Hillary Rodham Clinton used the opportunity of her 52nd birthday to bring in a possible $1 million to her Senate campaign tonight, joining her husband at a star-studded "Broadway for Hillary" fund-raiser and birthday bash.
Clinton's public appearance at the event, Hillary Clinton's biggest fund-raiser so far, comes as he is stepping up his behind-the-scenes effort on behalf of his wife's 2000 ambitions. On Sunday afternoon, he golfed with B. Thomas Golisano--the Rochester businessman who heads New York's small but potentially influential Independence Fusion Party and who won 7 percent of the vote in last year's governor's race.
Democrats close to the exploratory campaign said Clinton is heavily invested in obtaining a Golisano endorsement for the first lady. Although the president had never met Golisano, he invited the New Yorker to Washington to talk politics and join a foursome that also included Democratic fund-raiser Terence McAuliffe.
"It's a little early" to announce an endorsement, Golisano said yesterday. Both Hillary Clinton and her likely Republican opponent, New York City Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, have sought his support. Though neither candidate has officially announced, both are raising money aggressively for a Senate race that could be the most expensive ever. As of his last filing in July, Giuliani had raised $3 million toward the $20 million that his campaign manager, Bruce Teitelbaum, says will be required for the race. Clinton's campaign goal is about $25 million. She has not yet been required to report her fund-raising numbers to the Federal Election Commission, but sources said it is well above the $3 million figure being touted in the press.
"Broadway for Hillary" at the Ford Center for the Performing Arts was the brainchild of the theatrical community and was directed by Walter Bobbie, director of the smash hit "Chicago."
Comedienne Rosie O'Donnell played mistress of ceremonies, peppering the evening with quips about a jealous Giuliani phoning in to register complaints. At one point, O'Donnell joked that Giuliani was writing a book entitled, "It Takes a Village Idiot."
The evening featured performances by such theater stars as singer-dancer Chita Rivera and actor Joel Grey. Actress Lauren Bacall also made an appearance.
Accompanied by a chorus of 12 men in Yankee baseball uniforms, Christine Pedi, from the cast of "Forbidden Broadway," played the first lady in the show's opening act. Wearing a blonde wig, business suit and practical pumps, Pedi sang, "I'll take Manhattan, the Bronx and Staten Island, too."
"Chicago" performers Bebe Neuwirth and Marcia Lewis also performed, and actress Mia Farrow--mother of several adopted children--read a brief excerpt from Clinton's book, "It Takes a Village and Other Lessons Children Teach Us."
The hit of the evening was the song "My Boy Bill" from "Carousel" rewritten as "My Girl Hill."
President Clinton introduced his wife after the performances, touting his administration's successes in the economy. For her part, Hillary Clinton said, "As much progress as we've made, we still have unfinished business" and she pledged during what amounted to a routine stump speech to "be a voice for the children of New York."
Tonight's event is the second of a trio of birthday fund-raisers. A more modest birthday lunch for Clinton in Washington on Saturday raised more than $300,000, according to a source familiar with her fund-raising. After spending Tuesday, her actual birthday, in Washington, Clinton will be in her home town of Chicago on Wednesday, and the source said she would raise some $500,000 there.
An earlier money swing to Texas brought in more than $400,000, and Clinton is also headed out to California and Las Vegas to raise money for both her campaign and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.
In Vegas, where President Clinton went earlier this month for a $300,000 DSCC fund-raiser, his wife's campaign will have a $1,000-a-person event at the home of his college friend, Las Vegas Sun Publisher Brian Greenspun. In December, Washington lawyer Robert A. Altman and his wife, actress Lynda Carter, will host a fund-raiser for Clinton at their house.
"All her events have been very successful," said one top Clinton adviser. But, another key strategist cautioned, not as successful as Mayor Giuliani's campaign would have it: "The mayor would hope to persuade you that we're going to raise $10 million by the end of this year. Our fund-raising is going reasonably well, but not nearly as well as the mayor would have you believe. It's this great expectations game."
Staff writers Susan B. Glasser and John F. Harris in Washington contributed to this report.
CAPTION: Surrounded by Broadway stars, New York Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D) helps Hillary Rodham Clinton blow out the candles on her birthday cake.