Thursday, June 24, 2004

A half-dozen beefy bodyguards and a velvet rope separated man of the hour Michael Moore from the hoi polloi Wednesday night when the filmmaker celebrated the opening of his controversial new movie, “Fahrenheit 9/11,” at Adams Morgan’s Left Bank (formerly Cities) eatery.

Clad in a dark suit and New Balance sneakers, Mr. Moore immediately plopped down in a booth next to Miramax Films chief and “Fahrenheit” champion Harvey Weinstein to receive thumbs-up greetings from Massachusetts Rep. Edward J. Markey, Illinois Rep. Rahm Emanuel and New Jersey Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg, all Democrats.

“It could really change things with the election in November,” Mr. Lautenberg said of the anti-Bush movie, which premiered earlier that night at the Uptown Theatre before an audience of prominent Democratic politicos and activists.

Speaking of the furious publicity surrounding “Fahrenheit” — which started with Disney’s refusal to distribute it and a pre-emptive White House response that its claims are “outrageously false” — Mr. Moore insisted he couldn’t have planned the campaign better if he tried.

“They’re helping me,” he said of the movie’s critics. “It’s their core belief that they have the right to trample on my right to free expression.”

Mr. Moore’s rights may be threatened by trampling, but his toes certainly weren’t at the party, thanks to the wall of security men who surrounded him at all times. “He’s received a lot of death threats since the film came out,” an associate explained. “A lot of Saudis don’t like him.”

While many of the pols who attended the premiere skipped the after-party, Left Bank buzzed with activity as guests sipped wine and sampled such delicacies as roast venison in a peppercorn chocolate sauce. Actress Sally Fields; Diane Williams, wife of D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams; CNN’s Bill Schneider; Nation magazine Washington editor David Corn; and New Republic literary editor Leon Wieseltier were sighted, along with Internet gossip blogger Ana Marie Cox, aka Wonkette, and her husband, Chris Lehmann, who had a stint at Mother Jones magazine when Mr. Moore was its editor.

On his way into the party, Mr. Weinstein motioned to another guest, Lila Lipscomb, the mother of a U.S. soldier killed in Iraq whose grief is chronicled in “Fahrenheit.”

“What this movie proves,” he said, “is that you can be patriotic and still be against the war.”

Scott Galupo

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