LOS ANGELES -- Elvis Costello's solo performance was the highlight of a
benefit for the American Civil Liberties Union held Tuesday in Beverly Hills that also
served as a tribute dinner for Mercury Records Group President Danny Goldberg.
Courtney Love, who arrived late, took the honors for the most glamorous glitterata
"I want to acknowledge my admiration for the much-maligned group, Hollywood liberals,"
Goldberg said as he accepted the Torch of Liberty award which was
presented to him as part of the benefit.
He was referring to many of the 600 guests at the event, which, along with
rock singers Costello and Love, included other music-industry players and
renowned Los Angeles liberals. The ACLU of Southern California reaped more than
$650,000 from the benefit.
Hosted by Michael Moore, creator of such humorous, politically minded documentaries
as "Roger & Me," the fundraiser also honored longtime activist Margery Tabankin, who
currently heads director Steven Spielberg's Righteous Persons Foundation. The dinner
featured appearances by California State Assembly Chairman Antonio Villaraigosa,
liberal stalwart Stanley Sheinbaum and American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers President Marilyn Bergman.
After all the speeches, which included numerous accolades for Goldberg, Costello took
the stage. The pop icon -- whose new collaboration with composer Burt Bacharach,
Painted From Memory, will be released on Sept. 29 by Mercury Records -- wore a
black suit, black shirt, purple tie and red-lensed glasses.
The slim, clean-shaven Costello was a ringer for the new-wave guru he was 20 years
ago. He accompanied himself on guitar, chatting amiably between songs and joining
Moore in making a few jokes at President Clinton's expense.
"This song has been in the works for about 18 months," he said, introducing "Toledo," a
collaboration with Bacharach. "It's about a man facing the moment where he has to
confess his infidelity. We didn't imagine at the time that we were writing topical songs."
Costello sang powerfully, his voice as clear as ever.
He completed his short set with his Nick Lowe-penned classic "(What's So Funny 'Bout)
Peace, Love and Understanding," saying it applied to the push for peace in Ireland. He
wryly suggested that Clinton, who recently visited that country, had learned all he knows
about Irish folklore from Lord of the Dance.
"For those of you unfamiliar with Lord of the Dance, it's sort-of like a Celtic 'Triumph of
the Will'," he joked.
During the ceremonies, Goldberg -- looking relaxed and casual -- read his thank-you
remarks from the teleprompters. He acknowledged the guidance of his "loving and
cosmic" parents and also thanked his wife, music attorney Rosemary Carroll, for her
His heartfelt remarks downplayed his longtime fight for free speech, notably against
censorship in music. He left the stage to a standing ovation.
In her typical fashion, the irascible Love arrived late and lingered outside the dining
room, fiddling with her dress. Though her first Hole album in four years, Celebrity
Skin, had just hit record stores that day, Love seemed right then more concerned
with her wardrobe than her record sales.
"It's a Vera Wang," she said, referring to her outfit. "I got it today but it ripped." She waved
a trailing piece of the gauzy, lavender fabric sadly. "I think I need a safety pin."
With pink rhinestones in her hair, viciously high shoes and a stunning new figure, Love
was easily the most glamorous personage in attendance. However, she was not necessarily the
During his opening remarks, Moore created a bit of a stir with several jokes about
Clinton's scandalous affair with a White House intern. Later, offstage, Moore said the
uneasy response to his quips was understandable. "I don't think liberals want to hear
that Clinton is done for," Moore said. "He's only got a few weeks left in office."
Among the other notables who attended the event were Hustler magazine
publisher Larry Flynt, who left early; actor Mike Farrell, an anti-death penalty activist;
actor Tim Reid; and Oscar-winning director Robert Wise ("The Sound of Music").
While the celebrities in attendance were plentiful, it was Costello who perhaps left the
greatest impression on the crowd.
"I can't give you an unbiased opinion of Elvis' performance," grinned Lee
Masters, chairman of E! Entertainment and current head of the ACLU Foundation, a post
held in the past by actor Burt Lancaster and Goldberg. "I'm such a fan. I really liked the
new Bacharach song he played."