An eclectic group of glitterati gathered at the Film Centre in San Francisco's Presidio Wednesday evening to talk about "Freedom of the Press During Wartime." The star quotient was high, with "Sopranos" bad guy Joe Pantoliano introducing Peter Coyote who introduced Ron Reagan Jr. who introduced the panel including Norm Ornstein, Michael Medved, Tom Hayden and Alec Baldwin. Sean Penn lurked in the back of the room, ducking out for an occasional smoke, and also ducking a reporter's questions. The brawling Baldwin boy had fire in his belly and sounded like someone who might be running for office in the near future. When Reagan asked why 70 percent of Americans think that Saddam Hussein had something to do with 9/11, Alec said, "They get the idea from fascist news organizations like Fox!" Hayden agreed that "there has been an invasion of the media by people with a vested interest in victory," observing that the airwaves have been filled with generals and national security types, but no antiwar dissenters. When the subject of celebs speaking out politically came up, Baldwin bristled ("When artists make statements people want them to shut up and go away" -- but they never complain when the true powers in the communications industry, corporate moguls like Rupert Murdoch, exert their influence). Perhaps the most surprising moment of the night came when conservative media critic Medved, referring to Penn's trip to Iraq before the war, called the actor an "unwitting tool of propaganda" and Sean didn't deck him!
Speaking of celebs speaking out, the Baseball Hall of Fame canceled a 15th anniversary celebration of the movie "Bull Durham" because they don't like the antiwar stands of Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon. Hall prez Dale Petroskey (former assistant press secretary to Ronald Reagan) said in a letter to the actors: "We believe your very public criticism of President Bush at this important -- and sensitive -- time in our nation's history helps undermine the U.S. position, which ultimately could put our troops in even more danger." Robbins fired this fastball: "You belong with the cowards and ideologues in a hall of infamy and shame." If Petroskey doesn't want to show "Bull Durham" perhaps he can show "The Fan," wherein Robert De Niro muses that baseball is better than life -- it's fair. (Sports Illustrated)
Hot gossip on the romance front has thinking-woman's heartthrob John Cusack (last linked with Neve Campbell) with Meg Ryan (whose former beau Russell Crowe was married on Monday). Reports are they met while doing voices for "Anastasia." We think that they are "cutest couple on campus" candidates. (WENN)
And the "Least Likely Couple" award has to go to Nicole Kidman and Jim Carrey who were supposedly spotted at dinner in New York all lovey-dovey. If they are an item, anything is possible! (N.Y. Daily News)
Newsflash: Publicist admits to lying! Bobby Zarem, one of New York's most infamous flacks, and supposedly the model for the character played by Al Pacino in the new movie "People I Know," says "P.R. is all about spinning facts, and it's full of people who flat-out lie." But it did inspire a great movie, "The Sweet Smell of Success." When he saw that film, says Zarem, "I thought about committing suicide because I saw my life up there." (N.Y. Post)
Rush Limbaugh reported, tongue-in-cheek, this week that the Iraqi minister of information was bragging that Saddam Hussein's forces had invaded New York's Shea Stadium and were moving to Broadway to get tickets to hot shows. One of Rush's listeners called a N.Y. TV station to berate it for not reporting the "news." We think Orson Welles is turning over in his grave ...
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