One of the things that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and First Lady Maria Shriver brought with them to Sacramento was a Hollywood flair the likes of which the Cowtown capital had never seen before. It hasn't always been a good thing. For instance, the simple, elegant tradition of lighting the Christmas tree on the Capitol lawn has been transformed in an extravagance of glitz, complete with professional recording artists and video displays.
Then there are events such as last night's induction ceremony into the new California Hall of Fame — an institution conceived two years ago by Shriver. It was a goosebump-inducing example of how Hollywood's skill at choreographed ritual and celebration of celebrity can be successfully transplanted.
Red carpets were placed along the O Street sidewalk outside the California Museum for History, Women & the Arts, as television cameras, photographers and autograph-seekers lined the ropes. Celebrity guests, inductees and their family members stopped frequently — and in most cases, joyously — along the media gauntlet.
It was interesting to note the different tactics of various state politicians, mostly unaccustomed to such potential for adoration. Lt. Gov. John Garamendi and his wife, Patty, zeroed in on every available camera and microphone. Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown virtually sneaked in unnoticed, and Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata walked by briskly while talking on a cellphone.
Former Gov. Gray Davis and his wife, Sharon, accommodated anyone who asked with an interview or handshake. I asked Davis, a former member of the golf team at Stanford, whether on this night he was the second-best former Stanford golfer in attendance, and he of course deferred to fellow Cardinal alum Tiger Woods, one of the inductees.
The ceremony was fast-paced, tasteful and inspirational. You can watch it here. In an inspired touch, each of the inductees or their representative (the sons of those who received the award posthumously) delivered the tribute for the succeeding inductee.
Especially because of a last-minute cancellation from Elizabeth Taylor, Woods was clearly the biggest celebrity draw of the night. Watching his visage on stage, there seemed to be a transformation as the ceremony unfolded and he came to realize that, unlike so many awards ceremonies he has attended (i.e. the Espies), the honorees with whom he shared the stage included giants who made lasting and invaluable contributions to American culture and science. There was an evident sense of humility as he listened to tributes for Earl Warren, John Steinbeck, Ansel Adams, Jonas Salk and Jackie Robinson.
Only a first lady with the personality, stature and celebrity connections of Shriver could have pulled off the launching of this event. She told reporters yesterday that she insists that living honorees personally attend, a condition that only someone with her persuasive powers could enforce.
Exhibits honoring the inductees will be at the museum a block from the Capitol for the next year. It should be a must visit for anyone coming to Sacramento.