Neil Diamond Performs at Kerry Fundraiser
Hollywood Turns Out for Kerry Fundraiser
By JODI WILGOREN
Article from the New
York Times (www.newyorktimes.com)
AP Photo/Michael Caulfield, WireImage.com
Published: June 25, 2004
LOS ANGELES, June 25 — It could have been Oscar night, what with Billy
Crystal cracking wise about movies and politics, money and baseball — just
like the old days when the Academy Awards ceremony was held across the
street at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. But when Mr. Crystal tried a joke
about former President Clinton's forthcoming children's book — "It's
called the Little Engine That Could Because It Could" — it fell flat.
More business suit than ball gown, this audience of 2,000 Democratic
donors had paid too much ($2,000 to $25,000) for seats in Walt Disney
Concert Hall on Thursday night to laugh at itself. Fun was to be had,
sure, but at Republicans' expense.
So Mr. Crystal fared much better when he recalled having met President
Bush at Yankee Stadium during the third game of the World Series in 2001
and realizing, "9-1-1 is also his SAT scores." Or when he described him as
"charming in that NASCAR-pull-my-finger-kind-of-way" and, invoking the
"Godfather" trilogy, mused, "I get the feeling he is the Fredo of the Bush
Part Woodstock ("for really, really rich people," Mr. Crystal said), part
red carpet and part Gridiron dinner, the event featured an A list of
Hollywood celebrities sharing the stage in the architectural splendor of
Disney Hall to raise a show-stopping record $5 million for Senator John
Kerry and the Democratic National Committee. Having been slow to swirl
around Mr. Kerry, the Democratic presidential nominee-to-be, Hollywood is
now giving him the full treatment, with the hottest of hot headliners
offering heartfelt tributes, spurring a seemingly endless series of
"We had Oscar winners, Emmy winners, Grammy winners out here," Mr. Kerry
said, trying his own bit of stand-up when his turn at the microphone came
at the end of the two-hour program. "I'm at the stage of my life where I
am just thrilled to get a nomination."
The much-heralded highlight was the reunion duet of Barbra Streisand and
Neil Diamond, "You Don't Bring Me Flowers," which they had not performed
together since Jimmy Carter was in the White House. Ms. Streisand crooned
at center stage, where a stool, table, vase with red roses, teapot and cup
had been placed for her performance, while Mr. Diamond sang from remote
stage right, walking into the spotlight only for the final chorus, and the
tender kiss the two shared afterwards.
Then Ms. Streisand, in a lacy black gown with a plunging V-neck and
greenish fringe hanging off the back, upstaged herself with a political
parody of "People" that made Mr. Crystal's material sound almost centrist.
"Now Rumsfeld / We must get rid of Rumsfeld / He's the spookiest person in
the world," she sang to the audience's delight. "Let's discuss this war
we're lost in / Don't ask what it's costin' / What's a trillion or two to
rule the world?"
Throughout the night, though, the performers strained to say that they
were not just anti-Bush, but pro-Kerry. Ben Affleck, who grew up in
Massachusetts, Mr. Kerry's home state, declared, "I know the man."
Leonardo DiCaprio called him "a lifelong champion of the environment." And
Mr. Crystal, invoking the Vietnam War, said, "John Kerry was an actual
Hollywood, a critical constituency for Democratic fund-raisers, had been
hopelessly split during the primaries, enchanted for a time with retired
Gen. Wesley K. Clark, then dancing a turn with former Gov. Howard Dean,
and flocking to Mr. Kerry's banner only after he secured the nomination
Mr. Kerry, as he is happy to tell you, has longstanding friendships with
the songwriters James Taylor and Carly Simon, as well as Mr. Affleck and
Matt Damon, but he lacks the cachet of Mr. Clinton in these parts. Still,
he has raised more money — $1.2 million as of April 26 — from the
television, movie and music industries than any candidate this season.
Thursday's concert was preceded by a dinner of filet mignon and shrimp at
the Chandler Pavilion for couples forking over $25,000 ("I know people who
don't make $25,000 in a day!" Mr. Crystal cracked). Postponed from earlier
this month because of Ronald Reagan's death, the concert was the first of
a pair; Jon bon Jovi and the Dave Matthews band head the bill at Radio
City Music Hall in Manhattan July 8.
Kerry campaign aides said the performers had agreed to appear on the
condition that cameras and recorders be barred. The press, too, was
originally prohibited from covering the concert, save for one journalist
sent to record Mr. Kerry's remarks. But Thursday afternoon, the campaign
announced that its traveling press corps would get an audio feed, and
then, an hour before the curtain, tickets were handed out.
The show kicked off with Leah Hansen, an 8-year-old cellist in a
sleeveless lavender dress with matching bow, who brought the crowd to its
feet with a soulful "God Bless America." Willie Nelson, his gray braid
hanging to his belt, did three classics, and Angie Stone flew in from
Amsterdam, where she was on tour, for a two-pack, including Marvin Gaye's
antiwar anthem, "What's Going On."
The comedian Jamie Foxx, who is black, pointed to Senator Kerry, seated
with his wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry, in the front row of the second of five
tiers, and asked: "You find somebody to run with you yet? I'll give you my
cell number. We need some color in the White House." Ben Stiller
introduced Mr. Diamond as "the man who helped me get to second base for
the first time in my life," recalling a date at "The Jazz Singer" in 1982,
and "my personal savior in a very rocky adolescence."
Mr. Diamond, in a black smock with triangles of red sequins dripping from
the shoulders, started with "Forever in Bluejeans," got the crowd swinging
— and Mrs. Kerry swaying — with "Sweet Caroline," and finished with
Ms. Streisand, who entered and exited from stage left, the opposite side
from everyone else, did the longest set, interrupting her songs with
political riffs. Then Mr. Crystal returned to introduce the man of honor,
whom he chided earlier by saying, "You're the front-runner, you've raised
$200 million — if you're having a good time, tell your face."
Showing that essential Hollywood skill of self-deprecation, Mr. Kerry's
opening line was, "I just want you to, I'm having a ball — I'm having fun
and my face got told."
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