In politics, there are Parties—and there are parties. The place to be—by a landslide—on Aug. 12 was the Robert Taylor Ranch in Los Angeles, where more than 1,000 Friends of Bill, from Gregory Peck to Brad Pitt
, kicked off a Democratic National Convention week of high-profile bashes (including one on the set of NBC's The West Wing) with a salute to President Clinton. At a $l,000-a-ticket concert (or $25,000 per couple for a dinner after, all benefiting Hillary Clinton's New York Senate campaign), liberal-minded luminaries including Diana Ross and Michael Bolton hailed the outgoing Chief. Singer Toni Braxton, doing her breathy best to imitate Marilyn Monroe, whispered, "Thank you, Mr. Pres-i-dent." Peck praised Clinton's gun-control efforts. But a few were less reverential. Noting the heavy Secret Service presence, David Spade yelled out that Jimmy Smits had a pot pipe (fortunately, security got the joke). But then, what's a political party without some drama—and division? Ask Peter Falk, who came stag: His wife, Shera, he noted with a laugh, "is a Republican."