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From Tinseltown to Beantown

Celebfest at the Creative Coalition fund-raiser

By Jason Morrell

Producer and writer Norman Lear is among the crowd at this week's Creative Coalition-Recording Industry Association of America gala.
CNN's Barbara Starr on John Kerry's military spending plan.

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The Big Picture:  A star-studded gala fund-raiser

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BOSTON, Massachusetts (CNN) -- It was a party with a purpose -- and also one of the hottest tickets in town -- a star-studded gala benefit hosted by the Creative Coalition, in partnership with the Recording Industry Association of America.

The $1,000-a-pop show at Louis Boston clothing store Wednesday night was part party and part fund-raiser for the Creative Coalition, a nonprofit, nonpartisan group advocating First Amendment rights and government funding for the arts.

The ultra-exclusive event featured a special concert performance by the Red Hot Chili Peppers and drew a slew of Hollywood celebrities onto the red (actually, orange) carpet -- including actors Billy Baldwin, Alyssa Milano, Ellen Burstyn and "Just Shoot Me" TV star Wendie Malick, among others. (The Big Picture: A gallery of shots from the fund-raiser)

Actor Jason Bateman of Fox's "Arrested Development" sitcom told CNN that too few young adults voted in the last presidential election. "So if we get more young people to vote, we can get the landslide we deserve and we could really reap the benefits of what John Kerry stands for," he said.

Actor and Creative Coalition president Billy Baldwin said, "I'm a dyed-in-the-wool Democrat and I think this is the most important election in my lifetime."

Baldwin clearly is a fan of Democratic nominee John Kerry's wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry. Born in Mozambique, Heinz Kerry is of Portuguese ancestry and speaks five languages. She opened her speech to the Democratic National Convention Tuesday night with greetings in several languages. (Special Report: America Votes 2004, the Democratic convention)

"She's smart and passionate and dedicated and cultured, been around the world, and lived around the world," Baldwin said. "Remember Gomez Addams? When Tish speaks French and he starts biting on her arm and her neck? When she [Heinz Kerry] hit the sixth or seventh language Tuesday night, I almost turned into Gomez Addams. I almost started kissing the arm of a Secret Service agent."

Actress Alyssa Milano (TV series "Charmed" and "Who's the Boss") is also a Heinz Kerry fan. "I think she represents everything that my generation believes in," Milano said.

Another hot topic among the celebrities was the unedited taped 12-minute row between conservative talk show host Bill O'Reilly, host of Fox News' "The O'Reilly Factor;" and "Fahrenheit 9/11" documentary maker Michael Moore Tuesday night.

The pair debated hot-button issues including President Bush's reason for going to war in Iraq and whether the United States should withdraw from Iraq.

Milano said she didn't see the interview, but would side with Moore anyway. "He represents what I believe in," she said.

O'Reilly claimed victory, though. "Everyone had to say I won big. The facts always override propaganda. So we had the facts," he said. "But you got to give Moore credit for showing up. And I do give him credit for that."

Soap actor Zen Gesner ("All My Children") told CNN about a recent chance encounter with the Kerrys.

"I was on Nantucket last week and my wife and I were in a restaurant, and I had a fluke meeting with Kerry and his wife," he said. "It was wonderful. They came right up and were so friendly."

Gesner's wife is actress Cynthia Farrelly Gesner, the sister of filmmaker Bobby Farrelly ("Shallow Hal," "There's Something About Mary," "Dumb and Dumber").

Gesner said his brother-in-law has has been living in Sun Valley, Idaho, the past year. The Kerrys also have a home there.

"My wife mentioned that her brother might be a neighbor there," Gesner said. "She asked, 'Do you know Bobby Farrelly'? Kerry says, 'Bobby Farrelly! You're Bobby Farrelly's sister? Teresa, get over here, get over here. This is Bobby Farrelly's sister.'"

Kerry may be the headliner in Boston, but all the buzz among the celebs was over Democratic rising star and U.S Senate hopeful Barack Obama, state senator from Illinois.

"What a guy. I was very moved by him," said actor Jerry Stiller of "Seinfeld" fame and the current CBS series, "King of Queens." "He related to the people from his heart, he wasn't just looking at the teleprompter, he was coming through in a big way."

"I thought Mr.Obama was absolutely amazing, an incredible speaker and a real visionary," said actor Alan Cumming ("Spy Kids," "X2").

Actress Ellen Burstyn said she, too, was impressed with Obama. "I thought he was just incredible. I look forward to seeing his career unfold." Burstyn called Obama a brilliant speaker and a very interesting man. "I was ready to vote for him," she said.

Activist Bianca Jagger, a tireless campaigner against the death penalty, said she plans to lobby whoever wins in November "because we have so many people who are innocent and so many people who have been released at the last minute on Death Row and wrongfully convicted."

Once married to Rolling Stone Mick Jagger, Bianca Jagger has evolved from '70s jet-set party girl to social activist championing a range of human rights and opposing war. She's also the mother of celebrity designer Jade Jagger.

Wednesday night's gala comes on the heels of a Creative Coalition-sponsored public forum Tuesday, moderated by former HUD Secretary Andrew Cuomo, where panelists discussed promotion of arts education. The panel included celebrities Ben Affleck, Alfre Woodard, Wendie Malick and O'Reilly.

CNN's Susan Pettit contributed to this report.

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