Bill Clinton Needles Gary Hart at Warren Beatty Tribute

Poor Gary Hart. The former senator, erstwhile presidential candidate and subject of two recent Westword Q&As (click here and here to check them out) got to walk the red carpet with -- woo-hoo! -- Arianna Huffington prior to an American Film Institute tribute to actor/director Warren Beatty, and he was seated near the front of the ballroom with honored guests such as George McGovern, the onetime South Dakota senator whose 1972 presidential campaign Hart managed. But in the July 8 telecast of the June 15 event, McGovern and President Bill Clinton, not Hart, got the prime politico speaking slots -- and in his remarks, Clinton took a good-natured jab at the Coloradoan while waxing anecdotally about Beatty.

The presence of big-time Dems at the salute made sense. After all, Beatty's appeared in just seven movies (and directed only three) since 1980, which definitely gave the frequent clip montages something of a redundant feel -- but since at least the McGovern years, he's been among Hollywood's most prominent liberal activists.

Don't know if Hart got a few minutes to jaw early in the broadcast, since I only caught the last 45 minutes of the two-hour program. However, he remained seated while McGovern, sounding pretty steady for an 85-year old, delivered valentines from the table -- after which Clinton strode to the podium. In his remarks, which are viewable at this address, Big Bill riffed on some of Beatty's best known roles, including Clyde Barrow in 1967's Bonnie and Clyde, before talking about meeting the actor at the 1972 Democratic convention in Miami, where Clinton served as a McGovern volunteer. He'd been instructed to get members of the Arkansas delegation to throw their weight behind McGovern, but one young woman said she'd only vote his way if she got a chance to walk on the beach with Beatty. Shortly thereafter, Clinton bumped into Beatty in an elevator and mentioned the proposal, which the latter accepted, strolling in the sand with the woman for about 100 yards or so.

Clinton subsequently noted that the woman backed his candidate on every single measure from that point onward. Then, milking the laughter of the celeb-packed audience, he added to McGovern, "He is the reason you won on the first ballot. Not Gary Hart. Warren Beatty."

Gary Hart: Always the bridesmaid, never the Clyde. -- Michael Roberts

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts