Heard on the Hill: The Celebrity Stack-Up

Posted September 23, 2009 at 6:35pm

Correction Appended

As Hollywood types such as Will Ferrell, Jon Hamm, Olivia Wilde, Moby, Jessica Alba and even one of the guys from “M*A*S*H— lend their starpower in support of President Barack Obama’s health care plan, HOH wondered whether anyone among the celebrity set might actually — gasp! — side with the GOP on the issue.

[IMGCAP(1)]Here’s our celebrity head count: While conservatives have never been plentiful in Hollywood circles, they do exist. And as it turns out, some of them have been pretty outspoken against “Obamacare.—

Take Chuck Norris. The “Walker, Texas Ranger— star helped former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee in his 2008 presidential bid, and last month penned a column for conservative Web site Townhall.com blasting Obama’s plan.

Oh, and he’s also counted to infinity. Twice.

Then there’s actor Jon Voight. Angelina Jolie’s dad is a longtime Republican, and he hasn’t changed his political allegiance when it comes to the issue of health care. In a recent appearance on Huckabee’s show on the Fox News Channel, Voight said America is “witnessing a slow and steady takeover of our true freedoms.—

Musician Ted Nugent has been outspoken as well. In a July 2009 opinion piece published on wacotrib.com, the musician (identified as a “Texas Wildman— on the site) writes that America’s health care system is flawed because Americans simply don’t take care of themselves — and giving more power and money to the federal government isn’t the solution. “Putting Fedzilla in charge of health care is like a bank putting Al Capone in charge of counting money at the end of the day,— he adds.

C-lister Stephen Baldwin also has helped with right-wing health care efforts — he spoke at Glenn Beck’s 9/12 march on Washington, for example — although he tends to focus his thoughts more on his Christian faith than the minutiae of government policy.

Maybe if a few more celebs join their cause, they’d have enough members for their own gang of six …

A Staffer’s Swan Song. When a Capitol Hill staffer decides to leave his or her post, the departure is usually marked by an office memo.

But when Chuck Atkins, chief of staff for the House Science and Technology Committee, announced his retirement earlier this month, he did it with a musical touch.

According to an HOH tipster, Atkins pulled committee employees into a meeting and put on The Doors’ trippy tune “The End.— Atkins then informed his colleagues that he’d be leaving the panel at the end of the year. “His goal was to announce it in a way that everybody found out at once,— the tipster said.

When the brief meeting wrapped up, Atkins played crooner Van Morrison’s “Baby Please Don’t Go,— the tipster said.

Staffers were amused by the announcement, but they’re lamenting Atkins’ final farewell.

“He’s a fantastic boss, and we’ve been afraid he’d be leaving, but he just looks so happy we couldn’t help but be happy for him,— the tipster said. Science and Technology Chairman Bart Gordon (D-Tenn.)echoed those thoughts. “Chuck has been an exceptional staffer and a loyal friend,— Gordon said.

Louis Finkel, the panel’s director of policy and outreach, will take over as chief of staff after Atkins steps down. “That news was shared without musical accompaniment,— the tipster joked.

Heart of the Matter. Politics isn’t for the faint of heart, which might be why NBA legend Jerry West stepped into the fray on Wednesday. The retired Los Angeles Lakers star and former general manager of the Memphis Grizzlies came to Capitol Hill to raise awareness about a heart condition he suffers from, a form of arrhythmia called atrial fibrillation.

West attracted a few stares (no mean feat among the celeb-jaded Hill crowd), giving a closed-door briefing for Members and staffers in the Capitol in the morning and lunching at the Capitol Hill Club.

He told HOH that people he spoke to seemed receptive to his message (he is part of an initiative called AF Stat, which calls attention to what a costly and debilitating disease atrial fibrillation can be). But the disease, which increases the risk for stroke and heart failure, isn’t slowing down West, or, apparently, a fellow “afib— sufferer, former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay.

West said he caught the Texas Republican’s hip-shaking televised appearance Tuesday night. “I saw him on ‘Dancing With the Stars’ and it sure didn’t look like he had it,— West said.

Hungry Like The Wolf. Chef Wolfgang Puck has cooked for plenty of political bigwigs. Top guns such as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.) have all dined at Puck’s D.C. hot spot, the Source.

But Puck has his sights even higher: He wants to cook dinner for the queen of England and President Barack Obama. While first lady Michelle Obama has visited the Source, the president has not yet dined there.

“I think if the queen of England would come to my house it would be nice, or the president,— Puck told HOH on Wednesday.

The chef, who spent the day in his restaurant’s kitchen, is in town to host a party at the Newseum in celebration of what would be businessman and newspaper publisher Hank Greenspun’s 100th birthday.

Puck says he’d love it if Obama visited his home in California, where they could chat, drink and eat the night away.

“I’d like to have a really intimate dinner, but where you can also cook and have the cocktails right around the kitchen,— he says. “And I could make them little appetizers and have them all hang around.—

Sounds like a fun night to us! Any chance HOH could score an invite?

“No press!— Puck said.

Walk This Way. In a sea of suits and khakis, it’s always easy to pick out the rock stars. An HOH tipster saw Aerosmith’s Joe Perry — in the hipster uniform of black jeans, a blazer, a long scarf and no tie — heading into the office of Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) on Wednesday afternoon.

Perry is in town for the “Rock Stars of Science— event tomorrow promoting science education, in which he’ll appear with top scientists. (We’re guessing the scientists will be the ones in lab coats, not the hipster-wear.)

Sen. John McCain also got some face time with the guitarist. The Arizona Republican proudly posted a photo of the two of them on his Twitter feed.

Alison McSherry contributed to this report.

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Correction: Sept. 25, 2009

The article incorrectly stated the profession of former basketball player Jerry West. He is retired from the position of general manager of the Memphis Grizzlies.