Apart from the security chief, no GOP convention staffer faces a more daunting challenge than the bookers wrangling “talent” for the show. Liberal Hollywood stars traditionally turn out in droves for the Democrats, but Republicans have had to rely on Charlton Heston and conservative Nashville crooners like the Gatlin Brothers for star power. This year, with the political climate especially poisonous, it’s even more difficult to recruit A-list talent.
Eager to find out what it takes to get celebrities to give it up for the GOP, we hired our own “booker”: Eric Wippo, of MTV’s Boiling Points. Masquerading as a Republican staffer, Wippo approached more than twenty celebrities with a variety of outlandish requests. Joan and Melissa Rivers were invited to apply their red-carpet critique to GOP luminaries outside the Garden. Star Jones of The View was asked to sing “Sisters Are Doin’ It for Themselves,” with Condoleezza Rice on the piano. Though most of the stars’ reps regretfully declined our offers, they were surprisingly willing to entertain them. And life seems to be imitating art: Still scrambling for talent, the GOP recently extended an invitation to Lindsay Lohan, the tween star we’d considered too much of a long shot to even approach. According to Cindy Adams’s column in the New York Post, Lohan seriously contemplated the real offer, but, alas, finally declined.
Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen
The Pitch Introducing the Bush twins
Eric Wippo Hi, I left you a message about the Olsens presenting the Bush twins?
Publicist Yes, I got it. Let me say how flattering it is to be asked. The problem is, they aren’t really doing anything right now. Mary-Kate just got out of a treatment facility a few days ago, and she won’t be making any public appearances for a couple of weeks. Of course, she’s doing very, very well . . .
That’s good to hear. I just saw her yesterday. She looks great. But it’s probably too soon for something that high-profile. Plus, frankly, the girls have fans across all spectrums, so they tend not to get involved in political events. And while the president is the president, I don’t think that’s something that they’re well-advised to do.
But the cool part about it was them being twins, like the Bush daughters! You don’t have to persuade me. I think it’s a brilliant idea, just brilliant, and those Bush girls are beautiful. It makes perfect sense. It would be a wonderful picture.
Didn’t Mary-Kate play a Republican in New York Minute? Actually, that was Ashley.
Are the girls old enough to vote? Yeah, they just turned 18 on June 13, and as you can imagine, Rock the Vote and all those organizations are pursuing them, but we’re in the same boat with them. The girls are very excited about voting. They’d like to encourage others to vote. But at this point, their personal situation takes precedence.
Of course. [Pause] So Ashley can introduce the Bush girls alone, I guess. Nope! That won’t happen. She’s been asked to do that quite a lot, but that opens an even bigger can of worms. The girls will be very flattered to know that the president is interested.
Not just the president. They’re always being discussed at the White House, you know. They’re popular throughout the West Wing. That’s very nice.
What was Mary-Kate in for? She was being treated for an eating-related disorder, but she’s managing it very successfully.
You know, we’ll have all kinds of free food at the convention . . . That’s very funny. But no, I think you should look around for some other twins.
Where am I gonna find another pair of celebrity twins? I mean, there’s the Hilton sisters, but we hear they’re kind of bad girls. Yeah, that’s probably not the greatest idea. I think they are great girls, actually, but they’re probably not putting out there the kind of image that you guys are . . .
They’re great girls, but naughty ones. Well, they get themselves into a lot of trouble. But, hey, it takes all kinds.
The Pitch Singing “Ebony and Ivory” with Nick Lachey
My name is Eric. I’m calling from the Republican National Convention. As you may know, the president is a big fan of Lionel Richie, and we were hoping he’d honor us with a song. I don’t know how he is going to feel about that, so let me find out.
Is he a Republican? I don’t know what he is. In all my years working with him, we’ve never, ever talked about it.
Right. I guess it just never came up. We talk about politics, but we don’t talk about personal politics. I’m not saying this is a no. Just trying to make sure it’s cool. What’s your concept?
The concept is that Lionel would perform a duet with Nick Lachey, Mr. Jessica Simpson. We’d love them to sing a duet of “Ebony and Ivory.” What? But that’s not even his song.
I know, but we thought in the spirit of unity and racial— That’s a Michael Jackson song. Lionel would want to do his own song.
Like “Dancing on the Ceiling”? Maybe not that. But it’s hard to ask someone as prolific as Lionel Richie, who has sold 100 million albums, to sing somebody else’s song. I’m not shooting down the idea. I’m just being proactive.
Right, I’m a bit new to this. Maybe pitch him both options. We’re flexible. We’re desperate. [Laughs.] You have a tough job. How do you get people to commit?
Many people have problems with commitment. Well, the nation is very divided. Four years ago, it might have been easier.
That’s the thing. The nation is very divided, which is why we thought a song like “Ebony and Ivory” would help start the healing. Maybe. But as I said, it’s a little insulting to ask someone like Lionel Richie to sing somebody else’s song. This guy has had 31 No. 1 hits, you know what I mean? So this is a very weird thing to ask. But I’ll call you back.