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.
The Pitch Appearing on the podium as “Miss Bagel,” a title the New York Post gossip was awarded in the fifties
Hi, I’m calling from the Republican National Convention. We’re currently booking presenters, and we wondered if Ms. Adams would make an appearance. What do you mean by an appearance? You want Cindy to speak at the convention?
I’m not sure if I could get her a prime-time slot, but it’s possible that she could say a few words. I don’t understand what you want her to do.
Well, you know, it’s New York City. We want a diverse parade of New Yorkers. Yeah, but what do you want them to do? Just parade?
Well, I know that Cindy was once crowned Miss Bagel. We thought maybe she could put on her Miss Bagel outfit and— That ain’t gonna happen.
Hmm. Maybe she could deliver a prepared statement, or, you know, introduce a dignitary. You want her maybe to introduce somebody? Like who?
Maybe she could introduce Congresswoman Anne Northup, who is this fabulous representative from Kentucky. Well, first, I have to see if she knows her! What’s this woman’s name? Anne . . .
Northup. And she’s from where?
Kentucky. Kentucky?! Okay. I’ll ask her.
If Cindy is not a fan of Congresswoman Northup’s, she could introduce Representative Heather Wilson, from New Mexico. Very inspiring lady. The first female veteran in American history elected to Congress. Oh yeah?
Plus, she’s from a swing state. The one small wrinkle I hate to bring up is that Ms. Adams would have to sign an ironclad agreement that she would not gossip about them. Gossip about them? I don’t even know if she knows them.
True, but she’d obviously meet them. [Laughs.] Let’s see what she says.
A week later:
Hi, it’s Eric from the RNC. Did you get a chance to ask Cindy about our request? I sort of mentioned it to her, and she said, “Well, it depends on what they’d like me to do.”
We’d discussed having her introduce Anne Northup. Cindy doesn’t know who Anne Northup is.
Would she be interested in reprising her role as Miss Bagel? [Firmly] Nope.
Why not? That was a very long time ago. It’s a forgotten thing as far as Cindy’s concerned.
Right, but we really want to get a New York flavor at this event, you know? An authentic ethnic parade. We think Miss Bagel would be a real crowd-pleaser. No! She is a world-renowned columnist—that’s what she’s known for—and an author of books. It would be beneath her standing.
She’s not interested in reprising a pageant role? Pageant?
Yeah, wasn’t she in, like, 47 pageants? They weren’t pageants; they were contests. And they were many, many, many years ago, before she was established. It’s not dignified.
What about, like, Miss Republican Convention 2004? Well, that’s something else.
Would she do an evening gown? Sure!
Does Cindy tap-dance? No.
Does she merengue? She wouldn’t on television.
Okay, but she is interested, right? Yes—depending on what they’d like her to do.
Would you like a written proposal? Yeah. But propose something that makes sense. Not something she did when she was a teenager.
Is she flexible? She’s flexible to a point, but not to a Miss Bagel point!
The Pitch Jumping his motorcycle over a herd of elephants
I’m calling from the Republican National Convention. We are interested in having Mr. Knievel make an appearance while the convention is going on here in New York. No kidding!
Yeah. Is that something Mr. Knievel would be interested in? I mean, given his whole red-white-and-blue motif … Oh, yeah. I don’t know if you have heard, but Robbie has publicly supported the president on a couple of issues, just out of the goodness of his heart, just because that is his belief.
How wonderful. Has he ever jumped elephants before? [Long pause] No.
Because elephants are the symbol of the Republican Party. We’re thinking twenty elephants. You know, prime time, outside Madison Square Garden. Robbie is jumping on the deck of the Intrepid here Saturday night. Did you know he was on the Today show this morning?
I did not. So you’re not calling because of all the things we’ve done in the past couple of days?
No, I’m just trying to book someone for the convention. Wow, what a coincidence.
But maybe that’s why it’s on my desk, because of all this buzz. Oh, it’s ridiculous! He was on with Matt and Alice on the Today show this morning and he’s jumping live on TNT on Saturday night.
Is he a registered Republican? I don’t know if he’s registered, but I know he’s Republican.
Well, we’d have to get him registered. Yeah, definitely. Before the convention he would have to be registered. Home voting state is Washington.
Washington, D.C.? Washington, Seattle. The real Washington.
Did I mention that President Bush is a big fan of Robbie’s father? Yeah? Uh, what’s your position, Eric?
I’m just an entertainment booker. That’s all. I’d love to be able to take you guys out on the boat, so you guys could see what we do. You could see our setup, see our production. It would make imagining what he would do that much easier.
We could envision it by seeing it! Right. Anyway, Robbie would be very interested. When is the convention?
August 30 to September 2. We already have a tentative offer for that date, but we’d much rather go with this.
Yeah, well, I mean, there’s no money involved. [Long pause] No money? What about production costs?
That would be covered by the campaign. But this will basically be a good-faith gesture to the party. We may be able to work out some small donation. Is that essential? Yeah! He risks his life for what he does.
His insurance bills must be very high. Yeah. I mean, he’s never jumped for free in his entire life.
But he loves his work, doesn’t he? He does, but unlike a concert singer, he risks his life when he performs.
Right. But he’d be risking his life for the Republican Party. It’s not a bad PR angle for him. [Dubiously] Yeah . . .
I will tell you one possible hitch—the Secret Service. Since President Bush is going to be there, they are freaking out about this. You know, they are just so neurotic, those boys. Listen, if the USS Intrepid is letting us jump, and the Fire Department, I don’t think we are going to have any problems with this thing. You know, the first jump of Robbie’s entire life was in Madison Square Garden. He was 9 years old.
So he’s coming full circle in a way. Isn’t that nice? You guys have got to get yourselves on the boat Saturday night—gotta see the pomp and circumstance.
And Robbie won’t be averse to jumping a herd of elephants? Robbie’s dad jumped cobras!
But has Robbie ever jumped cobras? No, but he’ll jump anything.