Heard on the Hill: No Brotherly Love

Posted September 1, 2008 at 7:42pm

MSNBC host Chris Matthews might not just be interviewing politicians this convention season — he might also be laying plans to join their ranks. Matthews, who reportedly has designs on the Senate seat now occupied by Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), seems to be angling for the new gig, meeting with the Pennsylvania delegation during the Democrats’ convention in Denver, HOH hears.

[IMGCAP(1)]One guy who is suspicious of Matthews’ moves is former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.), who lost his own Senate seat to an upstart Democrat, now-Sen. Bob Casey. HOH caught up with Santorum at Sunday night’s screening of the conservative comedy, “An American Carol.” Santorum said he had heard of Matthews’ delegate visit — and he clearly didn’t approve. “It’s sad to see a guy who at least tried to maintain a sense of objective journalism become such a complete dupe for the other side,” he said. “That shows that he’s looking for another career — he’s not doing his own career very well.”

Matthews is at the center of some very public tiffs with fellow MSNBCers, including “Countdown” host Keith Olbermann.

An HOH spy saw the “Hardball” host arriving at the Minneapolis airport on Sunday, standing on one of the moving walkways. While chatting on his cell phone (the spy overheard him talking about “Keith” — presumably Olbermann), Matthews obliviously blocked the path on the walkway, causing a backup behind him.

Saying What Holly-wouldn’t. Sunday’s screening of the Hollywood-goes-conservative film “An American Carol” brought out some of the movie’s principals, including Kevin Farley (brother of the late “Saturday Night Live” funnyman Chris Farley), Jon Voight and producer David Zucker, for some conservative laughs.

Actor and outspoken Republican Kelsey Grammer, who plays Gen. George Patton in the film, appeared in a video to address the crowd. Grammer, who recently had a heart attack, got applause from the audience when he told them that “against doctor’s orders, I watched a little of the coronation coverage. I mean convention coverage,” referring to the Democrats’ Denver confab in which they named Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.) their main man.

The film itself is rife with “Airplane”-esque slapstick — and a lot of liberal-bashing. One of the jokes sure to stir up controversy came when the plot takes the main character, a Michael Moore-based character named Michael Malone, to an America that would have been if the country hadn’t engaged in the Civil War and ended slavery.

In that scenario, Malone finds that he’s a slave owner and meets some of his own slaves, including one played by Gary Coleman (of “What you talkin’ about, Willis?” fame). Coleman is polishing Malone’s car and then tosses the rag he was using to an off-screen character. “Take over, Barack,” he says to the unseen fellow slave.

It’s not your typical Hollywood fare, but Zucker told HOH that making the film has “been unusual and surprising all the way through.”

The movie has been screened four times, and three of the audiences laughed throughout, Zucker said. The fourth audience?

“For some reason, it just didn’t work,” he joked.

The movie is set for release in October. If it does well, it might inspire Hollywood’s closeted conservatives to come forward with their right-leaning ways, Zucker said. But even if it flops, the film won’t lead to anybody getting blackballed, he said.

“For being very far left, they’re very capitalist in Hollywood,” Zucker said. “We go beyond the political stuff.”

Rock You Despite a Hurricane. With Hurricane Gustav hammering the Gulf Coast, the scene in Minneapolis-St. Paul is one of caution, with politicians and attendees wary that their words or actions will be seen as insensitive.

But Sunday night, nobody knew how much damage Gustav would cause and so the celebrations went on as planned. And over at the club First Avenue, aging rocker Sammy Hagar took the stage with seemingly little worry about Gustav’s impending wrath.

“That’s a big shame and all that,” said Hagar, the former lead singer for Van Halen. “But at least you people don’t have to work tomorrow.”

Folks in the crowd — a much older set compared to the scene at other parties — seemed a bit uncomfortable with the remark, although several raised their glasses. By the end of the set, Hagar did say he was sorry about the hurricane, adding that the country will be able to weather the storm.

“You better get used to my jokes, because they’re not funny,” he quipped. “They’re silly.”

As Seen on (the Would-Be) V.P. It’s pretty common practice these days for fashion designers to send their latest trendy piece to celebrities. The idea is that the stars will get photographed in the design, regular folks will see them wearing the piece and — voila! — free publicity.

So imagine the pleasant surprise for one group of fashion entrepreneurs when they discovered that the world’s newest political celebrity is a fan of one of their jackets.

North Potomac, Md.-based JNA Connection Inc. mostly sells jewelry made out of gems such as topaz at trade shows and similar events. But the company also sells Turkish-made leather jackets, which are designed to appear as if they are covered in leaves.

A few days ago, the company got word that the Republican vice presidential candidate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, is a fan of the jackets, JNA’s Paul Maarec told HOH. So when JNA came to hawk its jackets and jewels at the Delegation Welcome Party on Sunday afternoon, the company made sure to print out a sign with the picture of the Alaska governor sporting the company’s jacket — along with an “as seen on Sarah Palin” headline — and place it near the jackets.

JNA had planned to come to the Republican convention even before finding out about Palin’s fashion preferences, Maarec said, adding that nobody can recall Palin buying the jacket. The company has not met with her, either, Maarec said.

“We would like to,” Maarec added. “That could be a new trend at the White House.”

Sisterhood of the Traveling Prams. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) can sympathize with Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. The two women have a lot in common: Both gave birth while holding high-powered elected offices to sons with Down syndrome. McMorris Rogers, who has a 16-month-old, was hesitant to give the new vice presidential pick any advice, though, when HOH caught up with her on Monday.

“I handle it better some days than others,” she said of the competing demands of elected office and motherhood — particularly when there’s a baby in the mix. But Palin’s plan to hit the campaign trail with an infant? “Now that’s going to be a challenge,” McMorris Rodgers told us. “Hopefully, he’ll nap a lot.”

She was speaking, of course, about little Trig, Palin’s 5-month-old son — not the Alaskan’s 72-year-old running mate, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.).

The Big Uneasy. The all-star lineup of New Orleans musicians slated to perform at Monday night’s Friends of New Orleans party (of which Roll Call was a co-sponsor) aren’t rushing home, even as Hurricane Gustav hammers their hometown.

“If they can’t be with their families in the evacuation, there’s nowhere else they said they wanted to be but here,” said FONO’s chairwoman Gloria Dittus of Dittus Communications. The contingent of tunesmiths include Big Easy legends such as Erma Thomas, Marcia Ball and Cyril Neville. The only musician who canceled is Allen Toussaint. The R&B star couldn’t make it to the Twin Cities because of the storm, Dittus told HOH.

Briefly Quoted. “I tell people I am legitimately a little bit country and a little bit rock ’n’ roll.”

— Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), cracking a joke on Monday with a group of high school- and college-aged women, at a women’s leadership forum sponsored by Lifetime TV, Cosmogirl magazine and the Declare Yourself campaign. Sadly, the line bombed, since none of the youngsters seemed to get Blackburn’s 1970s-era Osmond-family reference.

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