Thumbs Down for Bush Relative?

Margaret Bush, the president's dainty sister-in-law (she's married to Dubya's brother Marvin) is showing off her skills as an actress at the all-volunteer, nonprofit Elden Street Players in Herndon. Thursday night, fans in the audience included First Lady Laura Bush, daughters Jenna and Barbara and two of their guy pals. "Thumbs," the play they took in, doesn't exactly ooze family values: Margaret Bush plays a woman who has an abortion, then cuts off her husband's thumbs.

Fellow theater-goer Joan Talbert described the comedy-thriller as "raunchy," with "bawdy insinuations to male private parts, severed fingers and gay characters." Talbert, a Kerry voter from Herndon, also told us: "The Bushes did not seem to enjoy the hilarious moments of the play . . . as much as the rest of the audience," and that they left quickly at the end. "Mrs. Bush has kind of those smiley eyes, but an actual belly laugh -- forget it."

But on Friday, the first lady's spokesman, Gordon Johndroe, assured us: "Mrs. Bush enjoyed it, and they all had a very good time."

Republican Fan to Rockers: Just Keep the Change

* Culture Wars, cont'd: Republican loyalist Rob Carter of Chevy Chase, Md., may love the music of Bruce Springsteen, Pearl Jam, John Fogerty, Jackson Browne, James Taylor and John Prine, but he grew weary of their politicking during the election. So he's pushing his own message to those barnstorming pro-Kerry performers: "You lost. Now shut up and entertain me!"

Carter, 42, who works for Maryland Gov. Robert Ehrlich, took delivery last week of a batch of hastily printed T-shirts that mock the Vote for Change concert tour that tried to mobilize Democratic voters with shows featuring many of his favorite acts. "I'm a big rock-and-roll fan, and it's tough to be a Republican," he told us. "But I'm not throwing away any CDs. If I let politics affect my music choices, I'd have nothing to listen to."

He is not selling the long-sleeve "2004 Irrelevance Tour" shirts, just passing them out to GOP friends. And, no, he hasn't quite gotten over Springsteen's endorsement of John Kerry: "I'll still listen to Springsteen, but I'm still going to make fun of him."

Inaugural Ball Games

* Braggin' rights for the hottest inaugural ball have begun. Organizers of the Texas State Society's Jan. 19 "Black Tie & Boots" ball were deluged with requests as soon as tickets went on sale Wednesday. Online ordering quickly closed, but the society is still taking mail-order requests. And don't try bootlegging: The Texans warn on their Web site that tickets "will be bar-coded to ensure authenticity" and to "use caution . . . when purchasing tickets from any source other than directly through the Texas State Society."

Meanwhile, the Hollywood contingent is promising an A-list of celebrities for the Creative Coalition's Jan. 20 inauguration bash. The nonpartisan arts-advocacy group is partnering with the Motion Picture Association of America for the "powerhouse event," coalition exec Robin Bronk announced at the Washington premiere of "Noel," actor Chazz Palminteri's feature-film directing debut.

Hoping to shed its left-leaning rep, the nonprofit coalition is also busy recruiting more Republican actors; co-president Joe Pantoliano listed Rob Lowe and Tim Blake Nelson as recent sign-ups. "My one pet peeve, because I'm an independent, was that it was too far to the left," the natty, beret-wearing Joey Pants told us. "Our goal is really to stay in the center." His advice to showbiz colleagues: "We have to support our president. . . . This is business. What are you going to do? Stick your head in the sand for four years? In the end we're all Americans."

As he told the dinner crowd before it filed into the MPAA screening room: "We can disagree with each other but we can also have a drink with each other -- as long as you're paying!"


* In the name of love . . . for Bill Clinton: Pop superstars Bono and the Edge (U2's singer and guitarist, respectively) will perform Thursday at the dedication ceremony for the Clinton Presidential Center in Little Rock. Also getting in the act earlier in the week: Soul queen Aretha Franklin, who will sing with the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra, and '90s rockers Better Than Ezra. Meanwhile, Clinton White House jester Al Franken will broadcast his liberal radio show live from Little Rock tomorrow through Thursday.

* Back in Washington, country singer Chely Wright performs Wednesday at what's being billed as an "unprecedented" bipartisan dinner hosted by the entire Florida congressional delegation, with the goal of raising $1 million for hurricane relief in the battered state. Rep. E. Clay Shaw Jr.'s office tells us the event at the J.W. Marriott Hotel is still open for corporate angels willing to kick in from $5,000 to $100,000.

* Jon Stewart, "The Daily Show's" chief wisenheimer, has something in common with Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the august Supreme Court justice: They're in the top five of "The Forward 50," a list of the country's most influential Jewish Americans published Friday by the nation's largest Jewish newsweekly. Tacked onto the Forward's list at No. 51 is the noted non-Jewish pop star Madonna, who has popularized the practice of Kabbalah and calls herself Esther.

With Anne Schroeder