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Celebrities for McCain

Out of the closet and into the spotlight.

6:15 PM, Aug 26, 2008 • By STEPHEN F. HAYES
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Beverly Hills

IT'S NOT OFTEN that you feel sorry for a guy driving a brand new, silver Porsche 911 Turbo convertible.

But that was exactly my thought as I sat outside of the Beverly Hilton last night watching Hollywood Republicans arrive at a fundraiser for John McCain. The luxury cars parked around the front valet circle of the famous hotel must have been worth $3 million. Among many others, there were matching red and white Bentley convertibles, several styles of oversized Mercedes that I'd never seen before and a powder blue Rolls Royce with "We Will Never Forget" license plates that read: LTR ROL.

The Porsche didn't work because the driver was clearly trying hard. Pat Boone, on the other hand, was not. Dressed in a white suit with a black shirt and a black tie, Boone pulled up in a burgundy Toyota Siena minivan. David Zucker, the comedic genius behind Airplane! and The Naked Gun series and a self-described conservative environmentalist, practices what he preaches. He arrived in a black Toyota Prius (with Green Bay Packer license plate holders).

John McCain was here for the same reason Willie Sutton used to rob banks: That's where the money is.

McCain, who has pulled even with Barack Obama due in part to his very effective attacks on Obama's "celebrity," spent the evening collecting checks from Hollywood stars or people who once might have fit that description. Among those attending: Dean Cain (Superman); James Caan (Godfather I and II, Bottle Rocket); Jon Voight (Midnight Cowboy, Deliverance); Robert Davi (License to Kill); Lou Ferrigno (The Incredible Hulk); Adam Carolla (The Man Show); Lacy Chabert (Party of Five); Angie Harmon (Law & Order); Victoria Jackson (Saturday Night Live); Gerald McRaney (Simon & Simon, Major Dad); Jon Cryer (Two and a Half Men); Lorenzo Lamas (The Bold and the Beautiful, Renegade); Kevin Sorbo (Hercules); Patricia Heaton (Everybody Loves Raymond); George Newbern (Father of the Bride); and Robert Duvall (The Godfather and The Godfather II, Apocalypse Now). The dinner co-chairman was Jerry Bruckheimer, producer of wildly popular television shows such as CSI, Cold Case, and Without a Trace, and films such as Pirates of the Caribbean.

(Like many conservatives, I haven't paid much attention to Hollywood over the years. When someone pointed Bruckheimer out to me, I had to ask what he had done--a question that elicited howls of laughter from songwriter Jude Christdal and ESPN's Stacey Pressman, who runs a new celebrity/athlete website called www.prolebrity.com, and who served as my spotter for the evening. Some McCain staffers were even more clueless. A young woman carrying a clipboard and wearing credentials hanging from a "McCain for President" lanyard asked Jon Cryer: "Are you a star?" before directing him to the VIP dinner. I'd known Cryer from The Pompatus of Love, a wildly underrated guys movie from the mid-1990s that he wrote and directed. I had no clue he was currently in a hit TV show.)

The evening began at 5:30 P.M. with a cocktail party for 400 low-dollar contributors and included a separate "Pro-Israel Reception." At 8:00 P.M., McCain bundlers and other big contributors were directed to a private dinner with the candidate, where McCain spoke briefly and spent much of his time telling jokes. (When Wilford Brimley walked in late, McCain interrupted his remarks to announce that Brimley would be his running mate.)

If it was a good night for John McCain, it was an even better night for Hollywood's long-closeted conservative community. Many of those in attendance are members of the Friends of Abe, an informal group of entertainment-industry conservatives--part social club and part support group--founded by actor Gary Sinise. They have been meeting quietly at out-of-the-way diners and bars in and around Los Angeles for four years expanding their membership by word of mouth.

"It's like NAMBLA," says Bob Hamer, an FOA member and former undercover FBI agent whose book on his role in shutting down the North American Man Boy Love Association will be released next week. At FOA meetings, members could talk openly about their politics and their concerns about the potential career consequences of being known as a conservative in Hollywood. Those worries are one reason that Sinise, who has done numerous USO Tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, has insisted that the group remain out of the spotlight.