Could They Have Been Sick? Lobbyists Absent for 'Sicko'

Michael Moore with Reps. Dennis Kucinich and John Conyers on Capitol Hill, before the screening of clips from
Michael Moore with Reps. Dennis Kucinich and John Conyers on Capitol Hill, before the screening of clips from "Sicko" yesterday. (Chip Somodevilla -- Getty Images)
By Amy Argetsinger and Roxanne Roberts
Thursday, June 21, 2007

As part of yesterday's rollout for "Sicko," Michael Moore -- liberal firebrand, master of the promotional stunt -- invited 900 pharmaceutical and insurance lobbyists to a free screening of his attack on America's health-care system. Guess how many showed up?

Eleven.

It was a win-win proposition for the director of "Fahrenheit 9/11" and "Bowling for Columbine": Hundreds of lobbyists show up, jacking the film's buzz; or no one comes, leaving him to claim moral victory. "I was really hoping they'd show their faces," said Moore, who squeezed in the appearance at Union Station between a pep rally on Capitol Hill and last night's red carpet premiere. "They're probably busy doing what they do -- making lives miserable for us."

The handful of lobbyists who did show tried to bring a touch of reason to the debate. "Look, identifying problems in our health-care system is like shooting fish in a barrel," said consultant Claudia Schlosberg, who said the real issue is finding solutions. (Yeah, but who'd pay to see a movie about that?) Said John Greene of the National Association of Health Underwriters: "I want to ask Mr. Moore, 'Where's the popcorn and soda?' " (Not covered under Moore's lobbyist-care plan.)

Aside from the snack debacle, Moore -- in blue plaid shirt, jacket and sneakers -- was gracious and noncombative to his guests. "It is my sincere hope that if I raise some issues you will consider them," he said before the film started.

We would have stuck around to see what they thought of it, but the studio closed the screening to the press.

Rome Withdraws Annulment of a Kennedy's Marriage

Joe Kennedy's long-ago first marriage is back-- at least in the eyes of the Vatican, which has quietly issued a reversal of the religious annulment the former Massachusetts congressman got after his 1991 civil divorce.

Joseph P. Kennedy II and his then wife, Sheila
Joe Kennedy and his then-wife, Sheila, in 1985.(Elise Amendola - Associated Press)
The decision, first reported by Time magazine yesterday, is a victory for Kennedy's ex, Sheila Rauch, who became a crusading critic of the Catholic Church's annulment practices after their 12-year, two-child union was declared null and void, as if it never happened. Rauch, who made the appeal to Rome and wrote a 1997 book on the topic, told the magazine: "There was a real marriage. It was a marriage that failed, but . . . we need to take responsibility for that."

Monsignor Brian Ferme, dean of the School of Canon Law at Catholic University, said annulment reversals aren't as rare as you might think. What does this mean for Kennedy? That he and second wife Beth Kelly, whom he wed in a '93 civil ceremony, can't marry in the church -- though he can still appeal this latest decision.

LOVE, ETC.

· Getting married: Tony Bennett, 80, and longtime love Susan Crow, 47, sometime today in New York. It's a big week for the veteran crooner, who leaked news of his impending nuptials yesterday while in D.C. accepting an award from the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees. Waiting backstage with the couple before the ceremony at National Geographic headquarters, Geographic's executive veep Terry Adamson happened to ask what they had planned for Thursday. "Funny you should say that . . ." Bennett replied. With Bennett's permission, Adamson shared the news with the room. After getting his award, Bennett sang "If I Ruled the World."

· Engaged: Kelly Rowan, 41, to media mogul David Thomson, 50, reports People magazine. The "O.C." actress met Canada's richest man (and the 10th richest in the world) last year while working in Toronto.

HEY, ISN'T THAT . . . ?

· Maria Menounos bending down to slip off her three-inch strappy beige open-toed pumps before walking through a Rayburn Building metal detector -- which, actually, she didn't have to do (only at airports), but it sure seemed to tickle those Capitol Police officers. The va-voomy starlet/"Today" show correspondent was lobbying for diabetes awareness with the Novo Nordisk drug company and the Entertainment Industry Foundation.


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