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The GOP's Star-Spangled Party Plans

By Richard Leiby
Wednesday, August 18, 2004; Page C03

When worlds collide: Though a culture war flares regularly between the showbiz community and the Bush administration, GOP operatives are striving mightily to add a Hollywood sheen to the Republican National Convention. Yesterday a convention planner proudly informed us that those swingin' twins Jenna and Barbara Bush will host "R: The Party" Aug. 29 at Manhattan's Roseland Ballroom, with a celeb invite list including (drumroll, please): born-again Christian and actor Stephen Baldwin, known among Republicans as "the good Baldwin"; actress Barret Swatek of "7th Heaven"; Angie Harmon, late of "Law and Order," and her husband, former NFL cornerback Jason Sehorn;Aaron Buerge of "The Bachelor"; country music vets the Gatlin Brothers; the ever-lovely Bo Derek; and our favorite pro wrassler of all time, Ric Flair.

But where's the A-list, the Ben Afflecks and P. Diddys? we asked. Our source, who asked not to be identified, rejoined: "After a couple of minutes at Roseland Ballroom, you'll be asking yourself, 'Who's P. Diddy?' "

Angie Harmon and husband Jason Sehorn are on the invite list. (Suzanne Plunkett - AP)

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And, it turns out, both Mr. Diddy and Andre 3000 of OutKast (who were all over Boston with the Dems) have applied for credentials to shoot documentaries and TV specials from the convention. Their applications are "in process," the official revealed.

Meanwhile, the nonpartisan Creative Coalition gathered its forces in Washington on Monday night at the Left Bank restaurant to discuss its Bush confab strategery. Guests included actors Tim Blake Nelson and Jeffrey Wright, in town shooting the thriller "Syriana." The nonprofit group, which promotes public funding for the arts and the First Amendment, hosts a gala in New York on Aug. 31, headlined by the Max Weinberg 7. "It's the real rock-and-roll event of the week," said coalition exec Robin Bronk. Maybe -- but if John Kerry backer Bruce Springsteen joined Weinberg, his drummer, to rock out the Republicans, that would be a true culture clash.

T-Shirt Diversity? Bush Won't Cotton to It.

• The question: Which presidential campaign better tolerates dissent?

The experiment: A college professor wears a Kerry-Edwards shirt to a rally for President Bush, then a Bush for President shirt to a John Kerry rally.

Bush's security team didn't like John Prather's fashion statement. (Liz Prather)
Result: Bush people make the subject remove his shirt, then give him the boot. The Kerry people don't make a peep.

John Prather, a mild-mannered math prof at Ohio University's Eastern Campus, says he carried out this one-man study a couple of weeks ago, attending both rallies in one day. "It really was to satisfy my own curiosity," Prather, 38, told us. "It's been my opinion that George Bush has stifled dissent . . . I think John Kerry doesn't. In neither event was I a threat to anyone." Yet, he says, at the Bush rally, "I was tailed the whole time."

It turns out the Bush-Cheney campaign acts preemptively against what it regards as suspicious attendees. Spokesman Terry Holt told us yesterday: "Unfortunately, there have been a number of people who have sought to be disruptive, and unfortunately a small disruptive presence can ruin an event for the rest of the people who go to see the president and participate in the event."

Prather, who lives in Wheeling, W.Va., calls himself a "moderate Democrat" who voted for Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. He had a ticket to an afternoon Bush rally July 31 in Cambridge, Ohio. At the first ring of security, Prather says he was told to turn his Kerry shirt inside out. He did. At the second ring, he was told to remove the shirt. He did, then donned a soccer T-shirt. "I was in for 10 or 15 minutes," he recalls, when security escorted him out. It was before the president arrived. "I was so far away I couldn't have even heckled him," Prather notes.

A few hours later, he entered the Kerry rally, in Wheeling, wearing his Bush shirt. "Nobody said anything to me. I took the Bush shirt off after it was clear no one was watching me, and put on the Kerry shirt."

The professor realizes that this limited sample does not provide a sturdy conclusion, and offers an assignment: "I would encourage other people to carry out the experiment."

Civics class dismissed.


• The mother of all casting calls: Moviemakers need 1,600 extras -- "mechanics, prisoners, prison guards, farm hands, NSA types . . . FBI agents, cops . . . bouncers, tough gangster types, hoochy women, tourists . . . Capitol Hill suits, senators, Frisbee throwers," reporters, soldiers ("must be fit and have military hair") and one baby -- for the film "XXX: State of the Union." No, it's not a post- Jessica Cutler porno romp; it's a sequel to 2002's action flick, "XXX." Samuel L. Jackson, Ice Cube and Willem Dafoe will star in the new film, but not original "XXX" star Vin Diesel. Carlyn Davis Casting says shooting starts Sept. 14 in Washington and Baltimore, and hopeful extras should line up Thursday from 4 to 7 p.m. at the ESPN Zone, 555 12th St. NW in D.C. (details at www.carlyndavis.com).

Walter Cronkite, 87, has penned his final column for King Features Syndicate after a year-long run. In the column, which appears next Wednesday, Cronkite calls his decades anchoring for CBS "rewarding," but "not entirely satisfactory." Uncle Walter, who got his start as a wire service reporter 68 years ago in Austin, told Reuters he'll be working on television documentaries and giving speeches.

• Attorney General John Ashcroft and wife Janet greeted their son Ensign Andy Ashcroft at Naval Station Norfolk on Sunday, when he returned from duty in the Persian Gulf region on the destroyer USS McFaul, and helped him move into a new apartment. "I brought the pickup truck," the AG told a Norfolk TV station.

With Anne Schroeder

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