Hollywood Celebrities Keep Mum on California Recall

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For years, Arnold Schwarzenegger's movies have created more buzz in Hollywood than almost anybody else's, yet there has been a resounding silence as this industry town considers whether he can also produce a hit at the ballot box office.

Celebrities, even those who normally aren't shy about speaking out when it comes to politics, have so far kept quiet about the highest-profile movie star to enter a California governor's race since Ronald Reagan.

"That's the question everybody is asking. Where is Hollywood?" said Bob Dowling, publisher and editor in chief of The Hollywood Reporter (search), one of the industry's leading trade publications.

He and other industry observers speculate that there could be a good reason for that: Many of Hollywood's most outspoken celebrities are liberal Democrats but at the same time are friends and colleagues of the moderate Republican Schwarzenegger.

"Let's look at the facts. Arnold is a stock Republican married to a lifelong Democrat. There's built in ambivalence in his own household. How could there not be in the community where he lives and works?" said Leonard Maltin (search), film critic and host of the syndicated television show "Hot Ticket."

"Add to that he's very prominent in the industry and the community, and I guess you have all the ingredients for some confusion, some hesitation, some reluctance to go public," Maltin added.

Although a handful of celebrities have gone public, even their comments have been muted. Actor Rob Lowe, who had been involved in Democratic causes in the past, announced early on that he had signed on to Schwarzenegger's bid to replace Gov. Gray Davis if he is recalled Oct. 7. He has said little since then, however, and declined to be interviewed for this story.

Requests for comment from such usually talkative celebrities as liberal Martin Sheen and conservative Tom Selleck were also declined, as were requests to Warren Beatty, Ben Affleck and Whoopi Goldberg.

One of Hollywood's most politically active celebrities, Barbra Streisand, has given $1,000 to an effort to defeat the recall and another $1,000 to Democratic Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante's "No on Recall, Yes on Bustamante" campaign.

"Arnold is a social friend whose company and whose wife's company I enjoy. I'm a Democrat and he's a Republican," Streisand said in a statement she first sent to Newsweek and rereleased in response to an Associated Press request for comment.

There is a chance more celebrities could begin talking where it really counts — with their wallets.

As of Saturday, independent candidate Arianna Huffington had received the most celebrity and industry donations, including $21,200 from producer Lawrence Bender ("Pulp Fiction" and "Good Will Hunting"), $21,000 from "Seinfeld" co-creator Larry David and $5,000 each from actor Noah Wyle (NBC's "ER) and writer Aaron Sorkin (NBC's "The West Wing").

Producer Stephen Bing and media moguls Haim Saban and Norman Pattiz also gave $100,000 apiece to Davis' Taxpayers Against The Recall campaign, and billionaire broadcasting mogul A. Jerrold Perenchio has given $21,200 to both the Schwarzenegger and Bustamante campaigns.

Davis' anti-recall campaign recently announced it has scheduled a Sept. 18 fund-raiser at the Century Plaza Hotel that it expects will draw celebrities, although it has not said who will be attending.

Schwarzenegger's campaign is also said to be lining up celebrities for public appearances later this month, but campaign spokesman Sean Walsh has declined to say who they might be.

"I think you'll see some dribs and drabs. But I don't think you're going to see a big movement coming out of Hollywood either way," The Hollywood Reporter's Dowling said.

Part of the reason, Dowling speculated, is that many celebrities may be burned out after pouring so much effort into former Vice President Al Gore's failed 2000 presidential bid. Others, who opposed going to war with Iraq, may still be feeling chastised by the strong tide of public opinion that went against them on that issue.

Bill Maher, the comedian and political commentator, said it could also be a matter of politics hitting too close to home in this race, particularly for people who often share the same agents, publicists and managers.

"There are always six degrees of separation between any two big stars out here. It's very incestuous out here," Maher said.

Maltin agreed.

"There are a lot of business ties and social ties that have to be considered before someone in this highly visible industry is willing to make a statement," he said.