Reprinted from yesterday's late editions
Sens. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Alan Cranston (D-Calif.) had just left.Iranian Ambassador Ardeshir Zahedi strolled in, walked directly across the lawn and threw his arms around Gregory Peck, who was locked in a conversation about horses with Rose Marie Bogley.
Across the lawn, Jack Valenti chatted with Veronique Peck, while a few feet away Sen. George McGovern (D-S.D.) headed for the bar. Steve Martindale asked Sophia Engelhard why she had cut her hair, and Dolly Fox - pinch-hitting for mother Yolande - whisked by Liz Stevens. Stevens apologized for being late while husband George moved toward the horsd'oeuvres.
"This," said "America Alive's" Pat Mitchell as she reached out for a stuffed mushroom, "certainly isn't what I'd call your typical fund-raiser." Monday night in their backyard Roger and Christine Stevens hosted a $100-a-couple political fund-raiser for the Democratic nominee in California's 27th congressional district. His name is Carey Peck.
Peck is a Georgetown graduate, former Peace Corps member, a former worker in Walter Mondale's presidential bid, a former staff member on Sen. Claiborne Pell's (D-R.I.) subcommittee on education and, incidentally, the 29-year-old son of actor Gregory Peck.
Except, of course, that that is not incidental at all. It is perhaps the reason that most of the people showed up Monday night, even though candidate Peck would like to think otherwise.
Would everybody have come Monday if his name wasn't Peck? "That's hard to say," he said. "You see congressmen coming to political fund-raisers all the time, especially if the race is drawing national attention."
The national attention however, is due in large part to Gregory Peck, who flew in especially from New York to play his role as father of the candidate . . . while, at the same time, of course, denying that he mattered that much.
"The truth is, I don't play that much a part in the campaign," said Peck. "My association with it will not be the deciding factor. After all, my son doesn't go up to constituents and say, "'Hello, I'm Greg Peck's son.'"
Nonetheless, there are, well, certain advantages, like friends. Kirk Douglas, James Stewart and "Hank" Fonda have all contributed to Peck's campaign while Liza Minnelli will headline a fund-raiser on Sept. 27 - the same night, incidentally, the Democratic National Committee snagged Diana Ross for Jimmy Carter's birthday party - and were thrilled to get her.
"It's just normal that family friends would help out," Peck, the actor, points out.
Nevertheless, a star war is on in the 27th, a middle-of-the-road coastal Los Angeles district. Peck's opposition, Rep. Robert Dornan, 45, a first-term Republican conservative, has rustled some movie power of his own with support from Gene Autry, Irene Dunne and Pat Boone, who, although big names, certainly aren't as dazzling as Peck's crowd.
But, says Gregory Peck, it's still "an oversimplification to say that Hollywood is lining up conservative versus liberal because of this race."
Carey Peck would prefer to see his race more in terms of issues than his celluloid connections. "This race is interesting nationally because it's pitting a young Democrat against an admittedly hard conservative in a district that's been Republican for 30 years," he said. "In terms of the media it makes for a picturesque line-up. Of course, my name was good for drawing initial attention in the primaries [he won by 66 percent] but now in terms of advantage of disadvantage, I'd say it's straight even. After all, the easiest attack on me is for people to say, 'Are you more than your name implies?"
At least one person at Monday night's party could understand Peck's predicament. "I don't think that name value means that much to him," said the American Film Institute's George Stevens Jr., son of Academy Award-winning director George Stevens.
"I think people tend to overlook the constructive personal value of an accomplished father - which I, of course, benefited from just as Carey does. Of course, people always say, it must be tough and it is tough in some way. But Carey's father is not only famous, he's substantial."
Peck, however, said he and his dad had "made an agreement. We worked this out as a partnership to make sure he wouldn't carry it for me. I campaign and politic and he does not. This, after all, is my race."
Or more appropriately, his and his wife's face. After leaving Pell's office last summer, Peck began campaigning in August, living, he said, on a personal bank loan and the savings of his 26-year-old wife Cathy, whom he married last April. "I know people assume that if you come from a family that's well off, you have a trust fund. Well, I don't." (Gregory and Veronique Peck as well as Carey's mother have all contributed $1,000 each.)
When Carey and Cathy married, she gave up her job running a California art gallery to campign full-time. The morning following their wedding, for instance, the breakfasted with fund-raisers. And now, says Cathy, their days begin together around 7 with phone calls until noon when they hit a precinct for door-to-door campaigning before shuttling off to six movie theaters. Nights are always spent working the lines for both shows in six Westwood movie theaters.
"Yes, everyday is the same," she admits, but "with the movies alone we figure we meet about 500 people a night."
Such a schedule, however, is hardly the best for a new marriage. "We spend a lot of time talking about what's happening to our marriage as a result of this campaign," says Peck. "People demand so much of you. They think nothing of calling us up at 12:30 to discuss rent control. It makes you wonder if you'll ever have a private life again. And when we run into our friends and they ask us 'How are you?' we give them five minutes on the campaign."
Monday night's party, however, was not the only reason the candidate and his wife came to town. According to Peck, they spent the last three days here fund-raising and "visiting with leaders of the Democratic Party - Tip O'Neill, Jim Wright and Phil Burton."
"It's the traditional thing for a candidate to do when a race draws national attention - he approaches the party leaders for help. This party was nice - it paid for our trip - but the important thing was to get to the party leaders."
As he watched young Peck Monday night, McGovern remarked that he was there because "Carey's father made several appearances for me in '72. In fact, the whole family stood up for me then. I guess you could say I'm here to return that favor."