Maureen Dowd: Will Tinseltown fund another Clinton sequel?

Hillary may get cash, but she’ll get little enthusiasm from jaded Hollywood insiders

Is Hollywood really ready to give a 67-year-old woman a leading role in a big-budget production?

Hillary Clinton's campaign has echoes of various classic movies: Single White Female, with Hillary creepily co-opting the identity of the more trendy Elizabeth Warren; My Fair Lady, with Hillary sitting meekly and being schooled on how to behave by tyrannical Pygmalions (Iowa voters); The Usual Suspects, with Hillary's hoodlums, Sidney Blumenthal and David Brock, vying to be Keyser Soze; and, of course, How to Steal a Million, a caper about a heist plotted by a couple that doesn't need the money.

From a narrative point of view, Hollywood is more intrigued with the scenario of their old raffish southern favourite, Bill Clinton, as the first first lad than the earnest midwestern Hillary as the first female president of the United States. On television, after all, women presidents are old hat.

I recently interviewed several dozen Hollywood players, mostly on background because of fears about the famed Clinton vindictive streak. They aren't over the moon about Barack Obama any more, and even feel burned. He was like a razzle-dazzle trailer that turned out to be a disappointing movie with mediocre box office.


You hear plenty of complaints about the president’s mingy care and feeding of donors. “It’s not unheard-of to think that liking people is part of the job,” one political consultant to the stars said tartly.

Hollywood is mostly united behind Hillary, with a few Bernie outliers and Elizabeth dreamers. But it’s a forced march. “There’s this feeling like, ‘Oh, damn! Now we’re all going to have to show up to Jeffrey’s event’,” said one studio big shot.

Drinking wine at his glamorous house, an Obama bundler who is trying to work up some Hillary enthusiasm, agreed: “‘Jeffrey Katzenberg is calling’ is a call that you avoid in a way that you couldn’t before.”

Latching on

Because the Clintons have been in politics for decades, there is a throng at the teat, making donors, bundlers and retainers fret that the rewards and appointments will be spread thin. “Hollywood needs perpetual attention from its presidents, from filming bar mitzvah congratulations to stays in the Lincoln Bedroom,” said one Obama associate in Hollywood.

The sheer size of the Clinton universe has caused, as a political consultant to bold-faced names says, “a palpable lack of energy amongst the people who have been insiders for years”. Not to mention a huge management challenge. “Money in this town is value driven, ego driven,” one major fundraiser said. “It’s not about tracking legislation as it affects our own interests.”

Hollywood helped create Clinton Inc, finding an early pop-culture affinity with the young governor of Arkansas and jumping in to be his ATM. The symbiotic attraction between the two capitals of illusion peaked – and even got a little overripe – during Bill’s reign, when he acted like a Hollywood groupie, hanging with the moguls and stars under the palms into the wee hours. Even some in Hollywood thought it unseemly when he began flying around with high-fliers Ron Burkle and Steve Bing.

Bill and Hillary were stunned and furious when David Geffen, Steven Spielberg and Katzenberg held a fundraising reception at the Beverly Hilton and a dinner at Geffen's home for Obama – a knife in the heart of Clinton Inc. Now Hollywood must kiss the ring to fund the restoration and counteract conservative dark money, ponying up a chunk of the billion-plus Hillary plans to spend on her campaign.

Katzenberg made his peace with Hillary and is helping spearhead her “super PAC”. Geffen, who has not talked to the Clintons, gave her primary campaign the maximum of $2,700. Bill Maher, who sent Obama’s super PAC a cheque for a million (and never got a thank-you note) says he will vote for her but won’t fork over another mill.

Haim Saban, the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers billionaire who describes himself as "a former cartoon schlepper", never deserted Hillary and this month hosted a $1.9 million fundraiser for her at his Beverly Hills mansion.

Recalling the bitter 2008 civil war as we nibbled biscotti in his LA office, he waved off those who yearn for fresh and new. “When I go to buy potatoes and tomatoes, I look for fresh and new,” he said. “We’re talking about electing the leader of the free world.”

But his childlike excitement is less common than the jaded attitude of a Hillary supporter who sighed: “Nobody wants to go to a fundraiser and get another picture with her. But we have to figure out how to get her there,” for the sake of their issues.

The joke circulates in Hollywood that Hillary is like Coca-Cola’s Dasani water: She’s got a great distribution system, but nobody likes the taste. Fortunately for her, there’s no difference between an enthusiastic cheque for $250,000 and an unenthusiastic cheque.

The prevailing mood in this faltering Dream Factory is cynical. Some worry about the drip-drip of revelations about the Clintons.

“It’s like that Dorothy Parker line, ‘What fresh hell is this?’” said one top Hollywood Democrat. Said another: “It sits badly when something drops and it’s, here they go again, thinking they can write their own rules, be cute by half.”

Some still worry, as Geffen did in 2008, that Bill’s shenanigans will get Hillary into trouble. Sipping vodka at the Chateau Marmont, Bill Maher said he was not concerned, noting: “Who could have less to do with Bill Clinton’s sex life than Hillary?”

– (New York Times)