NEW YORK -- In the aftermath of Clint Eastwood's perplexing and ridiculed "invisible Obama" monologue at the Republican National Convention, conservative blogger Moe Lane summed up what many on both sides of the political divide are thinking.
"The term `surfing on the edge of the catastrophe curve' comes to mind," Lane wrote at RedState, concluding the bit that had the 82-year-old Hollywood icon talking to an empty chair did work but, "I would not recommend that the GOP make it a habit."
Celebrities have courted politicians, and vice versa, since the dawn of Hollywood, but what happens when the alliance backfires, when the two worlds are suddenly speaking different languages?
The crowd Thursday night at the Tampa Bay Times Forum, just ahead of Romney's "speech of a lifetime," greeted the Eastwood Moment with hearty laughter and applause, a welcome break of levity on the last day of a tightly choreographed convention.
But behind the scenes, Romney's campaign staff didn't find it so humorous. Asked about it immediately after the convention concluded, a half-dozen staffers said little. The campaign quickly went into damage control.
Unlike every other convention speaker, the teleprompter in the hall wasn't used during Eastwood's speech, which had him lampooning President Barack Obama as if he were there. The routine from the Oscar-winning director of "Unforgiven" and "Million Dollar Baby" lasted twice as long as scheduled, cutting into the hour of prime time coverage for Republicans.
It also sucked up Friday morning coverage of Romney's speech that had him accepting the Republican nomination for president.
On "CBS This Morning," Ann Romney cast about for words. Asked whether his contribution was a distraction or a mistake, she responded: "He's a unique guy and he did a unique thing last night." But the wife of the new nominee was quick to add that "we're grateful for everyone's support and especially grateful for what a great night it was last night."
Grateful, too, like plenty of politicians, for any financial support that comes along with celebrity pals, though Eastwood's bucks may not be in the mix.
Eastwood endorsed Romney on Aug. 3, in Sun Valley, Idaho, where he attended a fundraiser, so any money he would have contributed personally or through his company hasn't turned up yet in financial records filed with the Federal Election Commission. After the fundraiser, Eastwood let the campaign know he was interested in participating in the convention, a Romney aide said.
In this world of oversharing, when the like-minded or contrary are only a tweet away, social media blew up over Eastwood's confusing convention appearance, along with political-pundit quarterbacking on both ends of the spectrum.
"It ... was odd. Not consistently terrible as some argued," observed National Review's Jim Geraghty. "I have no doubt some folks loved it. It may very well have actually moved some votes. But boy, did it get weird at times."
What of the visible president? Was he watching, and taking notes on how to manage his crowded stable of actors and artists among friends and supporters?
White House spokesman Jay Carney said Obama had no observations on Eastwood's appearance. Nor did he watch the Republican convention, the spokesman said, but his official feed on Twitter – (hashtag)BarackObama – most certainly did.
"This seat's taken," the account tweeted late Thursday as Twitter exploded with mockers – and some supporters.
Discomfort or mere awkwardness aside, it's rare for a celebrity endorsement to backfire in a big way, said Steve Ross, a professor of history at the University of Southern California who has studied the impact of star endorsements in political campaigns.
While some stars, such as Jane Fonda, have proven toxic (she went to North Vietnam during the war in 1972), Eastwood carries enough gravitas and respect that he will get more people to pay attention to Mitt Romney, Ross said.
Eastwood is no Jane Fonda.
In 1986, a Missouri Senate candidate was pilloried for the simple acceptance of $2,000 from the actress. The candidate, the now-dead Harriet Woods, was branded "Hanoi Harriet," linking her to Fonda's "Hanoi Jane" moniker, and she lost the election, Ross said.
Nor is Eastwood a regular contributor of political punditry or skewering standup routines.
"This isn't Jeff Foxworthy. This isn't some comedian," Ross said. Eastwood is "Mr. Law and Order. I can't think of a bigger national spokesperson they could get."
Yet freewheeling celebrities do bring their risks:
_ Though far from a catastrophe, during a stop at an Obama fundraiser in March, Robert De Niro found himself at the center of a White House apology over a joke about candidates' wives.
"`Callista Gingrich. Karen Santorum. Ann Romney. Now do you really think our country is ready for a white first lady?' De Niro asked the crowd, according to a White House pool report.
Gingrich howled. The White House apologized, and so did the actor.
_ George Clooney, the Hollywood darling of the Obama administration, got arrested outside the Sudanese Embassy in Washington that same month, managing to suck up plenty of limelight after traveling to the troubled region himself and testifying before the Senate.
_ In 2008, Scarlett Johansson got a little too close for Obama's comfort. She claimed publicly that she had his ear in regular personal email exchanges after she endorsed him. Not so, the embarrassed candidate had to explain. There had been one email, forwarded by an aide.
_ It was an "Oprahpalooza" during primary season in 2007. The talk show queen endorsed Obama and stumped in Iowa before thousands, detracting hugely from Hillary Rodham Clinton's two surrogates, mom Dorothy Rodham and daughter, Chelsea, both appearing publicly for the first time. The reluctant Chelsea Clinton's emergence would otherwise have been big news.
Linking celebrities to candidates was a process that started in the late `20s, when movie stars were sent on the road to stump with politicians, Ross said. The idea was to draw in more people – many of whom would leave after seeing the star but others who would stay and listen to the candidate's message.
Capitalizing on celebrity culture to capture new votes, especially among the undecided, was the value, he said.
"This has been the key idea whether it was 1928 or 2012 with Clint Eastwood," Ross said.
AP Entertainment Writer Anthony McCartney in Los Angeles, AP writer Kasie Hunt in Tampa, Fla., Ben Feller and Sam Hananel in Washington, and news researcher Monika Mathur in New York contributed to this report.
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The No Doubt singer and L.A.M.B. designer <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/12/obama-hollywood-democrats-super-pacs_n_1340385.html" target="_hplink">hosted the First Lady at her Los Angeles home in August</a>. That event was attended by Nicole Ritchie, Joel Madden, Jeffrey Tambor, Alyson Hannigan and No Doubt member Tony Kanal. Tickets were $2,500 for a family of four, and about 400 people were said to attend.
The charming actor is undoubtedly the campaign's brightest star. Aside from hosting a dinner which <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/11/george-clooney-obama_n_1508850.html" target="_hplink">ended up bringing $15 million into the campaign's coffers</a> (through the sale of $40,000 tickets and a contest through which fans could enter to attend by donating $3), he has <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/12/obama-hollywood-democrats-super-pacs_n_1340385.html" target="_hplink">dialed up over $500,000 in Geneva</a> as well. The latter fundraiser featured contributors shelling out $15,000 each for dinner and another $5,000 for a photo with Clooney. The President has said the actor is a true and brilliant friend. He forgot to mention "highly lucrative."
Ben Affleck & Matt Damon
... and John Krasinski, Jennifer Garner, Reese Witherspoon, Zach Braff and Tobey Maguire. Though that list of names reads more like a red carpet tip sheet than a fundraiser guest list, all of the above celebrities <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/22/ben-affleck-elizabeth-warren-fundraiser_n_1537308.html" target="_hplink">lined up and brought out their check books for Elizabeth Warren</a>. The consumer advocate, law professor and creator of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau got a big boost from the stars, who supported her bid to reclaim Ted Kennedy's Senate seat for the Democrats, from Scott Brown and the Republicans. A May event at "Lost" creator J.J. Abram's house was said to net over $250,000 for Warren's campaign. Harvey Weinstein, Jeffrey Katzenberg and Steven Spielberg were said to have sent checks.
Clint Eastwood It's a bit lonelier on the other side, but Clint Eastwood <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/03/clint-eastwood-romney-endorses_n_1740021.html" target="_hplink">made Romney proud</a> by endorsing the former governor's fiscal policy -- and handsome mug. At a fundraiser in early August, Eastwood announced he would vote for Romney, the type of candidate the actor said America needed "now more than ever." (Romney's reaction: "What a guy.") That puts Eastwood in the company of Kid Rock, Jon Voight and Kelsey Grammer.
The "Glee" creator was <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/11/ryan-murphy-barack-obama-fundraiser_n_1510006.html" target="_hplink">one of many Hollywood figures who brought out their checkbooks</a> in the wake of Obama's support of same-sex marriage. Julia Roberts, Jane Lynch and Reese Witherspoon were among those who took part in a fundraiser hosted at Murphy's home. About 70 people were said to attend, with tickets going for $40,000 per couple. If we assume most came as couples, a cool $1.4 million or more could have been raised.
The "Dark Knight Rises" actress has been spotted at Occupy Wall St. protests, so it's not shocking that she would lean a little to the left. She attended a fundraiser at Harvey Weinstein's house, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/06/obama-anne-hathaway-aaron-sorkin_n_1749753.html" target="_hplink">where the president described her as "the best part" of the Batman movie</a>. ("Newsroom" and "West Wing" scribe Aaron Sorkin also got a plug: "He writes the way every Democrat in Washington wished they spoke.") The dinner, which cost $35,000 per person, was attended by Anna Wintour and Jerry Springer as well.
The singer is currently working on a bit of a comeback, but a June fundraiser featuring a performance by Carey was <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/14/obama-sarah-jessica-parker-mariah-carey-fundraisers_n_1596020.html " target="_hplink">solid enough to bank $2.5 million for the president</a>. Mr. and Mrs. Obama were in attendance, and the event took place the same day as Jessica Parker's. Efficiency is always the aim, it seems.
Warner Bros.' CEO (pictured here with Sen. Patrick Leahy and Clint Eastwood) presided over an event at his home, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/13/gwen-stefani-michelle-obama-fundraiser-not-spiderman_n_1772046.html" target="_hplink">welcoming the FLOTUS into an eager crowd</a> that included WB TV President Peter Roth, Netflix executive Ted Srandos, HBO Vice-President James Costos, DreamWorks Animations COO Anne Globe. Chelsea Handler also attended. Tickets were $2,500 and a photo with Michelle Obama cost an additional $2,500.
Back in May, Weinstein's overall contribution to Super PACs pointing Obama's way <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/12/obama-hollywood-democrats-super-pacs_n_1340385.html" target="_hplink">was already valued at nearly $700,000</a>. Since then, he's hosted a fundraiser at his home and referenced the president favorably in countless interviews. In Hollywood, it's good to have Hollywood on your side. Perhaps the same goes for Washington?
Sarah Jessica Parker
The "Sex and the City" star <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/19/sarah-jessica-parker-obama-fundraiser_n_1609383.html" target="_hplink">hosted the president and first lady </a>at the home she shares with husband Matthew Broderick. There were about 50 who attended the highly exclusive event, and guests like Anna Wintour, Meryl Streep, Michael Kors and Aretha Franklin eagerly doled out the $40,000 ticket fee for the chance to mingle with the Commander in Chief. The dinner was said to have raked in $2 million for the campaign.
The "Red Hook Summer" director hosted the POTUS, who received not only $1.6 million (according to Lee), but <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/01/20/spike-lee-hosts-president-obama-fundraiser_n_1218479.html" target="_hplink">also a pair of custom Nikes</a>. Mariah Carey and Nick Cannon were among those who attended. Lee continues to speak favorably of Obama in interviews.
Gaga may be busy touring and recording (naked), but the "Born This Way" pop star <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/09/26/lady-gaga-attends-obama-fundraiser_n_980505.html" target="_hplink">found time for a fundraiser in Silicon Valley</a>. As always, the singer dressed eccentrically, wearing a floor-length lace dress which she paired with a giant hair-do and a veil hair piece. Gaga had said she wanted to meet with Obama to discuss bullying.
The Cast & Creator of 'The Wire'
Obama has shouted out David Simon's "The Wire" as his favorite show, so it's no wonder the cast of the program returned the favor in August. Multiple former cast members <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/17/the-wire-obama-fundraiser_n_1799304.html?utm_hp_ref=political-hollywood " target="_hplink">spoke at an event in Martha's Vineyard</a>, just a day after Simon ripped into Mitt Romney on his blog. Simon rejected Romney's attempt to calm a growing controversy surrounding his tax returns by assuring reporters that he had never paid below 13 percent, a number Simon found "absurd."
The Frasier star <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/15/kelsey-grammer-emmys-snub-republican_n_1784677.html" target="_hplink">floated the idea that he was snubbed for an Emmy for "Boss" on account of his openly conservative views</a>. Grammer <a href="http://fundrace.huffingtonpost.com/neighbors.php?type=name&lname=grammer&fname=kelsey&search=Search+by+Name " target="_hplink">donated</a> to John McCain, Rudy Giuliani and George W. Bush when they were each running for office and has been all the more vocal about his views this time around.
What can be said? Angelina Jolie's father has made a cottage industry out of supporting Republicans, though he's a bit prone to gaffes. In a speech at the Republican National Convention, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/28/jon-voight-obama-administration-media-control_n_1837409.html" target="_hplink">Voight compared Obama's administration to Cesar Chavez</a>, mistakenly invoking the co-founder of the National Farmworkers Association. It's safe to assume Voight meant to compare Obama to Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez. Voight has donated to conservative politicians in the past.
The comedian and talk show host <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/02/24/bill-maher-super-pac-obama-_n_1299250.html" target="_hplink">donated $1 million to Priorities USA,</a> a Super PAC which supports Obama and has also fielded contributions from Steven Spielberg. In an appearance on HuffPost Live, Maher explained that he hoped his decision would inspire others in Hollywood to do the same, and said he believed Morgan Freeman's recent donation proves that his plan had worked. He also frequently fact checks and disparages Romney and the Conservatives on his HBO show.