Convention Confidential

UPDATED 09/03/2004 at 10:00 AM EDT Originally published 08/30/2004 at 09:00 AM EDT

Convention Confidential
Jenna and Barbara Bush
Rick Maiman/Bloomberg News /Landov
The Republican National Convention is underway in New York, and PEOPLE is there, following the power players and stars.

TWINS PARTY ON: The balloons had practically just hit the Madison Square Garden floor, signaling the end of the Republican National Convention, when First Daughters Jenna and Barbara Bush joined the sons and daughters of the party's faithful at the "Next Generation of Leaders" bash at Gotham Hall.

Barbara wore a mint green, low-cut sleeveless dress, while Jenna wore a more conservative black and silver number, both by Texas designer Lela Rose. Asked what they thought of their time in Convention City, Jenna replied, "We love New York." Barbara added that they "hopefully" will spend more time here.

In the crowd: Emily Pataki, New York Gov. George Pataki's eldest child; Emma Bloomberg, the eldest daughter of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg; and Taylor Whitman, son of Christine Todd Whitman, the former governor of New Jersey.

Asked what they were looking forward to for the evening, Emily Pataki, a Columbia University law school student and Yale grad (like Barbara Bush and her father and grandfather), smiled and said, "Partying."

KEEPING UP WITH THE SCHWARZENEGGERS: Maria Shriver and her two daughters with California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Katherine, 14, and Christina, 13, took a break from the RNC this week for a little retail therapy: they were spotted at the Scoop store in SoHo. Meanwhile, the California Delegation's lunch with Schwarzenegger at Times Square's Planet Hollywood – in which he was one of the original investors – was the hottest ticket in town Thursday afternoon, with crowds filling the sidewalks hours before the Governator's scheduled arrival.

With the Beach Boys tune "Surfin' USA" cranked up to full volume, Schwarzenegger stepped from his SUV smiling and looking relaxed in a gray suit that set off his California tan. On his way into the restaurant for a roundtable discussion and lunch, he shook hands with the California delegates' children, who had front-row seats on the red carpet. Though in a hurry to get inside he did make one stop in the greeting section to test out the biceps of a flexing junior delegate.

STICKING THE PLEDGE:Olympic gold-medal gymnasts Kerri Strug and Mary Lou Retton were on hand at the Convention Thursday night to lead delegates in saying the Pledge of Allegiance – only their performance wasn’t quite a perfect 10. Chalk it up to the lights or the excitement, but Retton took a slight – but entirely visible – stumble on her way to the podium. Strug was there to break the fall and the duo ultimately "stuck" the Pledge.

IT'S GOOD TO BE KING: Spiky-haired fight promoter Don King was to the Republican Convention what Ben Affleck was to the Democratic: Everywhere. "I'm going to tell you privately," King told PEOPLE Thursday amid a swarm of fans outside Madison Square Garden, "even the Democrats are glad George W. Bush is in office." He declined to elaborate. On his way off the set of CNN's "Crossfire," King proudly said of his performance on the show, "I did great. I always do great."

FRANKLY FRANKEN: Country star Darryl Worley really worked for his paycheck at Tavern on the Green Wednesday, singing for more than two hours at the California delegates' party. Dressed in a red T-shirt and tight Wrangler jeans, Worley entertained guests with a steady flow of dance tunes.

Not dancing, but in the crowd to the surprise of many: liberal commentator Al Franken, who met Worley last December when they did a USO tour to Kuwait, Iraq, Afghanistan and Uzbekistan. Franken described Worley as "a good friend of mine. He really cares about the troops. He has a great heart."

The two friends also steer clear of certain topics. "We started to have one discussion (about who the next president should be) and realized we couldn't do it," says Franken, flashing his trademark wry smile. "We don't talk politics."

Franken minces no words about his dislike of the Republicans. "I hate the convention. I hate it," he says.

• By SHARON COTLIAR, COURTNEY HAZLETT, LISA INGRASSIA, LINDA KRAMER, JOANNE FOWLER and SANDRA SOBIERAJ WESTFALL

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