- The Washington Times - Monday, August 23, 2004

Republicans will do the flag-waving, boot-scootin’ boogie when the curtain goes up on their national convention on Monday, with Madison Square Garden being declared a Springsteen-free zone.

Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie said yesterday that the final entertainment lineup for the event includes honky tonk, country, a little gospel, Christian rock, and some Southern-fried favorites. Sophisticated jazz, urban R & B and headbanger indie music will be in short supply.

Though the Republican brand of celebrity has little to do with Hollywood elites or East Coast cool, the party’s showbiz instinct is very much intact.

Republicans “will ‘play the Garden’ this month,” said Ed Harris, chief operating officer of the Republican National Convention, which will showcase the “momentum and excitement of the Republican Party.”

But the down-home touch that the Bushes love is there.

Fresh from a “Red Dirt Road Tour” and a new album called “Steers and Stripes,” country music superstars Kix Brooks and Ronnie Dunn headline the festivities.

Brooks & Dunn have had 22 No. 1 country hits, including “Boot Scootin’ Boogie” and “Only in America,” a tune about the American dream, which the duo most recently performed for 35,000 U.S. Marines — complete with the comely Coors Twins in camouflaged miniskirts.

The convention program also features country girl Lee Ann Womack, Latin artist Jaci Velasquez, Christian rock band Third Day, Texas pop band Dexter Freebish, country singer Darryl Worley and gospel vocalist Donnie McClurkin.

“I haven’t really heard of a lot of these people, but I have an open mind. We’ll have a good time. You’d be surprised how Republicans can party,” noted one determined woman who was headed to the convention.

Other celebrities include Michael W. Smith, Daniel Rodriquez, Daize Shayne, Ron Silver, the Gatlin Brothers, Elisabeth Hasselbeck, Sara Evans and Dana Glover.

Singer Wayne Newton, actor Stephen Baldwin and actress Bo Derek add to the Republican brand of star power — a topic that has come under much scrutiny in recent days.

“Some stars have GOP stripes,” noted the Philadelphia Inquirer last week, which offered an overview of glittering big names who openly support the Republican Party, despite Democrats’ claims that Republicans are both anti-celebrity and downright frumpy.

The Republican A-list includes comedian Dennis Miller, wrestler/actor The Rock, and actors Freddie Prinze Jr., Bruce Willis, Dennis Hopper, Tony Sirico, Robert Duvall, Jason Priestley, Shannen Doherty and Kelsey Grammer.

Other performers in President Bush’s corner include musical performers Lynyrd Skynyrd, Chaka Khan, Kid Rock, Ricky Martin, Lee Greenwood, Britney Spears and Steven Tyler.

“We’ve got a unique celebrity lineup that will bridge generations and keep people on the edge of their seats, wondering what will happen next,” White House Chief of Staff Andrew H. Card Jr. said last month.

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