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We're hurting for Hollywood glam

By SHARON FINK, Times Staff Writer
Published November 28, 2007


ST. PETERSBURG -"Glitz," "glamor" and "presidential debate" have as much in common as Britney Spears and Mitt Romney.

Even at the glitziest debate, you'd be hard pressed to find Brad Pitt in the audience beaming at the Democratic hopefuls and Patricia Heaton pressing flesh for the GOP.

Then again, you'd be hard pressed to define what a glitzy presidential debate is.

What we can be pretty sure it's not is the 26th intraparty swap of sound bites held less than a week after Thanksgiving in the Tampa Bay area, even if it is just six weeks before the primaries begin.

Don't make the mistake, however, of thinking that the glitz appeal of tonight's debate at the Mahaffey Theater in St. Petersburg also is hurt by it being for Republicans.

The party generally perceived to have the lesser amount of glitz and glamor between the big two is not only the one that keeps getting actors elected to office, it will have one participating.

But for our G&G, we won't be left with only Fred Thompson and his one degree of separation from former Law & Order co-star Sam Waterston.

Debate sponsor CNN has said that attending will be Chuck Norris, the working man's Arnold Schwarzenegger and icon of Generation Y males thanks to the Web's Random Chuck Norris Fact Generator ( Norris is scheduled to be here to support his endorsed candidate, Mike Huckabee.

Also favoring the former Arkansas governor is WWE wrestler Rick "Nature Boy" Flair. Nature Boy has campaigned with him, but there has been no word whether Flair will tag-team with Norris for a bay area celebrity SmackDown.

Not that they would have many other celebs to smack. Once we get past Norris, the glitz prospects get grim.

The TV writers strike means we won't be hosting anyone from The Daily Show. And this would have been the perfect assignment for local-boy-makes-good Daily Show correspondent Aasif Mandvi, who went to Chamberlain High in Tampa, majored in theater at the University of South Florida and acted in local productions before heading to New York to become really famous.

Another reliable generator of debate star power, the Creative Coalition, is bypassing the bay area in favor of the TV network that airs Bridezillas and Girl Meets Cowboy.

The coalition is an entertainment industry nonprofit, nonpartisan social and political advocacy group, and it has sent celebs to debates this year in New Hampshire, California, Las Vegas and South Carolina (where its entourage included a guy from Entourage and Emmy winner Richard Schiff, who played a politico on TV - White House communications director Toby Ziegler in The West Wing - and whose wife, actor Sheila Kelley, has built an exercise empire based on striptease and pole dancing moves.)

But today, the coalition's official presence will be in New York at the WE network's launch party for its WE Vote '08 campaign to get women to register to vote. (The coalition is one of the campaign's partners.)

James Denton, hunky plumber Mike on Desperate Housewives, was at the Republican debate in Simi Valley, Calif., in May, but according to, he's a registered independent who was there because he's a fan of MSNBC's Chris Matthews, that debate's moderator. Our moderator is CNN's Anderson Cooper. But maybe Cooper will bring along his mother, Gloria Vanderbilt, actor, author, fashion designer and Vanderbilt.

Chances are slim to none that showing up will be any of the other famous people who have been spotted at previous debates, among them Harry Belafonte, author Terry McMillan and Melissa Etheridge (she was a moderator at one sponsored by gay-oriented TV network Logo, but she still counts).

So consider this an open casting call for anyone with any kind of star power in the bay area right now to do your part to raise our glitz factor today. Pull strings to get a debate ticket. Mingle outside the postdebate party. Walk the streets all day to attract attention.

Contrary to popular belief, Chuck Norris can't do it alone.

Times staff writers Bill Adair and Eric Deggans and correspondent Marty Clear contributed to this report.

[Last modified November 28, 2007, 00:49:41]

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