Inside Conservative Hollywood's Debate Viewing Party
The secretive right-wing Hollywood group, Friends of Abe, meets to watch Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump during the first debate between the candidates.
At a secret location in the L.A. area, Hollywood's private group of conservatives, an organization known as Friends of Abe, gathered to watch the first presidential race featuring Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton.
Wine and martinis seemed the drinks of choice, pizza the preferred snack, and a raucous time was definitely on the menu. THR attended the event on the condition it kept certain details, and attendees, in the background.
The event drew entertainment industry names, including the widow of talk-show host Morton Downey Jr., who said she came to be "among like-minded people."
"We used to hang out with Donald back in the day," Lori Downey Jr. said during the debate. "He's doing an excellent job. I'm finally seeing him as the right guy for president. He's spot-on tonight."
When Clinton used the line, "Trumped-up trickle down" to describe her opponent's economic plan, it elicited groans, the sort that usually accompany a corny joke.
When Clinton spoke of wealthy people "paying their fair share," some in the audience shouted, "Like you!"
One of the bigger moments came while Clinton disparaged Trump's desire years ago to buy cheap real estate during the housing collapse and Trump interrupted with, "That's called business."
"This is nothing but a good time," said "Magic" Matt Alan of satellite radio and Outlaw Radio. "Trump is cleaning the floor with the miserable, no-talent hack. Is there any debate? He's kicking her ass. Look at her. She wants to kill him."
The discussion of energy policy, where Trump supported myriad methods while Clinton focused on solar, elicited loud applause, including when Trump talked about his own investment in a solar energy company and segued into an attack on trade agreements like NAFTA and TPP.
"You called it the gold standard," he told her after she denounced one of the agreements.
"I know you live in your own reality," she shot back — and a few of the Republicans in the audience appreciated the reference, given Trump's former job as host of The Apprentice.
When Clinton accused Trump of leveling "charges and claims" against her and Trump interrupted with, "facts!" he got one of the loudest laughs of the night.
And one of the biggest applause lines came when Trump accused Clinton of being soft on terrorism, saying, "No wonder you've been fighting ISIS your entire adult life."
"On balance, Trump is winning," said Andrew Klavan, a novelist, screenwriter and author of The Great Good Thing: A Secular Jew Comes to Faith in Christ. "He's keeping his cool. If he was a little smarter, he could take her apart, because she's not proposing anything new. Even so, Trump is an entertaining guy and it's serving him well tonight."
When Clinton tried to joke that by the end of the evening she'd be blamed for everything bad in the country and Trump interrupted, "Why not?" the crowd erupted.
And there was another eruption when Trump promised to release his taxes when she releases the 33,000 emails she sent and received while she was secretary of state.
"Presidential debates are defined by seminal moments, and today they go viral over social media," said author, talent agent and Hollywood lawyer James Hirsen. "Trump is creating these seminal moments because he's so comfortable in front of cameras. They are brief, powerful sound bites."
But one dissenter, a special-effects producer who knows a thing or two about optics, reluctantly concluded that Clinton won Monday's debate.
"It hurts to say it, but the worst and best thing she did all night was that stupid, big grin," said the producer. "Her grin was lame, but it came off better than Trump's lip-curled pout all night."