his younger, wilder days in Cambridge, observing, "I'm glad I wasn't running around getting into trouble when John Kerry was the prosecutor."

John Cusack could have said anything, but the topic was politics when he talked to the Wisconsin delegates to the Democratic National Convention.

The actor made a surprise visit to their breakfast Monday to motivate his neighbors to the north to help elect John Kerry.

"I thought the last election was the most important of my life, but now it's clearly this one," the 38-year-old said. "And I don't remember a time when I thought I'd be coming to a political rally and be saying, you know, Richard Nixon was a moderate."

Cusack bonded with the Wisconsin delegates by reminding them his sister, Oscar-nominated actress Joan Cusack ("Working Girl," "In & Out"), attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

"I spent a lot of time at The Plaza," he said, drawing cheers with the mention of the popular campus bar.

Cusack, whose films include "Say Anything" and "High Fidelity," suggested a return trip might be in store during the campaign: "I'm just here to honor you guys and try to fire you up and hopefully we're going to come out to Wisconsin and help you guys do your jobs."

Meet the Democratic Party's secret weapon in Idaho: Carole King.

The singer spoke to Washington and Idaho Democratic National Convention delegates Monday about how to persuade rural Republicans to vote for John Kerry.

It's not as hard as making the earth move or the sky come tumbling down, in the words of one of her more famous songs, she told the Democrats.

"Be aware of the unrest among some Republicans," said King, who lives in rural Idaho.

"I say, 'I respect the fact that you identify with the Republican party,"' she explained. "Then I say, 'Are you happy with the way things are?' "

Some people say they're perfectly happy, and that usually ends the conversation, King said. But others aren't. That's when she makes her move.

King said she tells people, "You don't have to leave your party, but consider voting for a change. ... If you think it through, I respect that you will make the right decision for you."

King has been active in environmental causes since retiring to Idaho. She helped the convention get off to a star-studded start as one of several celebrities visiting the state delegations' morning breakfasts. James Cromwell, who played the farmer in the movie "Babe," stopped by Washington's breakfast with Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich, but the actor let Kucinich do the talking.