Reporter's Notebook: Muffins & Peas

Day Three of the Democratic National Convention (search) gave reporters a chance to get into the thick of things and mix it up with some A-list celebs while still resisting efforts by some to bait the staff into a debate on FOX News' objectivity.

While Kelley Vlahos faced the harshest rebuke earlier in the week for taking employment with the fair and balanced network, she said Wednesday she faced little or no hostility.

That was a reversal from this reporter, whose first conversation of the day began in the elevator of the hotel with a delegate asking whether she was a member of the Republican Party. After a few minutes of explaining what the Web site reports, the delegate lost interest and even later said, "I'm just kidding" about trying to rile things up.

That's Entertainment

But all was forgotten after arriving at the FleetCenter, where a few minutes break, taken on the floor of the convention hall, permitted a viewing of several celebs, including rehearsals by Brian McKnight (search), who did an incredible jazzed up version of the national anthem.

Another group getting some rehearsal time in was the Black Eyed Peas (search), who provided the finale Wednesday night with a rendition of their hit "Let's Get It Started." In actuality, the song on the CD is "Let's Get Retarded," but the former version is really quite a bit more user friendly at the convention.

The funniest moment of the afternoon, however, was when Rob Corddry (search) of Comedy Central's "The Daily Show With John Stewart" yelled to the band to comment on several issues. The first was whether tort reform legislation would live or die in subcommittee. The last was whether the convention Thursday night would, in fact, actually "get it started."

Even with all the attention on the singers, the cameras on the floor of the convention space were nearly piled on top of one another in an effort to get a glimpse of former reality show contestant Omarosa Manigault-Stallworth (search). Omarosa, as she is more casually known, kept the cameras at attention for at least 45 minutes and even after she walked from the FleetCenter out onto the sidewalk, she still had a few fellows keeping court for several more minutes.

Kelley also had several celebrity sightings on Wednesday, and even had a conversation with actor and Creative Coalition founder Billy Baldwin as well as filmmaker Michael Moore.

Bizarrely enough, Kelley caught Moore unadorned by fans and sitting calmly on a chair, waiting for an elevator. Handlers stood several feet away as gawkers apparently decided whether or not to try to accost him with autograph requests.

Moore politely acquiesced to a few questions from Kelley, who asked how the Democratic establishment had embraced him so far.

"I don't run into anybody from the Democratic establishment — where are they? They probably see me coming and they say, 'There he is, run!'" he responded.

Kelley noted that the celebrity quotient keeps going up as the countdown to Kerry's acceptance speech draws near. During Wednesday nights activities in the stadium, a seemingly empty hallway would in a moment's notice fill up with a pulsating throng of handlers and gapers, accompanied by flashbulbs and camera lights. In no time, Kelley saw violinist Boyd Tinsley of the Dave Matthews Band and filmmaker Spike Lee darting away from the press to duck into a VIP event.

While she didn't get a chance to speak with the couple, she did see up close married actors Matthew Broderick and Sarah Jessica Parker, who Kelley described as tiny with near translucent, sparkly blue eyes.

Celebs Nothing, Bring on the Politics

While some of the reporters were star-gazing, Liza Porteus was actually rubbing elbows, or at least getting a look at Washington political stars, who by virtue of the business the staff is in, are generally not nearly as exciting to the crew as the Hollywood set.

Still, Liza said that John Kerry's arrival by boat on the Boston Harbor originated right under her hotel room. Working the late shift meant Liza was just emerging from the shower around noon Wednesday when she "noticed a lot of boats around," including some belonging to the Coast Guard.

"I'm watching the news and see John Kerry on a boat with his war buddies getting ready to go to Charleston (Navy Yard) before making his way to the FleetCenter, and I realized that view on the television is the same as out my window. Sure enough, I look down and see Kerry himself holding up a red life vest — his boat was in the harbor right in front of the hotel. I'm sure I gave the snipers on the boats a good view as I stood awestruck in my towel."

Liza also got to learn the inner workings of Washington budget management. Standing in line for a Dunkin' Donuts coffee inside the FleetCenter ("everyone knows they have the best coffee, after all"), Liza was behind Sen. Ron Wyden (search) of Oregon. As he approached the front of the line, he asked the cashier if credit cards were accepted. The cashier said no, which led to Wyden then buying a bran muffin and asking for a receipt.

"Nothing like charging a bran muffin to American taxpayers," she said.

Liza was apparently a star in the eyes of one Boston police officer. While standing outside FleetCenter enjoying her cup of coffee, a cop that Liza estimated to be about "60-something" stopped her to say he hoped a lot of people were taking her picture. Flush from the warm coffee and the compliment, Liza blushed but said little in the form of a response.

Really, Everybody Is a Star

Peter Brownfeld learned that even the average convention-goer can be a star in the eyes of someone else.

During his visit to the Ethnic Americans Caucus at the Sheraton Boston Hotel on Wednesday, Peter saw a variety of ethnic groups, from Italians and Irish to Poles and Arabs, distributing pro-Kerry material. While the "Italian-Americans for Kerry" stickers were flying off the shelf, some of the smaller ethnic groups had surplus stickers.

"When a delegate from Texas reached for a 'Hungarian Americans for Kerry' sticker, one of the caucus organizers, happy that more ethnicities were being represented, inquired whether he was of Hungarian descent," Peter relayed. "The Texan replied, 'No, but my buddies back home will get a kick out of this when they see it on my pickup truck!'"

On a more serious note, a woman in a wheelchair attending the Disabled Caucus at the same hotel had no kind words for the establishment when she realized the restroom outside of the Independence ballroom was not accessible to people with disabilities.

"The disability caucus is at a non-accessible hotel! The Sheraton is a non-accessible hotel! Anybody think that is funny?!" she shouted. The woman was whisked away, most likely to an accessible restroom, within minutes. A Sheraton official later said that the hotel did indeed have disabled-accessible restrooms for its guests.

Irene Is a Jackass

Irene, the donkey, is the official national mascot for the Democratic Party, according to owner Dr. Willie Kirk of Little Texas, Ala. Kirk told Kelley that Irene has been to the convention before and has traveled tens of thousands of miles on the campaign trail on behalf of Alabama Democrats. Wherever she goes, she is treated like a celebrity, Kirk said. She even stayed in the famed Mayflower Hotel in Washington, D.C. when she marched in President Bill Clinton's second inaugural parade in 1997.

"She's looking forward to leading the inaugural parade this time, too," he said.