WASHINGTON – With so much in this country at stake, now is the time to forget partisan differences and reach across party lines to make a difference during the next four years, Hollywood entertainers appearing in Washington, D.C., counseled Thursday night.
"I just think this has been a wonderful last couple of days and that's important, that people really do get to make change if they don't like things ... we have winners and losers and that's what democracy is all about," actor Joe Pantoliano (search), co-director of the Creative Coalition said.
Pantoliano spoke with reporters at the organization's "The Ball After the Ball" event at the Reagan Building in downtown Washington, D.C.
But one thing the actor and director said he does hope to see during
President Bush's (search) second term in the White House is positive change in Iraq.
"I just hope that this administration makes some serious changes and that the elections at the end of the month make a difference," he said, referring to the Jan. 30 Iraqi elections.
The Creative Coalition (search) is a nonprofit, nonpartisan, social and political advocacy organization comprised of entertainment names and faces. Founded in 1989 by actor Ron Silver, the group is working to educate and mobilizes leaders in the arts community on issues such as First Amendment rights, arts advocacy and public education.
"We work from the center of the aisle and it's really important to what we do," actor, director and Creative Coalition co-director Tony Goldwyn told party guests before singer Macy Gray took the stage to perform songs of her own as well as The Beatles' "Come Together."
"This is a great platform for us to celebrate the arts and talk about things like funding for the arts, First Amendment rights; things we really care about [with] Republicans, as well as Democrats," Goldwyn said earlier in the night.
While many of the galas and balls in Washington this week heralded Bush's election victory and celebrated four more years of him in the Oval Office, the Hollywood elite, many of whom actively criticized Bush's policies, may not have seemed a likely crowd to descend upon the nation's capital for the week's events. But there they were, capturing imaginations with bright lights and red-carpeted runways.
Many of the Creative Coalition's famous party-goers acknowledged that they didn't vote for Bush on Nov. 2. But, they said, they're not sitting around licking their wounds.
"Like it or not, [Bush] is the president of the United States and you can [complain for] the next four years or you can sit back" and be active, said actor Matthew Modine, who's been featured in movies such as "Full Metal Jacket," said.
Entertainers who passed through the media line reiterated that their involvement in the coalition isn't because of political ambitions but because of a strong desire to work on issues.
"I think it's more of a neo-conservative thing to be angry and bitter ... progressives tend to be more inclusive," Hill Harper, known for his role as Dr. Sheldon Hawkes on CBS' "CSI: NY," said.
"That's what the Creative Coalition stands for ... I would like to focus on what can be done," he said.
Goldwyn, who played the dark character, Carl Bruner, in the 1990 smash-hit, "Ghost" and more recently co-starred in "The Last Samurai," added: "We purposefully don't take on issues that are specifically partisan issues. Joey [Pantoliano] and I are here to say, 'Hey, let's work together.'"
One issue of paramount importance to the coalition is keeping entertainment-related jobs in the United States and not outsourcing them to other countries where production costs may be lower. Among other things, the group is lobbying various state governments to encourage tax credits or similar incentives to ensure American television shows and movies are still predominantly made in America.
"It's not just that actors have to travel but when we got to Romania, we're not taking American workers over there, we leave a 60-some person crew behind," said Modine.
He noted that in the New York City area alone, there are about 75,000 people active in the movie and television industry.
"If those productions go away, that's a lot of people out of jobs," he said.
Jonathan Lipnicki, who became famous portraying little Ray Boyd in "Jerry Maguire," added: "A lot of people think it's the rich directors and actors that are hurt but it's not just them ... it's also people with families to support" that get hurt when production work is outsourced.
While the 14-year-old Lipnicki considers himself "nonpartisan," he said one issue in which he is particularly interested is stem-cell research; Lipnicki has testified before Congress on behalf of juvenile diabetes research.
"I feel it's very important; it really is key to lots of success with diabetes and a lot of other diseases," he said.
And it's no secret that when a celebrity speaks up for or against a certain cause, it tends to get more attention in Washington than do their pedestrian counterparts.
"Now that I've got a little bit of a profile — it only lasts five minutes anyway," Mario Van Peebles, who is currently filming "Carlito's Way: The Beginning," said. "If I can lend it to anything to mean something, I would do that," he said.