The Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce's inaugural dinner was held at the Beverly Hilton Hotel just 10 days after the same venue was the site of the Golden Globes.

The Chamber soiree not only drew a larger crowd than Hollywood's kudofest, it may have packed more star power.

Former Paramount Pictures head Sherry Lansing, was introduced by former Motion Picture Association of America chief Jack Valenti. Lansing and USC President Steven Sample received the Distinguished Business Leader Award.

Sample headed the table on education with Marlene Canter, president of the L.A. Unified School District. Lansing sat near filmmaker Rob Reiner, while state Attorney General Bill Locklear talked politics with L.A. City Council President Eric Garcetti. Dodgers owners Frank and Jamie McCourt sat with California Speedway president Gillian Zucker. Other attendees included KMEX-TV president and general manager Jorge Delgado; Majestic Realty's chief executive, Ed Roski; Thomas Properties' chief, Jim Thomas; and MPAA president Dan Glickman.

The chamber's Chris Martin, chief executive of architecture and urban planning firm AC Martin Partners, passed on the group's chairmanship to Dave Nichols, senior vice president of external affairs for AT & T; Corp.

The University of Judaism billed last week's forum as a clash of major political figures of the Left and the Right, but apparently neglected to tell the principals. The meeting of former U.S. Senator and vice presidential candidate John Edwards and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich seemed way more lovefest than slugfest.

Both Edwards and Gingrich were more often than not in concert, particularly when it came to bashing President Bush for his handling of poverty in the U.S., Hurricane Katrina, and other issues. The most humorous exchange took place when each speaker was asked whether he thought the other would run for president in 2008.

Gingrich said that trying to predict politics three years in advance was nearly impossible but he wouldn't be surprised if Edwards ran.

Edwards responded with one word about Gingrich's presidential aspirations: "Absolutely."

Did U.S. News & World Report torpedo Yash Gupta, the dean of USC's Marshall School of Business? He resigned abruptly last week, after just 18 months on the job - and after a precipitous drop by Marshall in the influential U.S. News & World Report ranking of top U.S. business schools. Last year, it fell to No. 27 in the rankings after hitting No. 17 in 2002.

* Staff reporter Kate Berry can be reached at (323) 549-5225, ext. 228, or at . Staff reporter Howard Fine contributed to this column.

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