- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 23, 2005

After standing for at least an hour behind velvet ropes on specially designated toe tags, the press was getting antsy. When were all the promised Hollywood celebs going to arrive at the Creative Coalition’s “Ball After The Ball” Thursday night at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center?

Perennial bad boy actor Dennis Hopper (who is 68, by the way) had dropped out after his hosting gig for an official event on the Ellipse was abruptly terminated without explanation by the Presidential Inaugural Committee. Then Gary Busey’s name also disappeared from the list. Now, a rumor was spreading that Susan Lucci wasn’t going to make it either.

After another 15 minutes of wasted rubbernecking, finally there was a sign of life near the door. Cameras started flashing and the reporters leaned forward, pens poised, tape recorders at the ready for … Ryan Pinkston, the 5-foot 15-year-old from Silver Spring who occasionally appears on MTV’s “Punk’d,” delivering the news flash that he was having a really great time at the inauguration. Next up: Anson Mount, star of the WB network’s recently canceled “The Mountain,” observing that inaugural partygoers were “all white, go to the same parties and drink like fish”, followed by Joe Pantoliano. Wasn’t he the one whogot whacked in the fourth season of “The Sopranos”? Or was it the third?

“This isn’t even the C-List,” one scowling scribe grumbled, “this is the D-List.”

Things improved later when tall, blond and handsome actors Matthew Modineand Tony Goldwyn sauntered confidently in to convey entertainment industry concerns about First Amendment rights, censorship, outsourcing and other issues.

“There is a misperception that everyone in Hollywood is opposed to trying to control violence and sexually explicit material, but I have two daughters and I feel the same way [as many viewers],” Mr. Goldwyn said with convincing sincerity. What needs to be avoided, he noted, “are extreme reactions like the drastic increase in [government] fines after the Janet Jackson episode” at last year’s Super Bowl.

Mr. Modine was worried about America losing “billions a year to runaway productions” in countries where costs are cheaper.

“If a producer can make a movie for $15 million in another country instead of spending $20 million in the U.S., he’s going to do it.” The answer: tax breaks from states and municipalities eager for a tradeoff from the film industry. It can be a good deal, Mr. Modine said, because “any town where a movie gets made” is going to profit by the “millions of dollars the filmmakers leave behind.”

At least a thousand paying guests — lots of ladies in low-cut but ill-fitting satin gowns, many gents in “creative” black-tie — jammed the Reagan Building’s vast atrium to eat Middle Eastern fare, quaff cocktails and hear a performance by singer Macy Gray that turned out to have annoying acoustical problems. Meanwhile, 300 or so sponsorship level contributors partied on the mezzanine level with the stars and an odd assortment of local VIPs that included Sen. Debbie Stabenow, Eleanor Clift, Norman Ornstein, Cristina Vidal McLaughlinand MayorAnthony Williams.

Mr. Williams, who complained that the press “has been kicking my butt for hanging out with a lot of rich people” during the week’s festivities, noted that he had spent much of the evening at a party saluting the troops in Iraq.

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