President Beatty? He's contemplating it

Politics: The actor meets with the mastermind behind Jesse Ventura's campaign ads, but his movie star image might be too much.

August 27, 1999|By Rob Hiaasen | Rob Hiaasen,SUN STAFF

They talked for three hours over Chinese take-out. The hosts' children romped about, with no hired help in sight. Ad man Bill Hillsman, "just some schmo from Minneapolis," hung out last week in Los Angeles "talking about some stuff" with none other than actor Warren Beatty.

Beatty, a telegenic 62 years of age, has become the celebrity wild card in the 2000 presidential race by hinting he might run for the White House.

"After 35 years of liberal activism as a Democrat, I am being urged by some people to spend 40 years of fame on a presidential campaign," Beatty wrote Aug. 22 in the New York Times.

Hillsman, president of North Woods Advertising, made a name for himself by creating ads for Jesse Ventura, the former pro wrestler who became Minnesota's governor.

Reached by scratchy car phone, Hillsman said this week that Beatty and his wife, Annette Bening, sounded serious about a Beatty campaign.

"They are still wrestling with whether they want to put their family through this," Hillsman said. "My only advice to him was to take his time to decide and if you do it, run to win."

Given the public's mistrust of politicians, a Beatty campaign could actually echo Ventura's astounding political victory, Hillsman said: Another Mr. Political Outsider goes to Washington. "With Jesse Ventura and people like Warren, people understand they have nothing to lose by telling the truth. And that's powerful."

Already, an ABC News presidential poll showed Beatty scoring 25 percent compared to, for example, Bill Bradley's 29 percent.

It's hard to say what's more startling: the fact that Beatty got 25 percent or that the number wasn't higher.

The Don Juanian Beatty is no stranger to politics. He worked on the campaigns of Robert Kennedy, George McGovern and Gary Hart.

He's better known, of course, for starring in such movies as "Bonnie and Clyde," "Shampoo," "Heaven Can Wait" and "Reds." But through his movies, Beatty's politics have spoken.

In his 1998 "Bulworth," Beatty played U.S. Sen. J. Billington Bulworth, a politician so morally sick to death of his own TV-ad image that he morphs into a rap-singing populist with an overhauled radical agenda. Now, as life mimics art, maybe-candidate Beatty sounds a lot like Bulworth.

"We can overcome the power of big money to corrupt our political system and the government it elects," Beatty wrote in the Times.

So, let's run with the idea of a Beatty campaign. It would be sexy, for sure. Before his marriage to Bening, Beatty had been romantically linked to about every leading lady in the Western Hemisphere.

If he did run, just imagine that first press conference

Mr. Beatty, Sam Donaldson, ABC News In your Op-Ed piece for the Times, you say you're for universal health care and complete public financing of all federal campaigns. But I think the American public deserves to know whether, for a fact, Madonna is a good kisser.

Beatty: "Sam, I'd rather talk about the issues of my campaign. Our elected officials serve mostly the interests of the rich, as America remains deeply divided by class. Our country is sliding from democracy to plutocracy and "

Hey Dude, Chris Matthews for "Hardball." Are you shocked at how few women have come forth to accuse you of sexual harassment since you became a candidate?

Beatty: "Shocked? No."

Warren, pick me, pick me! Hi, Helen Thomas, UPI. What, this? Oh, it's just the same ol' dress I always wear at press conferences. Now, is it true you would name Jack Nicholson your drug czar and Madonna your Director of Health and Human Services?

Beatty: "Both are close friends, and both could ably serve my administration in creative ways. But, no, I've had no formal discussions with either Mr. Nicholson or Ms. Madonna."

Warren Beatty, 62, raised in Arlington, Va., movie actor, producer and director -- this is Bob Woodward, Washington Post. Texas Gov. George W. Bush claims he has been drug-free for 25 years. I ask you, Mr. Beatty, are you drug free?

Beatty: "Does Viagra count? No, seriously, Bob, do you mean drug-free since leaving Los Angeles County last night?"

I'd like a follow-up question, Mr. Beatty, 62, movie actor, producer and director. Were you upset that your sister, Shirley MacLaine, announced that in a previous life, she has already been the president?

Beatty: "I'm fully aware of my sister's past, Bob. But given her presidency preceded that of Rutherford B. Hayes, I believe enough time has passed for another family run at the White House."

Warren, Geraldo. We still going clubbin' after this press conference gig? Sly Stallone is bringing over a few

Beatty: "As I was saying, Geraldo, the centrist Democratic party has failed to mold public opinion against big money and "

Right, OK. Nod, nod, wink, wink. Let me give you a soft one, pal, then let's cruise. Why would you be a good president?

Beatty: "As a policy matter, no interns."

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