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Convention Confidential

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The Democratic National Convention continues in Boston, and PEOPLE is there, following the power players and stars.

POLITICAL DIDDY: How passionate is Sean “P. Diddy” Combs about his new role as founder of the fledgling voter motivator group, Citizen Change? Passionate enough to interrupt a vacation in Saint-Tropez to come work the halls of the Democratic National Convention. And his reception? As Combs tells PEOPLE: “I knew I was definitely going to add some flavor to the situation, you know what I’m saying? I can relate to all people, you know? I understand politicians, Democrats, Republicans, Green Party. Whatever crew you want to be down with, you know, I understand that. You all got your own entourages and gangs, too.” Among Diddy’s duties on Thursday was to talk to young voters (including those at the Divine Styler barbershop in Boston’s Roxbury neighborhood, though he didn’t get a trim); be interviewed by Tom Brokaw; and meet with the Rev. Al Sharpton, U.S. Senate candidate Barak Obama, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, OutKast’s Andre 3000 and Ben Affleck. As for any political aspiration on his own part, Combs says: “I don’t never want to run for office.”

ANDRE ADVISES: Also prowling the halls Thursday was Andre 3000, who, in a dapper white pinstriped shirt with green buttons, matching red, white and black plaid vest and pants, a red patterned bow-tie and a straw hat, had some fashion advice for John Kerry: Wear double-breasted jackets with pique lapels. And, the Declare Yourself volunteer added, get a hobby, like Clinton’s saxophone playing. When he learned that Kerry plays guitar, Andre 3000 exclaimed, “Really! If he’s a guitar player, he’s good to go!”

WILLIE WORKS: Not all the musicians at the convention are rappers. Willie Nelson’s midday rehearsal of “Living in the Promised Land” drew a crowd of appreciative onlookers on the convention hall floor. After practicing the song several times, Nelson signed autographs for members of his backup chorus.

ROXY CROWD: Spotted at The Roxy, rocking into the wee hours: Alyssa Milano singing with LL Cool J as he performed “Mama Said Knock You Out.”? Leonardo DiCaprio and Ben Affleck, both in suits and sporting Kerry pins. ? Affleck chatting with U.S. Senate candidateBarak Obama ? The crowd chanting “Catie! Catie! Catie!” when vice presidential nominee John Edwards, wife Elizabeth Edwards and daughter Cate made a brief appearance onstage around 1:30 a.m. ? A dressed-downChris Heinz , saying his stepfather’s acceptance speech “was fun to watch,” then hanging out in the VIP balcony ? And a dressed-up Andre Heinz making a beeline for his little brother.

SISTER ACT: Alexandra and Vanessa Kerry told PEOPLE that they wrote their own convention speeches, though Vanessa did run some of it by Dad first. “Was he okay with that?” Alexandra asked Vanessa about a story she would be telling. Vanessa chided, “No, but I’m sharing it anyway.” In her defense, Alexandra confessed, “That was my own insecurity of, ‘Oh God, I didn’t check my story out.'” They also speculated on whether they would move to Washington should their father be elected. Probably not, they figured, quoting one of their stepbrothers, who said: “I don’t think it’s ever cool to move back home when you’re 30.”


Thursday: Alyssa Milano’s sexy take on Teresa, Bill O’Reilly game for challenge

MILANO’S MUSINGS: Boston has special meaning to Alyssa Milano. “My brother was conceived here 21 years ago in Boston. I did the play Annie here when I was 8 years old, and my parents had a wild night here apparently. And I love Boston.” Any of her own crazy times here? “My wild-night days are over.” The person Milano would most like to meet is Teresa Heinz Kerry. “She’s from South Africa, and I lived in South Africa for three months.” Milano also said of Mrs. John Kerry: “She’s a sexy woman. She’s got style, and I think her voice for women is so important at this time. … (John) Kerry’s sexy, but there’s something about her that’s just unbelievable.”

KERRY’S TURN: Vanessa Kerry told PEOPLE at lunch Wednesday that she’s been nervously preparing to introduce her father at the convention Thursday night. “I lay down yesterday and found my heart pounding in my chest so I decided to go for a little walk and decided I would practice my speech while I walked,” she confessed. “And I’m walking down Memorial Drive gesticulating and carrying my papers and I’m watching people lock their doors. It was good, it was fun.”

YOU’RE HIRED: The Apprentice castoff Omarosa Manigult-Stallworth was proud to be representing her political party at the convention center, reminiscing about her days as a staffer for Al Gore and in the Clinton White House. Currently fundraising for the DNC and never missing the chance to self-promote, the diva boasted to PEOPLE, “I can raise money anywhere, any time. I have kind of acquired a nickname: Black Money Honey.”

THE O’REILLY FACTOR: Hearing that Alfre Woodard wants to take on Bill O’Reilly for his pro-war remarks at a Creative Coalition discussion, the conservative FOX commentator tells PEOPLE to bring her on. “She wants to wrestle me?” O’Reilly asked. “I think we can arrange that. Sure, with her. Not the Baldwins, but with her, sure. She’d probably kick my butt. I’d certainly give her the chance to try.”

CARLTON ON KERRY: “A Thousand Miles” pop singer Vanessa Carlton, 23, knows how to stand out in a crowd – thanks, in part, to 5-in. Prada heels – and she just may turn her voice to politics. Inspired by a trip to the floor of the Democratic National Convention on Wednesday, Carlton excitedly tells PEOPLE: “This makes me want to run for Congress! It makes me feel inspired!” Her platform? “I would require that everyone go to Kauai one week every summer” on the government’s tab. “Of course, taxes would increase. Oh, and everyone would go to college for free.” Her advice for John Kerry? “I would tell him to loosen up a bit and get in touch with the side of him that makes his grandma want to pinch his cheeks! It’s important to sell your politics and your personality.”

ROCK SHOP: Clothier Louis Boston served as the site of a Creative Coalition and RIAA Rock the DNC concert and party featuring the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Among the attendees: Jason Bateman, Giancarlo Esposito, Bianca Jagger, William Baldwin, Ellen Burstyn, Wes Craven, Alan Cumming, Chris Cooper, Marianne Leone, Alyssa Milano, Bill O’Reilly, Alfre Woodard, Tony Goldwyn, Richard Kind, Wendie Malick, Richard Schiff and Anna Deavere Smith. Black Eyed Peas stopped by in the afternoon, asking if they were too early for the party (scheduled to begin at 9 p.m.). They were, of course, but then they were invited inside, where they went on a shopping spree.


U2’s Bono
Wednesday: Bono dresses down, Bill O’Reilly gets dressed down

DRESSED-DOWN BONO: On his way to meet with politicos, Bono was decked out entirely in denim, with a half-unbuttoned shirt and sunglasses, despite being indoors. When PEOPLE asked if he would change before meeting with delegates, a member of the U2 rocker’s entourage interjected, “He dresses like a hobo.” Bono said, “My job is to be myself and not to be boring. I’m a rock and roll singer first.”

BILL BASHING: Bill O’Reilly sat in the middle seat of six panelists discussing arts, education and politics in an event hosted by the Creative Coalition, with the conservative FOX News pundit getting boos for making a pro-war remark. O’Reilly, who favors local funding of the arts and particularly advocates private funding, had panelist Alan Cumming calling him “insane.” (Fellow panelist Alfre Woodard confided to PEOPLE later that she’d like to take O’Reilly outside for a wrestling match.) Andrew Cuomo hosted the event, which also featured panelists Arianna Huffington, Congresswoman Louise Slaughter, Congressman Harold Ford and Dr. Gottfried Schlaug. The audience included Ellen Burstyn, Wendie Malick, Billy Baldwin, Anna Deavere Smith and Jerry Stiller, who said to O’Reilly: “Bill, one of the things I would love to do is convert you to our side of thinking.”

MALICK MAKES NICE: Just Shoot Me star Wendie Malick positively gushed about her convention experience in Boston. “I love this town. I have many friends from college that live here so I’ve been here a bunch. Yesterday was the singular, most beautiful day I’ve ever spent in Boston. It was beautiful weather. There was no humidity, the sun was out, it wasn’t hot, it was green. It was summer and there was no traffic.” When PEOPLE pointed out that there seemed to be no people around (possibly folks feared trouble near the convention), Malick explained, “It’s not common. It is truly not common. My apologies to the people of Boston who lost business.”

KERRY CRUDITES: Paging Miss Manners! At the GQ party in honor of San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, a famished Alexandra Kerry showed up at The Federalist and made a beeline to the buffet, where she reached in with her fingers and grabbed sushi from the serving platters – even though there were napkins, utensils and plates a-plenty. Perhaps she was just in a hurry.


Tuesday: Maria Shriver joins the Kennedy bash

MARIA MOVES ON: There were wall-to-wall Kennedys on Monday at the Boston College Club, where $300,000 was being raised at a reception to honor the work of the late Robert Kennedy. Non-Kennedys in attendance included Alec Baldwin, Christine Baranski and Queer As Folk actor Robert Gant, all rubbing shoulders with the likes of RFK’s widow, Ethel Kennedy, his brother Sen. Ted Kennedy, his daughter Kerry Kennedy, his sister Eunice Kennedy Shriver and Eunice’s daughter Maria Shriver. Asked by PEOPLE if she missed playing newswoman during the Democratic National Convention, California’s First Lady Shriver (who’s married to Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger) said wistfully: “Yes. It’s the first convention I haven’t covered in, like, four conventions, so it’s bittersweet that way. I went to the gym with my kids this afternoon, and a girl came up to me and she goes, ‘Don’t you really miss this? It’s such a bummer for you.’ I was like, ‘Yeah. What are you going to do?’ But I’m a big believer in that you take what life gives you and move on and make the best of it.”

BEN’S BURGER: Convention fixture Ben Affleck showed up around noon Monday at Leo’s Place, a lunch counter he’s been frequenting since he was a kid. He still eats the same meal of a double open-faced cheeseburger, although this time he skipped the fries. Katie Couric (in the midst of interviewing him for Today) joined him but only had a single burger – and she, too, eschewed the fries. Leo’s co-owner Richie Bezjian told PEOPLE of Affleck: “He looks good. He’s cut down. I like him better without the goatee and beard and moustache.” Katie asked Bezjian if Affleck was a pain in the neck as a kid. “Not at all,” he said.

ANDRE 3000’S CALL: Wyclef Jean, Farnsworth Bentley, Russell Simmons, the Ying Yang Brothers, Reverend Run (of Run-D.M.C.) and Lloyd Banks addressed a crowd of young African-American voters Monday, but it was Andre 3000 who surprised nearly everyone by delivering a serious lecture to the group. He said, “I’m happy to see this many people here get involved, but I would hate to say that the only reason that y’all are coming out was to see entertainers. “If we weren’t here, would y’all still be involved?” While most of the crowd cheered, Andre 3000 pointed to one person in the crowd and said, “I see you shaking your head. That’s sad. That’s sad.” He went on to say, “If you call yourself a hip-hop fan, or you’re a rapper and you do your thing and you talk about what’s going on in your community, on the mic, every day in the studio, and you don’t vote – that don’t make sense. You should just pretty much shut up.” Once not interested in politics, the 29-year-old Andre 3000 said he will vote in his first election this November – and has come to Boston to encourage others to do the same.

TAMBLYN’S TEARS: Joan of Arcadia star Amber Tamblyn, who was making the rounds Monday on behalf of Rock the Vote before rushing back to Los Angeles in time for work on Tuesday, said she planned to sleep on the plane home. “I had to beg for a day off,” she says. When PEOPLE caught up with her, she was curled up in CNN’s green room overlooking the convention floor – and lamenting that she had to return the $100,000 Jacob the Jeweler street cred necklace (a platinum diamond encrusted pendant reading “Rock the Vote”) that she had borrowed for a party Sunday night. “I gave it back with tears in my eyes,” she said.

ALEC’S ACTIVITIES: For vocal activist Alec Baldwin, visiting Boston during convention week isn’t all politics. As the actor told PEOPLE on Monday: “I’m actually visiting my nieces who live here. They go to graduate school and my daughter (Ireland, 8) is here with me. And in and around that trip I’m going to a small number of events that are not on the convention floor. People for the American Way are having a panel on the Supreme Court tomorrow morning, and I’m one of the hosts of it. Then I’m speaking at Harvard. My friend teaches creative writing (and I’m doing him) a favor.”

BONO’S BOSTON: Sources tell PEOPLE that Bono arrived in town late Monday night but will keep a low profile at the request of his record label. Evidently, they ask that the U2 band members stay off the radar screen before the release of their album this fall. So the star spent Monday evening in his hotel resting up to meet with various politicians and talk policy – as he also will be doing next month at the Republican National Convention next month.

MELLOW MELLENCAMP: John Mellencamp, recovering from a recent triple-bypass surgery, was spotted puffing a cigarette outside the Nine-Zero Hotel on Monday evening with his supermodel wife, Elaine Irwin, towering over him.


Monday: Ben Affleck steps out in Boston

BEN TO RUN? Is Ben Affleck destined for a political career? Besides his cohosting CNN’s Crossfire with James Carville on Monday afternoon, the leading man is being touted by one Democratic strategist, who suggested to PEOPLE: “You should get to know him because he’s going to run for office. I can smell it … And I make my living off knowing when people are going to run for office.” When might Affleck’s name appear on a ballot? “He just needs to wait until his movie career fizzles out,” the strategist whispered, admitting that he had never heard of Gigli.

CLINTONS’ CLIQUE: Clinton administration alumni gathered 33 floors above Boston Harbor for a Sunday night “family reunion” at the city’s swanky State Room. Owner Jim Apteker tells PEOPLE that the menu included such favorite Clinton fare as hot dogs, lobster, peach cobbler and Oreo cookies, while T-shirts by designer Marc Jacobs bearing Hillary’s face sold for $55 and Bill’s My Life memoir was given out for free. Al and Tipper Gore were in the VIP room, as was Janet Reno. Senator Clinton introduced her husband to the crowd as “the man who taught Democrats how to win again.” Daughter Chelsea, with boyfriend Ian Klaus, worked the mobbed room alongside Mom, telling one friend, “Sorry about the crush.” Her father wasn’t – he wrapped old Georgetown University buddy Joseph Baczko in a playful headlock and confided to PEOPLE: “I was best man at this guy’s wedding 37 years ago last month.” And what did Clinton do for Baczko’s bachelor party? “That’s a secret,” Clinton said with a grin, “one of the few I have left.”

PORTMAN’S PRAISE: Rock the Vote and Democratic GAIN jointly hosted a weekend party at Avalon, a nightclub right across from Fenway Park. Their purpose: Get young people pumped up about the election – and the John Kerry-John Edwards ticket. As Natalie Portman told the crowd: “Are you ready to party for Kerry all night long? I mean until 2 a.m.? Let’s start a revolution!” Speaking to PEOPLE beforehand, Portman said: “Kerry’s a heartthrob. I think we need to remember that, (and) make this campaign a little flashier, I think. People forget how great a guy he is. … He’s so warm and charismatic.” The candidate’s daughters, Alexandra and Vanessa, were introduced at the bash by Joan of Arcadia star Amber Tamblyn, who called them “my girls.” “This is the first election we’ve worked on,” Alexandra told the crowd. “We were the rebellious political children and we did our own thing.” Chimed in Vanessa: “I get to talk about my dad. The temptation to stand up here and embarrass him from our teenage years is huge!” But alas, no family secrets were spilled. “It’s our future,” she said. “Our ass is on the line. We need your help. Get out and vote!”

BARRY FUNNY: Humorist Dave Barry, having freshly landed in Boston, told PEOPLE of the ordeal of securing his convention I.D. “Getting my credential took me the better part of a day – which makes me feel like I should just go home because that in and of itself is an achievement.” As for what he anticipates, Barry says: “I don’t know … I’m just looking for things to make fun of.” He’s off to a good start, at least: “Howard Dean bumped into me and said, ‘Whoops.’ That’s what he said, ‘Whoops.'” Barry then walked away, looking befuddled.

YOUTH SERVED: Sunday afternoon saw a Comcast Power of One youth panel at Cambridge’s Charles Hotel with 200 youngsters (ranging in ages from 13-18) enjoying a lineup that included moderator D.L. Hughley, Ben Affleck, Amber Tamblyn, Danny Glover, Gideon Yago and Cambridge Vice Mayor Marjorie Decker (who’s known native son Affleck since childhood). Issues discussed during the hour ranged from standardized tests to terrorism. At the reception afterward, Hillary Clinton received a warm hug and a “Hellooooo” from Affleck, who then introduced the senator to his mother, Chris Affleck. The actor also did a favor for Manchester, N.H., Mayor Robert Baines, taking Baines’s mobile phone and talking to Catherine Baines, 19, the mayor’s daughter and a sophomore at Keene State College. Said Ben: “I’m here with your daddy. How you doing, Catherine?” After the call, Baines spoke again to his daughter, who said: “That was awesome.”