Jewish World Review Oct. 29, 2003 / 3 Mar-Cheshvan, 5764

Lloyd Grove

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Ah-nold, unauthorized!; a dilemma for Melissa Gilbert? not even Frank Gifford can help him now!; nobody wanted Elizabeth Hurley | NEW YORK — Now that Arnold Schwarzenegger is poised to become governor of California, he must be treated with due deference and respect.

In other words, no mere New Jersey Democratic state senator running for re-election should get away with mocking Schwarzenegger's funny accent in a radio spot.

Thus the California Republican Party has decided to interfere in the democratic processes of the sovereign state of New Jersey. Party officer Mike Vallante has issued a bitter complaint against State Sen. Joseph Coniglio about what he calls the "unauthorized use of Governor-elect Schwarzenegger's image" in a negative ad attacking Republican challenger Rose Heck.

The ad, in heavy rotation on New York stations, begins with a voter asking, "Arnold! What are you doing in Bergen County?" An actor doing a Schwarzenegger impression answers: "I'm here to campaign for Rose Heck. We are going to terminate Sen. Joseph Coniglio."

Then the sort-of Arnold-sound-alike goes into a litany of Coniglio's accusations against Heck.

"This ad was produced without the authorization, consent or knowledge of Governor-elect Schwarzenegger," Vallante charges. "We strongly denounce this fraudulent use of the governor-elect's image."

On Tuesday, Coniglio told me he is unimpressed with the Cawl-ee-foornya Republican's whining. "We're just trying to add a little levity," he explained.

But Coniglio had no comment on a fascinating twist involving his commercial: Steve Winfield, the actor who impersonates Schwarzenegger, is the same actor who was hired by CBS News last March to adopt a phony Arabic accent to impersonate Saddam Hussein's interpreter for the audio portion of Dan Rather's vaunted exclusive interview with the Iraqi dictator.

Winfield — using a variety of silly accents in a phone conversation — confirmed to me that he's the same guy.

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As president of the Screen Actors Guild, Melissa Gilbert has taken a strong stand against Hollywood's practice of making movies in cheap foreign venues when they're set in the Good Old USA.

So some folks have been wondering why Gilbert recently starred in the CBS movie "Hollywood Wives," a Jackie Collins potboiler filmed not in Los Angeles but in Calgary, Alberta, north of the border.

Such so-called "runaway productions" have diverted thousands of jobs from U.S. technicians and crafts people to their less-pricey counterparts in Canada and Mexico.

Last year, Gilbert's union was especially outraged that the USA Network's movie "Rudy" — dramatizing Mayor Rudy Giuliani's leadership after 9/11 — was to be filmed not in New York but in Montreal.

Gilbert's deputy director for external affairs, Pamm Fair, called this state of affairs "ridiculously ironic," adding that was "a story about an American icon being filmed by an American producer outside the borders. American viewers may never know the difference, but American workers will."

On Monday, Fair told me that Gilbert — who was unavailable, worried that her house in Malibu might become kindling for the California wildfires — "would be the first to say that she would much prefer filming to be here in the U.S. Which is why she is working with legislators to enact a law" that would give tax and other incentives to producers to stay home.

The SAG president's foreign affair "is on message and off message," Fair said. "She has said that she'd rather be home, but she made this movie under a SAG contract. Right now the genre of made-for-TV movies is almost entirely produced outside the United States. In some cases a performer can say 'I want to do it here,' if it's Arnold Schwarzenegger or someone like that — but not in this case."


NOT EVEN FRANK GIFFORD CAN HELP HIM NOW!: Sean Combs is feeling the heat over allegations that his Sean John clothing line is manufactured in Honduran sweatshops where workers are subjected to body searches, contaminated drinking water and 12-hour shifts — all to earn 24 cents for each $50 sweatshirt they sew. "That would be total news to me — something I am going to investigate vigorously," the rap and fashion mogul tells "Access Hollywood." "If it is true, I am going to put my foot in somebody's butt." Combs adds: "Whoever is having a press conference, thank you for bringing it to my attention. You could have called me up. You didn't have to have a press conference, but you know it is something that we will have to deal with right away if that is happening." Charles Kernaghan, head of the anti-sweatshop National Labor Committee that tormented Kathie Lee Gifford a few years back over similar allegations, released a report Tuesday on the alleged Sean John-sweatshop connection.

TEA FOR NONE: I still think Elizabeth Hurley is a hot item, even though nobody at Tuesday night's fundraiser for firefighters bid a red cent for the chance to have tea with her in London. After raising $20,000 for a day with Kiefer Sutherland on the set of "24," emcee Denis Leary yelled: "Where's Elizabeth Hurley?" A life-size cardboard cutout of the sexily clad model-actress was brought on stage, and Leary started the bidding. "You get to spend three hours with Elizabeth Hurley!" Not a peep. "Okay, you are making the firefighters very upset right now!" Luckily, the next item — golf in Scotland with Hurley ex Hugh Grant — was snapped up for $15,000.

FROM NEWSIE TO NEWSMAKER: Former New York Daily News columnist and managing editor Michael Kramer has joined retired Gen. Wesley Clark's presidential campaign as an adviser. "Wes asked me to do this," Kramer told ABC News's "The Note," which reports that the two have been friends for years.

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10/28/03: It's Cher calling!; Brown Alert
10/27/03: Paparazzi uncensored!; where's Aaron Brown?; postcards from the middle; invasion of the party snatchers?; House flooded when not afire?; suspenders of disbelief?
10/23/03: Ace up Howard Dean's sleeve; Woody's ordeal; Paul Simon's kid makes good; the non-beginning of a beautiful friendship?
10/22/03: Showing the flag; Joe Frazier, smokin'!; see Carville bruised-up — sort of
10/21/03: Morris & Jaci's charm offensive; Hell hath no fury; Wintertime for Hitler
10/20/03: Isn't it rich?; men (and the occasional woman) behaving badly; peacenik John Lennon supporting the U.S. military?; courageous Connie
10/16/03: George Clooney and intolerable Drudgery; Cameron goes native; and you thought the war in Iraq was nasty?; now it can be revealed; star wars?
10/15/03: Kerik into the breach?; holiday pander?; "the Dink" corrects the record; more
10/14/03: Madge gets mad, lips are sealed; the candidates who listen; he who hesitates is Beatty
10/13/03: Clothes, but no cigar; New Yorkers put a Sox in it; mad at Matalin?; more
10/09/03: Gray Davis goes to the movies; Ali Wentworth, working blue; Law & Order?; pot of gold at the end of the rainbow room?
10/08/03: Art-time for Hitler; the actress who hates movies; lying "Liam"
10/07/03: Pond scum of the rich and famous
07/24/03: Ali and George, living it up; Mel Gibson's Washington power play
07/21/03: White House smear?
07/17/03: Yet another intern scandal; it's her party and she can pay if she wants to
07/14/03: On the auction block: JFK'S boxer shorts; love bytes the maestro
07/10/03: A hairy situation at Homeland Security; Van Susteren v. Orth
06/30/03: Rep. Patrick Kennedy: I've never worked a (bleeping) day in my life; Drudge's dressing down; Ken Lay's Kerry connection
06/26/03: Rapping the beat
06/23/03: Another Watergate scandal?; AL GORE TV!
06/19/03: Tony Snow, rocker?; that won't be crow on Mr. Carlson's plate
06/16/03: Missing dog, ransom demand, Hollywood ending
06/12/03: Giving both parties the needle
06/05/03: Incoming from Barbara Bush?
06/02/03: Bob Dole's plan for fighting unemployment
05/29/03: Newt's new novel
05/27/03: Hitchens & Blumenthal, together again; He still believes in a man called Hope
05/09/03: Close, but no cigar; Romeo & Juliet with a happy ending?; Geraldo to help Heebs?
05/05/03: So Bill Gates and Tom Brokaw walk into a coffee bar . . .; hotel hell; more

© 2003, Creators Syndicate