NEW YORK — President Bush may not have made the cut for Time magazine's list of the 100 most influential people "shaping our world," but he was certainly on the honorees' minds Tuesday at a Jazz at Lincoln Center dinner celebrating the issue.
"Am I influencing you right now?" Tina Fey joked. "Clearly, [it's because I'm] shaping world policy!"
Nearly everyone brave enough to say how they're more influential than the president had a joke to offer, venturing from "My movies have [more] humor!" (producer Brian Grazer) to "I haven't taken people into an unnecessary war!" (Virgin mogul Richard Branson).
"Certainly, whether people are pleased with his influence or not, the world is in the state it's in — good, bad or otherwise — because of decisions the Bush administration has made, so it's sort of strange he's not on the list," Fey said (see "Justin's Time: Timberlake, Baron Cohen Make Most Influential List").
"I think it says something about the way America feels about President Bush," said Democratic presidential hopeful John Edwards as he escorted his wife Elizabeth, who made the list for her fight against cancer. "I think they're grossly dissatisfied with the job he's done as president and they're looking for something new and uplifting, and this is an indication of that. I think tonight my wife is more influential!"
"Is it about how Cate Blanchett is more influential than President Bush? No," explained Time Managing Editor Rick Stengel. "It's about how influential he is to how influential he was before. He's in the last years of a two-term presidency, his popularity is below 30 percent, and you can't argue that his influence isn't diminished. It is. And the fact that we didn't include him reflects that. Oprah Winfrey has been on the list every year — her power has not diminished."
Nor has George Lucas' — while not an honoree this year, his presence at the event, along with Blanchett's, got tongues wagging about the series' fourth "Indiana Jones" installment, which will start shooting next month (see "George Lucas Says Indiana Jones Will Return In May 2008"). But what of the plot? "I can't tell you any of that!" Lucas teased with a wink. "No, everything's going well, it's moving forward."
Indy's executive producer did reveal that the age of his leading man will not be glossed over in the successor to 1989's "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade."
"It's about an old archeologist who still tries to be an action-adventure star," Lucas said (see "George Lucas Says Indiana's Next Crack Of The Whip Will Be Tamer"). "It keeps getting harder and harder as he gets older and older, but he still does it very well.
"Most of the cast has been picked now. A few people are still out there, but mostly we got all the cast together," Lucas said. "Disturbia" star Shia LeBeouf is now aboard (see "Shia LaBeouf Denies 'Indiana Jones 4' Casting, Says Indy Should Have A Daughter"), as is Blanchett, according to The Hollywood Reporter, USA Today and other sources (see "Cate Blanchett Will Reportedly Star In 'Indiana Jones 4' ").
Lucas wasn't the only one giving away secrets on the carpet — John Mayer gave it up that he's been spending a lot of quality time lately with ... Alicia Keys (see "John Mayer Goes Out With Alicia Keys — At Sold-Out New York Show"). "Shouldn't I be saying something like, 'I'm doing a duet with ODB's old tapes' or something?" he joked. "I've got to shock you with who I'm working with so you can say, 'John Mayer working with Alicia Keys, the Fray and Carrot Top? Say it ain't so!' "
Mayer and Keys have "birthed" a couple of songs together so far, he said, and they plan to "jump back into the ring" before the end of May to finish them up. "Some might grow up to be doctors, and some might grow up to be riff-raff," he said. "We're trying to send at least one to medical school."
Mayer's so impressed with Keys that he called their sessions "like being in the mother brain of soul music." "This is absolute artistic fusion from top to bottom and I don't think there's anyone else in the world that I could do that with right now." (Not even Jessica, we wonder?)
And just as Fey plans to reunite with Amy Poehler for the film "Baby Mama," which starts shooting next week, the writer/actress is getting nostalgic for "Mean Girls" — so much so that she and her composer/husband, Jeff Richmond, are dreaming up a musical treatment of the film for the stage.
"We haven't really spilled the beans on this yet," Fey revealed, "and we haven't written it yet, but Jeff's worked on some music. We've had the opportunity to meet with producers, but we haven't done that yet, either."
The holdup is that the film actually belongs to Paramount, so before they take the project to Broadway, they have to work out some rights issues. "We could make it as raw as 'Spring Awakening' and as cheerful as 'Legally Blonde,' " she joked. "If someone gives us $100 million [to mount the show], it's a deal. Let's do it!"