Warren Beatty arrived here tonight at a posh hotel with all the media glare and weirdness of an opening night movie premiere, but he left the audience wanting more--he did not announce that he is running for president.

The actor and director, whose name was floated as a possible candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination by the commentator Ariana Huffington, did not rule out a run for office. But neither did he come close to announcing any serious intention. Instead, he spoke of the poverty of American children and of the political system.

And, in his trademark delivery, he hemmed and ummed. But with a political point.

What Beatty did is suggest that if someone, anyone, wanted to run for office in this time of "a public vacuum" of alternatives--and Beatty suggested it could be a "drum majorette"--that candidate's voice should be heard.

His included. The Hollywood powerhouse with the lover-boy reputation promised that he would withstand the slings and arrows of those who called him "flirtatious," and so be it.

Beatty said Democrats should stand up for their core liberal beliefs and fight for the little guy.

He called for universal health care, public funding of campaigns, an end to corporate meddling in political life, a massive rollback in defense spending, a redistribution of wealth and more radical approaches to gun control, logging public forests and public financing of health care.

The multimillionaire Beatty--speaking at the annual dinner of the Southern California Americans for Democratic Action, before scores of reporters and an audience that was paying $5,000 a table and included such celebrities as Dustin Hoffman, Norman Lear, Gary Shandling and Jack Nicholson--said he was happy to call himself a liberal and decried the get-along policies of President Clinton and what he called the "Democratic Leisure Class," a dig at the centrist DLC (Democratic Leadership Council) that Clinton once headed.

Beatty said he had respect for Vice President Gore and former senator Bill Bradley, both seeking the Democratic nomination, but he said there was so much more the two could do to address the concerns of the millions of Americans who have not benefited from the stock market and the booming economy.

"Is there no protest anymore?" he asked.

But among this Hollywood-heavy crowd, there did not seem to be any rush to the streets. There was, however, a crush at the valet parking at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. As Beatty has said before, "Stay tuned."