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Archerd: Bill Clinton Makes Return Appearance in L.A.


HOLLYWOOD--On the eve of his departure for India, Bill Clinton spent a helluva weekend in L.A., and we were delighted to share some of it with him. On arrival in town, Clinton started off playing golf and wound up playing sax on his last night here. He began at Riviera Country Club golfing with Casey Wasserman and Sugar Ray Leonard. Clinton finale'd Sunday night playing sax along with B.B. King and David Foster in the BevWilshire ballroom's "Family Celebration 2001."

Clinton shared honors with Betty and Gerald Ford -- and others -- as $1.5 million was raised for various charities. The two former presidents alternately praised one another as they accepted their respective awards and genuinely smiled for the battery of (thrilled!) photogs.

The room was peppered by a troupe of Secret Servicemen, who must have been concerned about the crush of well-wishers who descended on both presidents, constantly circling their tables. But there was nothing but love in the air for both Republican Ford and Democrat Clinton, who accepted their invitations to raise money for the Family Celebration's charities.

It was a miracle the weekend came off perfectly -- to exec producer Aaron Tonken's credit. The printed/mailed invitations for Sunday night's concert/event were originally for UCLA's Royce Hall. And invitations for the Saturday night's "Western Style Barbecue Salute honoring Betty and Gerald Ford" set the event at Ken Roberts' ranch (the former Robert Taylor estate). That event was a last-minute switch to Robert Lorsch's Lorschland.

Both events came off without a hitch, with Cynthia Gershman picking up the tab for Sunday night, Lorsch for Saturday night.

A far more personal event was Sunday lunch (for 22) in honor of Clinton hosted by Loreen Arbus at the Regency Club. In this personal and casual atmosphere, the former president revealed thoughts about the past and his future, the plans for his presidential library, the past election, future ones, the Supreme Court current and future, Ralph Nader, the Republicans and the current White House occupant.

Clinton said no one should be surprised by the early actions by the new administration, which believes, "You can fool some of the people all of the time, and that's what they're concentrating on!"

About the Clinton library (to open in two years): It will give visitors state-of-the-art opportunities to view the problems that confronted his presidency -- and give you the opportunity to solve them.

He fascinated with his enthusiastic descriptions of his library and facts about past presidents. He pulled no punches on his opinion of Ralph Nader, saying the Democrats "should stick it to him. He wanted Bush to win!"

Clinton pitched for a national holiday on election day and hoped for the day when money is not the deciding factor in elections. He deplored the U.S. Supreme Court's role in deciding the Gore-Bush election, noting Republicans knew they would get it to that point and that they would win in that court. He also said members of the Supreme Court "are now not talking to one another."

He predicts a "liberal Latino" will be the GOP's next appointee to the Court and he says Bush will pack the appeals courts (with conservatives).

He allowed, "there's been some buzz" about his running for mayor of New York, "the third or fourth most important job in the country," but, while he thanks New Yorkers for their support of Hillary, that's not his agenda.

He plans to be in public service helping national and international areas of need, admitting his contacts made during his presidency will help achieve those goals. F'rinstance, he and Nelson Mandela had a recent phone conversation and now Clinton's off to aid Africa following his India trip.

He also hoped he earns enough from his book and lectures "so Hillary and Chelsea won't have to worry if anything happens to me." He deplored today's news coverage, saying television news doesn't get people to think but only gets them angry.

So he's taken to reading books. He admitted he left the White House even more inspired than when he entered.

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Hillary Rodham Clinton, unable to attend Sunday because of senatorial duties, taped both a welcoming message to the BevWilshire group and congratulatory introductory remarks to Heart of Giving Award winner Loreen Arbus, who has continued the charitable giving started by her father, Leonard Goldenson.

She accepted her award from Clinton, and Elizabeth Taylor made the presentation to Bill Clinton. Whoopi Goldberg noted there are few men who could get her out on a Sunday evening -- and Clinton is one of 'em.

"I really want to thank him for eight great years," she said, adding, "You don't know what you've got until it's gone."

Gerald Ford noted of the Clintons' award, "You richly deserve this recognition and we treasure our friendship with Bill and Hillary."

Ford gave a moving speech on his childhood (a broken home) and the true meaning of family. Ford also gave a tribute to Cynthia Gershman.

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Suzanne Pleshettte and Tom Poston, who said they'll marry in two-three weeks -- "The engagement and wedding rings are being made now" -- made a presentation to award winner Bob Newhart.

Richard Gephardt (D-Mo.), on tape, intro'd award winner Sylvester Stallone.

Other winners: Bob Lorsch, the cast of "Ally McBeal" and Jeffrey Bonforte.

David Foster music-produced the spectacular show, which included young singers Josh Groban and Nita Whitaker, Marc Anthony, Ray Charles, 'N Sync, Dwight Yoakam and B.B. King with "guest" sax player Bill Clinton. Carson Daly hosted.