THE PUBLICIST: Hollywood comes along for the ride with NASCAR's PR machine

My recent assertion about NASCAR becoming big-time showbiz was evidenced by the splashy premiere thrown by Warner Bros. last week at Universal City Walk for the new IMAX 3-D NASCAR movie. The spectacular film opened last weekend on 66 screens, the most ever for an IMAX film. Standing along the red carpet, where top drivers like Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jimmie Johnson worked the media line, I talked to sports journos covering their first Hollywood soiree.

My recent assertion about NASCAR becoming big-time showbiz was evidenced by the splashy premiere thrown by Warner Bros. last week at Universal City Walk for the new IMAX 3-D NASCAR movie. The spectacular film opened last weekend on 66 screens, the most ever for an IMAX film. Standing along the red carpet, where top drivers like Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jimmie Johnson worked the media line, I talked to sports journos covering their first Hollywood soiree.

"At races we scramble pell-mell over the pits and garage, grabbing what we can," said one cable-racing network producer. "But this premiere is a well-oiled machine. Each outlet has a specific place to stand, and the stars make their way down the carpet in an orderly fashion. We'll all get a chance to ask questions, but I'm kinda far down the line, and worried they may be talked out before they get here." Welcome to Hollywood, where ET and People get primo, first-up red carpet spots. It's the primal order. I blew out like a Jeff Gordon tire to make it to the Paramount lot for the Showtime premiere of Spinning Boris - an amusing look at how a trio of US political spinsters were secretly summoned to Russia to help engineer Boris Yeltsin's unlikely comeback victory in the 1996 presidential election. Showtime sure throws a nice bash! Great food and drinks, and a nice mix of entertainment and political figures. Indeed, the screening was delayed 20 minutes for Gov. Schwarzenegger (R-CA), who arrived having just met with President Bush. This same trio also engineered Arnie's takeover of the governorship, using the same playbook - basically scare everyone, then promise to save them. Fittingly, a line in the film states it doesn't matter who wins US elections, as they all end up together on talk shows. Cut to the audience, where former Gov. Pete Wilson sat a few chairs from Arnie, who was a few chairs from former Gov. Gray Davis. Six months ago the two were at each other's throats. They are now hitting the Hollywood circuit like Ben and J-Lo. Along with the film's stars, Jeff Goldblum and Liev Schreiber, and super-celeb Jodie Foster, the reception was packed with LA's high-profile Russian contingent. The Cold War's end brought more Russians to Venice Beach than can be found in all of Vladivostok. A considerable portion of US aid to that country in the '90s must have gone to one-way tickets and bonnets. Lawrence Mitchell Garrison is an LA-based freelance publicist and writer

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