Actor Charlton Heston, who has been mentioned frequently as a possible choice for the next chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, met yesterday at the White House for two to three hours with several officials, including White House chief of staff James Baker, deputy chief of staff Michael Deaver and Frank Hodsoll, Baker's deputy.
"We discussed what role I might play in advising the administration on the arts," said Heston. "I can't be terribly informative. Any further word will have to come from the administration, and it might come soon."
White House deputy press secretary Larry Speakes said yesterday that "really the purpose of the meeting was to get Heston's ideas for how private support of the endowment could be increased. He had several ideas . . . I think that's about all we'll say." President Reagan has said recently that in light of the proposed 50-percent cuts to both the national endowments for the arts and the humanities that business and the private sector will have to pick up some of the slack in contributions to arts groups.
As for possible jobs, Speakes said, "As far as I know, none was offered and none was accepted."
Heston reiterated yesterday that he could not take a full-time job with the administration. However, he did not say he had ruled out some other role in arts administration.
"I seem to have been spending most of the past 15 years in one way or another as doorman in one organization or another," he said. "The only consistent thing is that I don't get paid."
Heston is co-chairman of the American Film Institute and a former member of the National Council on the Arts, the presidentially appointed body that advises the National Endowment for the Arts.
He flew in from Los Angeles early yesterday morning for the meeting in Baker's office and was scheduled to return to Los Angeles late yesterday afternoon.
"We got to meet him and talk to him," said Shirley Moore, a staff assistant to Deaver. "He's beautiful," Heston apparently took a quick look at the Rose Garden as well.
White House officials recently confirmed that they are considering setting up one independent agency or perhaps two to replace the current federally funded and run arts and humanities endowments. Sources speculated that such an agency might be modeled on the quasi-governmental Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
This type of independent agency could be headed by a part-time director, according to sources, a post that might interest Heston.
"Clearly, we're going to make moves in the direction of how to handle the arts," said Speakes, "but how soon I don't know.