Monday, September 15, 2003

HBO’s new series, “K Street,” is expected to permanently blur the line between politics and celebrity, so it was hardly surprising the crush of fans, photographers and pol watchers who jammed the show’s exclusive premiere party delivered the message better than any 30-second ad ever could.

“K Street” casts real life political couple Mary Matalin and James Carville as fictional consultants exerting their impact on the day’s political spin.

Stars in the District galaxy, to be sure, but certainly no match for Hollywood’s George Clooney, who trumped them all at the Palm restaurant Friday night.

Mr. Clooney, so movie-star handsome that even men in the crowd testified to his looks, melted away any thought of partisan bickering as he pushed his way through the soiree. The actor is executive producing the new series along with Oscar-winning director Steven Soderbergh, also on hand for the night.

Dressed in all-black with his collar unbuttoned, Mr. Clooney said “K Street” is “a reflection of what’s going on” in the country right now.

“For the first time since Watergate people are talking about [politics] — and not just in Washington,” Mr. Clooney maintained, his famous eyes crinkling at the corners as he spoke.

Heaven help the local scribe, consultant or superlawyer who couldn’t say he or she was there on this stuffy night. Among those braving the packed eatery were “K Street” stars Mary McCormack and John Slattery, Federal Reserve Board Chairman Alan Greenspan (with Andrea Mitchell), Michael Deaver (a consulting producer who also plays himself in the show), Grover Norquist, Paul Begala, Maureen Orth, Howard Fineman, Tucker Carlson, Bill Press, Charles Krauthammer and Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe, who strode through the cramped quarters with all the bluster of a winning politician on election night.

Those sampling the District’s finest faux Hollywood event declared the finished product would be as “fair and balanced” as the Fox News slogan, despite the very liberal Mr. Clooney’s participation.

NBC’s Tim Russert gushed over the very concept of “K Street”

“Anything that gets people interested in government and politics is a good thing,” Mr. Russert said, cell phone in one hand, a cool beverage in the other.

And the new show should offer a reasonably fair account of the District’s machinations, especially, Mr. Russert said, given its casting choices.

“Knowing James Carville and Mary Matalin, I have no doubt this will be balanced,” Mr. Russert added.

Former White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer soaked in a warm welcome from guests who marveled how “relaxed” he appeared since stepping down from his hot spot in July.

“People are fascinated by Washington and excited by the show’s format,” Mr. Fleischer pronounced.

Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich said the country shouldn’t be disarmed by the merger between Hollywood and the Beltway. After all, a little acting goes a long way on the stump.

“All great politicians have a little bit of actor in them,” he said. “Ronald Reagan was one of them.”

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