George Bush has yet to decide whether he will attend the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. One hundred other heads of state, including those from France, Germany, and the United Kingdom, are expected to meet there in June to approve an ”earth charter” and propose ways to fight massive environmental problems such as erosion of atmospheric ozone and rain-forest destruction. But a full-scale campaign is under way to convince the President to go, and the persuaders aren’t environmentalists or Congressfolk but the new breed of lobbyists — Hollywood stars. At the prompting of Olivia Newton-John, 20 celebrities — including Pierce Brosnan, Cher, Herbie Hancock, John Forsythe, John Ritter, Joel Grey, Mark Hamill, Dennis Weaver, Julie Hagerty, and the cast of Cheers — have taped a video appeal to Bush to attend the Earth Summit.
Cher takes a chiding tone on the tape, saying, ”President Bush, would you please go and represent us at the Earth Summit in Rio? The world is waiting for us to take the lead.” Most of the others are more plaintive. ”As a mother and a concerned citizen, I beg you to attend the Earth Summit,” says singer Rita Coolidge. Ritter simply pleads, ”Please go. Pleease go.”
Newton-John spent six weeks and $1,000 to put together the six-minute video, which was hand-delivered to the White House last week. The cassette also includes pleas from activists and scientists as well as classmates of the singer’s daughter, Chloe, 6. Newton-John says she was careful to keep the tone of the tape nonconfrontational. ”He’d just turn it off. We’ve made it entertaining and poignant.”
Although no firm decision has been announced, Bush has been indicating he might send another ”high-level” official to the conference in his place. ”It’s very important as the leader of this country that he represent us,” says Newton-John, who is a U.N. goodwill ambassador for the environment. ”Sending his second-in-charge isn’t good enough.”
The video appeal is only the latest move in a full-court celeb press to sell Bush on the summit. As a result of movie trailers shown for the last two months in 500 theaters nationwide, nearly 10,000 telegrams have been sent to the White House. ”At stake is the entire human race,” James Earl Jones intones in the ads, made by the Big Blue Foundation, an L.A.-based nonprofit activist group of movie industry volunteers. The group is also using radio ads, cable TV spots, and billboards in its crusade.
Important, says Regina Cleveland, Big Blue’s campaign director, is getting Bush to sign specific treaties committing the U.S. to making reforms. Getting Bush to the meeting is the first step. ”He’s said everything but no,” says Cleveland. White House spokeswoman Mia Kelly says it’s all but certain the President will at least watch Newton-John’s video appeal.
”Ted Danson and Olivia Newton-John — these are people he knows, so I would imagine he would certainly look at it,” she says. Newton-John believes that the President will do more than look. ”I sat next to him at dinner the last time I was at the White House,” she says. ”He has a good heart.”