Beverly Hills Billy
The famously stained dress. The zealous prosecutor. The shocking address to the nation. If ever a presidency could benefit from a tidy Hollywood ending, it’s Bill Clinton‘s. And though conventional wisdom suggests that Saddam Hussein will host Talk Soup before the soon-to-be ex-chief executive accepts a gig in Hollywood, there are compelling signs there’s room in Tinseltown for a First Mogul.
For one thing, Clinton’s presidency has always resonated strongly with the entertainment world. Witness the windfall from his recent problems: The number of pay-per-view orders for Wag the Dog tripled at some cable systems last week, and copies of the video have been flying off shelves faster than you can say independent counsel. Meanwhile, late-night gabapalooza Politically Incorrect has seen such a sudden ratings boost that host Bill Maher and his producers considered taking out full-page ads in the trades thanking Clinton (they ultimately nixed the plan). And taken solely as a TV phenomenon, the President’s national confession ranks among the 10 most-watched broadcasts in history (67.6 million viewers tuned in Aug. 17).
But it’s Clinton’s movie-studio connections — particularly his close ties to one specific studio — that really have people wondering whether they might soon see him shrouded in a Bel-Air Hotel bathrobe making StarTAC calls at poolside. Ever since its founding in 1994, DreamWorks SKG has often felt more like DreamWorks SKG&C. Indeed, the idea for the studio took shape four years ago, when, reportedly, Steven Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg, and David Geffen had a brainstorm after they all attended a White House dinner for Boris Yeltsin. A look at the President’s recent itinerary shows more ties that wind: On July 31 and Aug. 1 Clinton stayed at Spielberg’s house in the Hamptons. Ten days later, the President visited Geffen’s Beverly Hills home, then hopped over to Katzenberg’s place nearby, for a Democratic fund-raiser. And if house calls aren’t enough, there is, of course, the rumor.
The story making the rounds in Hollywood’s power circles is that Tom Hanks, possibly in conjunction with the DreamWorks trio, had purchased a $3.2 million house in Pacific Palisades for the Clintons. Furthermore, word was that the President would also accept a position with DreamWorks. True story? Close, but no cigar. The actor did buy the house, says Pat Kingsley, Hanks’ spokeswoman, but ”for personal reasons, not for the President.” Adds Fred Sands, head of one of L.A.’s top real estate agencies: ”The story was started by real estate agents trying to increase property values.”
As for Clinton’s becoming a DreamWorks exec, studio marketing chief Terry Press asks: ”Which part of no don’t you understand? We are sick of these questions, just as the American public seems to be of the whole scandal.” A White House spokesperson also pooh-poohs the idea, saying: ”We are not aware of any offers.”
However, even if there won’t be a dream job awaiting Clinton, the President may still have options in Hollywood. If nothing else, the DreamWorks rumors stirred up speculation about his prospects as a studio executive. ”I’d definitely work for him,” says Amy Pascal, president of Columbia Pictures. ”He’s smart, and you can’t get enough smart people out here.” Likewise, Kingsley thinks Clinton would fit in perfectly: ”You can’t beat his contacts, and he has a moviegoer’s instincts.” As for actual responsibilities, former NBC chairman Grant Tinker thinks Clinton could run a studio, though he says he’d need ”a number of lieutenants to educate him as he goes.”