Convention Watch: Star Spangled Line-Up

Republicans are hoping to boost sagging convention ratings with an all-star line-up. Famous faces will grace the stage on every night of the convention, with top musical acts providing entertainment during convention intermissions.

The GOP kicks off convention week Monday night with a political version of the hit game show Win Ben Stein’s Money. The star of the show, Ben Stein, will be on hand to lead the fun. Stein, famous for his monotone voice in movies like Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and the TV show The Wonder Years, is no stranger to the GOP — he was a speechwriter and lawyer for Republican presidents Nixon and Ford.

Tuesday night, blues guitarist Jimmie Vaughn and his Tilt-a-Whirl Band will kick off the evening’s session.

But Wednesday is shaping up to be the week’s most star-packed night. Perhaps the picture of the week will be House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., calling the delegates to their seats with the help of The Rock, five-time champion of the World Wrestling Federation. As soon as the delegates have taken their seats under the watchful eye of The Rock, recently retired NFL quarterback, Steve Young, will deliver the invocation.

Grammy-winning musician Kenny Gamble will deliver the evening’s first speech. He’s the founder of Universal Community Homes of South Philadelphia and will talk about urban renewal and revitalization. Later in the evening, Cuban-born singer Jon Secada will entertain the delegates between speakers. And for the evening’s closing performance, organizers will rely on an old GOP stand-by, Lee Greenwood. Greenwood’s biggest hit, “God Bless the U.S.A.”, was played often on the campaign trial in 1988 and 1992 by George W. Bush’s father, former President Bush.

On the final night of the convention, country-music star Lorrie Morgan will sing the National Anthem. The GOP has slated “film icon” Bo Derek to introduce California Assemblyman Abel Maldonado, who will address the convention in Spanish. Miss America 1995 Heather Whitestone McCallum will introduce a video tribute to Laura Bush, George W. Bush’s wife. Rising political star, George P. Bush — the 24-year-old nephew of the candidate who was recently named People magazine’s fourth most-eligible bachelor — will speak in both Spanish and English about the challenges facing young Americans.

Country music stars Brooks and Dunn will perform right before Gov. Bush is introduced to the delegates. And the GOP promises an “electrifying climax to the convention” with a performance by seven-time Grammy-winner Chaka Khan.


Oh Say Can You Sell …

Philadelphia retailers will welcome the Grand Old Party to its presidential convention with a whiff of good old-fashioned capitalism: red, white and blue martinis, rubber elephants for the bathtub and cookies resembling George W. Bush campaign buttons.

The quirky promotions at retail shops, restaurants and hotels are all about grabbing the attention — and the cash — of the 45,000 Republican officials, delegates and reporters who will attend the convention.

Convention-goers can nosh on cookies decorated like the Liberty Bell, soak in a bath with red, white and blue effervescent salts or take home a commemorative hotel room key. At the Old City restaurant Novelty, diners can eat “American Pie,” made of apples and served with ice cream and an American flag.

The Ritz-Carlton is offering the “unconventional bath” package to its guests. Each night, they’ll also receive a different convention-themed amenity, from the jelly beans favored by former President Ronald Reagan to a white chocolate Lincoln Log pastry.

Hotel guests, who pay from $250 to $5,000 a night for a room, can even taste a bit of Texas by sampling Texas Governor’s Mansion Cowboy Cookies, based on a recipe by Laura Bush.

The Park Hyatt at the Bellevue is offering “politically incorrect” martinis, including the Honest Abe, a concoction of vodka, creme de menthe, amaretto and club soda.

Lee Schwartz, the owner of Cookies by Design in Philadelphia-suburb Merion, will be making cookies in the shape of elephants, the American flag and political buttons touting “Bush for President,” among others.

The convention has also given some of the city’s museums a chance to tie their collections to the festivities. Visitors at The Academy of Natural Sciences can learn more about the history of elephants and how they became the GOP’s symbol.

— The Associated Press

Let the Protests Begin

Protesters kicked off a week of demonstrations in Philadelphia Saturday to coincide with the upcoming Republican convention.

All over town, various groups organized rallies and displays to highlight issues like gun control, abortion, and animal rights.

At the Liberty Bell, 200 antigun protesters laid out nearly 30,000 shoes to represent victims of gun violence. The group, Silent March, has set up similar displays all across the country. Meanwhile, a group supporting gun owners gathered nearby to set up 1,000 American flags.

At a downtown Planned Parenthood abortion clinic, about 250 anti-abortion advocates held a prayer vigil. A block away, a handful of abortion rights advocates from the Women’s Radical Action Group held signs and sang songs outside a church where one anti-abortion group had attended service.

Also this morning, about 30 people in wheelchairs in a “Rolling for Justice” brigade assembled in front of Independence Mall, where the Declaration of Independence was signed.

Not all of Saturday’s planned events came off without a hitch. A handful of animal rights advocates were arrested Saturday in South Philadelphia on their way to a protest where they planned to dump more than a ton of manure in front of the First Union Center, site of the convention.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals also planned to have activists wearing pig and cow costumes dancing in support of an excise tax on meat. The group says meat is harmful to humans and animals and so should be taxed in the same way cigarettes, liquor and luxury cars are taxed.

PETA member Bruce Friedrich says police officers detained at least five members of the group while they were at a gas station filling up the air in the truck’s tires. He says police also seized banners, signs, buttons and the costumes that were to be used in the demonstration.

Police could not confirm immediately whether anyone had been arrested or what the charges would be.

— The Associated Press