'Temple of Obama,' not Hollywood

Don't expect celebs standing with nominee during speech

DENVER -- When Barack Obama takes the stage Thursday night at cavernous Invesco Field, an expected 76,000 of the Democratic faithful will see their candidate with a backdrop suggesting Pennsylvania Avenue architecture.

Or a Roman temple.

The midfield staging will feature 10 white, doric-style columns in front of which Obama, other Dem speakers and performers including Stevie Wonder will stand. Obama will give his address on a circular riser, about six feet above the field. It will be his stage alone. Ringing him at field level will be party VIPs, family and friends -- but no celebs.

Details of the stage and layout have been a closely guarded secret, with only a handful of network people being allowed to see it. The Hollywood Reporter was denied access to Invesco on Wednesday morning.

"What the DNC has done is turn a football stadium into a political stage," said one news exec. "It's quite impressive."

Not everyone thought so. Republicans sent out an edition of their "Audacity Watch" e-mail newsletter which they use to point out perceived examples of hubris by the Obama campaign, titled "The Temple of Obama."

It's been only a month or so since the Democratic National Committee told the networks that it would move Obama's acceptance speech from the Pepsi Center, where the Democratic National Convention is taking place this week. That caused more expense for the networks and some logistical nightmares.

It will also be a historic moment: the 45th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech and the first time that a presidential candidate has accepted a nomination outdoors since John F. Kennedy at the Los Angeles Memorial Colisuem in 1960.

There are plenty of celebrities in Denver this week, and many will hear Obama speak at Invesco. But it is unlikley that there will be any celebrities with him on the podium when he accepts the nomination. His campaign has been stung by the McCain campaign's efforts to paint him as a celebrity, rather than a serious candidate, and Obama's staff is loath to provide any photo ops that could be used against their candidate.

Thursday's event could be just the start of a particularly busy weekend for the news teams. All of the major networks have dispatched teams to keep a wary eye on Tropical Storm Gustav, which is approaching Haiti and could strengthen into a hurricane in the next few days.

Meanwhile, the nets will be wrapping their coverage of the Democratic convention and preparing for the Republican gathering, which begins next week in St. Paul, Minn. Additionally, presumptive GOP flag bearer John McCain is expected to name a running mate over the weekend.

"It's going to be one crazy, crazy day," said Zev Shalev, executive producer of CBS' "The Early Show."