When the Democrats come to town in two months for their national convention, much of the public attention is going to be focused on Staples Center and a handful of public events in the downtown area.

But the real action is going to take place at hundreds of lavish private parties all across L.A., from studio backlots to tony Westside restaurants and even private mansions.

That's where the Hollywood elite and powerful business executives will gather to rub elbows with prominent Democrats and other VIPs from around the country, to make powerful new friends, strengthen political allegiances, and lay the foundation for future deals.

"This is going to be one giant schmoozefest, the biggest thing this town has seen in many years," said Hal Dash, president of Cerrell Associates, a prominent local lobbying and campaign firm that has long had ties to political conventions. "Every national political convention has this schmooze element, but L.A. is going to be in a league by itself because of the Hollywood connection."

The convention runs from Monday, Aug. 14 through Thursday, Aug. 17, but the partying begins with a huge official media party on the preceding Saturday night, Aug. 12, at the L.A. Department of Water & Power plaza in downtown L.A. That will be followed by 30 official delegation parties at hotels around the county on Sunday the eve of the convention.

Those affairs will play a large part in the way L.A.'s image is projected around the world. But it's the private parties that are causing the biggest buzz. They include:

- A fund-raising and voter canvassing bash for the Hispanic Unity Caucus at the Playboy Mansion;

- A party on the Hollywood backlot of Paramount Pictures hosted by California Gov. Gray Davis, dubbed "A Taste of California;"

- Another Paramount backlot party, this one hosted by Louisiana Sen. John Breaux, which will be held on a set patterned after Bourbon Street in New Orleans;

- A party at the Petersen Automotive Museum hosted by Chrysler Corp.;

- A Sony Corp.-sponsored luncheon at downtown's Union Station for Democratic governors;

- A giant block party on Canon Drive in Beverly Hills planned and produced by Wolfgang Puck's Spago for Missouri Democrat Richard Gephardt, the House minority leader, and other members of the Democratic Congressional Caucus that he chairs.


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