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Stars align for RNC

On The Tonight Show recently, actor Kelsey Grammer told Jay Leno that he was recently robbed of an Emmy nomination — not for his acting, but his politics.

"It may have to do with several things, honestly, but I think it's possible [it's because] I'm a declared out of the closet Republican in Hollywood," Grammer told the late-night host.

His statement made for juicy headlines. But the outspoken Frasier star might not be as alone in Tinsel Town as he thinks.

At the Republican National Convention in Tampa, the famous factor could be greatly enhanced over years past, a sign that being a Republican in Hollywood isn't a dirty word anymore.

Kid Rock, Zac Brown Band, Sara Evans, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Journey, 3 Doors Down, BeBe Winans, Gavin DeGraw and members of Jane's Addictions and the Eagles are just a few of the acts who will jam here at mostly invitation-only events, making this, arguably, the most musically relevant RNC week ever.

The rockers' voting record doesn't matter; that they're even showing up during a GOP-centric week is telling enough.

The RNC planning committee has not released its official list of incoming celebrities. We do know Northern Exposure's Janine Turner will be giving a speech. But let's think about the bolder possibilities. Clint Eastwood, Jeff Foxworthy and Cindy Crawford have all endorsed Mitt Romney, and could very well show up here.

Everybody Loves Raymond's Patricia Heaton doesn't shy away from her GOP beliefs. Rappers LL Cool J and 50 Cent tout their Republican bona fides. Chuck Norris, Dwayne "the Rock" Johnson, Tom Selleck are macho supporters. Even the adult film industry has a vocal GOP supporter in Jenna Jameson.

And can you say Britney "I Heart George W. Bush" Spears? Yep, Brit's a conservative, too.

The RNC in 2012: It's not just for Charlton Heston anymore.

There was a time, not many election years ago, when the height of rocking 'n' rolling at the RNC was hearing Lee Greenwood sing God Bless the U.S.A.

Yes, Greenwood will be here, and so will faded country stars Rodney Atkins, Trace Adkins and Montgomery Gentry. That much hasn't changed. But for the first time in a long time, there will also be hot, hip rock 'n' roll.

"From what I hear, you're getting way better music acts," says Megan Boldt, a reporter for the St. Paul Pioneer Press who covered the RNC hijinks in 2008.

"Styx was the biggest act they could get for here," says Boldt. "It was kind of like a running joke. Why didn't [we] get the Democrats? They have better acts!"

As for Hollywood stars, Jon Voight and a mook from the The Sopranos roamed Minnesota. But there wasn't a lot of celebrity rah-rahing for John McCain. "There might have been one or two celebrities," says Boldt. "Arnold Schwarzenegger was there, but he was governor at the time. We had Hollywood, but he was a politician, too. It was more like famous politicians."

In comparison, at the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver, guests included the Black Eyed Peas' Fergie and Will.i.am, actors Jessica Alba and Susan Sarandon and director Spike Lee. Featured musical acts included Stevie Wonder, John Legend and Sheryl Crow, a mighty trifecta right there.

Entertainment at this year's Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., is going to be good again. Alba and husband Cash Warren are throwing a party featuring Pitbull and the Scissor Sisters. The Roots and B-52s have scheduled sets. Eminem and Nicki Minaj may also do a show. There's wishlist buzz that Springsteen, Paul McCartney and Bono will show up, too.

Not too shabby. But when it comes to party towns, Tampa crushes Charlotte (and St. Paul — no offense), and our balmy tropicality may be a factor in lurings celebs, as well.

"Tampa brings the cool factor," says Shannon Rose, a Florida casting director and PR man. "We're right near Orlando, we're right near the theme parks. You can go to the beaches, you can go to the strip clubs. This is more of a city that invites people."

"Republican" used to be taboo in Hollywood, says celebrity blogger Perez Hilton. But the list of proud supporters of the GOP is now a much more fascinating mix. You want more? Bruce Willis and Sly Stallone. Game-show hosts Drew Carey and Pat Sajak. Wrestler Dwayne "the Rock" Johnson. MTV's Jessica Simpson. The View's Elizabeth Hasselbeck.

Chances are good the Tampa RNC may no longer be as lopsided as Alec "30 Rock" Baldwin vs. Stephen "Slap Shot 2: Breaking the Ice" Baldwin. Plus certain notables will be here not to represent a political party but a cause: Sin City's Rosario Dawson will take part in a Latino leadership panel. Jeff Bridges will be here for a screening related to the End Hunger Network.

In an email, Hilton told me that just being a Republican is no longer an indictment in Los Angeles: "Extremist is the new dirty word in Hollywood."

Pack your bags, Brit. Tampa Bay would love to have you.

Sean Daly can be reached at sdaly@tampabay.com. Follow @seandalypoplife on Twitter.

Stars align for RNC 08/26/12 [Last modified: Sunday, August 26, 2012 8:44am]
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