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Party Animals

A running roundup of the political party scenes in New York from Washington Post reporters at the Republican convention this week.

Live From New York. . . John McCain
Thursday, Sep 02, 2004; 4:35 PM

News Flash: John McCain is getting more attention.

He was, in fact, the center of it again Wednesday night at a late-night bash he threw for himself at Cipriani Le Specialita on 42nd Street in Manhattan. The highlight: McCain, joining Joe Piscopo, formerly of Saturday Night Live, in a rendition of "New York, New York," which the Arizona senator culminated in a leg-kick.

Sen. John McCain smiles as he is interviewed by the media upon arriving at the "Live From New York....It's Wednesday Night" party hosted by McCain and his wife Cindy Wednesday, Sept. 1, 2004, at Cipriani's in New York. McCain's daughter Meghan is at right. (AP Photo/Tina Fineberg)

About 1,500 guests went nuts. Many of them were McCain's closest friends -- which means that many of the guests were members of the press. They included, NBC's Tim Russert and Tom Brokaw, the New York Times's William Safire, Time's Joe Klein, among others. Also on hand were former Tennessee senator Fred Thompson, former secretary of state Henry Kissinger, former mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani and McCain's wife Cindy and daughter Meagan. SNL's Darrell Hammond did a comedy bit, that was hard to hear, but which at one point appeared to include an impression of John Kerry. Piscopo also serenaded McCain with a paraphrased rendition of Sinatra's "John McCain's Way."

So that's what Piscopo's has been working on all these years.

- By Mark Leibovich

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A Hot Ticket?
Thursday, Sep 02, 2004; 11:24 AM

Here's the problem with the "hot" parties: All the energy is focused into just getting into them, only to learn they are dreadful when you do, like climbing to Everest and being too sick to enjoy the view.

Case in point: Wednesday night's big ticket, the Recording Industry Association of America fling. Onstage rapping loudly -- Kid Rock, now a Republican, who used to be with Sheryl Crow, fervent Democratic, who now is with Lance Armstrong, and we don't know WHAT he is, but we digress.

Issac Hayes was supposed to emcee. The party was inside a Chelsea nightclub called Avalon, which is a converted old church. The line behind the gate was long, filled with newly showered and glammed up RNC staffers, all busy with their fingers, texting on their Blackberries. From one outside to one inside: "worth it?" The reply: "NO!"

When we finally managed to get our hands on a hard ticket from one inebriated reveler stumbling through the exit, and waited 30 minutes, we were greeted inside by the redolent perfume of decaying strawberries, thrown into a pile for the dipping, creme fraiche and chocolate sauce alongside.

Wine? we asked. "No wine, hon, only hard liquor," said our bartendress. Several tiers of people, cheek to cheek, ear-splitting volume, top Fahrenheit. Bad scene. There's a reason the big donors go to their small dinners at Le Cirque.

- By Ann Gerhart

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Getting Creative
Wednesday, Sep 01, 2004; 1:44 PM

NEW YORK, Aug. 31--Finally, some stars came out at the Republican National Convention Tuesday night. Infiltrating enemy territory, a platoon of Hollywood actors took the stage at a Chelsea nightclub to support a safely nonpartisan issue: free speech. They quoted Thomas Jefferson, William O. Douglas, John Milton and even Madonna to rally support for the First Amendment at a gala hosted by the Creative Coalition, a non-profit arts advocacy group.

"Madonna said, 'Free speech is as good as sex,' " Giancarlo Esposito, an actor on Showtime's "Soul Food," and other TV series, told several hundred GOP revelers. They responded with light applause and subdued laughter. But when George Wendt of "Cheers" took his turn at the mike, they chanted, "Norm! Norm! Norm!" (everyone knows his crowd-pleasing character's name). Wendt quoted the immortal words of eccentric film director John Waters: "To me, bad taste is what entertainment is all about."

Perhaps that isn't a maxim conservatives live by. But as Creative Coalition co-president Joe Pantoliano, a veteran actor perhaps best known as Ralphie on "The Sopranos," reminded everyone, "The First Amendment is not an amendment of convenience."

Though lacking the luminance of the A-list celebs who partied everywhere with the Democrats in Boston, the actors here -- among them, Joe Piscopo (surely you remember him from "Saturday Night Live"), Tim Blake Nelson (recently in "The Good Girl") and Richard Kind ("Spin City") -- did their best to bring star power to the GOP convention, where country-western singers Travis Tritt, Kix Brooks and Ronnie Dunn have proved to be the biggest marquee names. Excepting, of course, Arnold Schwarzenegger, who once had himself a little career in Hollywood. (The Governator didn't show at this party, attending his own bash in Central Park.)

"Everyone's having a good time," Pantoliano said at the bar while Max Weinberg's band brought dancers to the floor with hits such as "Love Train."

Weinberg, who serves as Conan O'Brien's bandleader, is also Bruce Springsteen's drummer. And, no, the Boss, a noted John Kerry supporter, didn't show either.

Revelers included Rep. Mark Foley (R-Fla.), talk-show moderator John McLaughlin and MSNBC host Joe Scarborough. In from Los Angeles, KABC-AM radio talk-show host Kim Serafin shared a VIP lounge booth with Fox News Channel's Rita Crosby and conservative film critic Michael Medved. Serafin regaled us with a story about the Chinese character tattooed on the small of her back: "It's Chinese for 'angel,' which is what my last name means. . . . But it's not so original. Every girl in L.A. has one there."

Cosby laughed and told us earnestly, "For the record, I have no tattoos."

We didn't think so.

- By Richard Leiby

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Newsweek Draws Newsmakers
Tuesday, Aug 31, 2004; 1:50 PM

It was definitely the A-list of the A-list, as evidenced by the number of big names who crowded into the elegant ball room of Four Seasons to see and be seen -- as well as the number who bullied people at the door wishing they were invited to Newsweek's Monday bash hosted by Washington Post Co. chairman Don Graham and his sister, Newsweek and Post writer Lally Weymouth.

There was Henry Kissinger, unable to budge from the doorway as multitudes came by to stare and pay homage. New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and New York Gov. George E. Pataki, surrounded by large security men, created the biggest buzz as the convention officially got under way in their home state.

There was also actor Ron Silver, the new darling of the right, plus 9/11 commission members Bob Kerrey, James R. Thompson and Fred F. Fielding. Barbara Walters, Tina Brown, William Kristol and countless other media names also attended the cocktail party.

"Excuse me, can I ask you a question," politely inquired Michael Isikoff, a Newsweek investigative reporter, of Labor Secretary Elaine L. Chao. It was a question that would send a chill down the spine of any public official. Chao smiled and her body stiffened.

"Sure," she said.

"Did you go to Syosset high school?" asked Isikoff benignly, as Chao palpably relaxed. Turns out the two were just a year apart at the Long Island school.

Jokester and Democratic commentator Al Franken unabashedly crashed the party, which didn't slow him down one bit. He stalked guests with a cameraman and wouldn't engage in any chit-chat without the camera rolling. The high point of his evening was doing his Henry Kissinger imitations for . . . none other than Henry Kissinger. The former secretary of state roared.

- By Lois Romano

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A Party the Press Can Attend
Tuesday, Aug 31, 2004; 10:04 AM

In Tuesday's Reliable Source, columnist Richard Leiby reports on the scene at John McCain's big birthday bash, where the senator "tended to his political base Sunday night: the entire national media. The maverick Arizona Republican, once (and future?) presidential aspirant and press secretary's dream hosted a hyper-exclusive 68th birthday party for himself at La Goulue on Madison Avenue, leaving no media icon behind."

Leiby also checked out the scene at Crobar, where the big-name act entertaining convention-goers was Lynyrd Skynyrd, "a Southern rock band we thought died along with its key members in a plane crash 27 years ago."

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