GOP convention so far not exactly brimming with star power


NEW YORK (AP) — At the last Republican National Convention, the sight of Clint Eastwood onstage arguing to an empty chair quickly went viral. This time, Eastwood likely won’t be there and organizers are scrambling to ensure there aren’t any empty chairs onstage either.

The GOP convention in Cleveland is less than a week away but the schedule for the four-day event still hasn’t been revealed and many conservative-leaning stars are skipping the festivities altogether.

Ted Nugent is too busy touring. The Oak Ridge Boys won’t be on hand to sing the national anthem like they did in 2012. Taylor Hicks isn’t going either. Nor is Lee Greenwood.

Country legend Loretta Lynn, the “Coal Miner’s Daughter,” has been vocal about her support of presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, but Maria Malta, a spokeswoman for the singer, said she has not been contacted about performing at the Republican National Convention.

The Band Perry, a sibling country group, are performing a charity concert in Cleveland during the convention, but a spokesman for the group, Brian Bumbery, said the group is not attending the convention and has not publicly supported a presidential candidate.

Four years ago when Romney was the nominee, the Republicans brought some serious star power to its official events, lining up Lynyrd Skynyrd, 3 Doors Down, Hicks, Randy Owen, Lane Turner, Neal E. Boyd and Philip Alongi, among many others.

This year, the list of celebrities lining up to celebrate former reality star Trump is smaller. A message left for Wayne Newton, who has voiced his support for the real estate developer, wasn’t returned. Neither was one for Trace Adkins, who backed Romney in 2012 and sang at the GOP’s convention in Tampa, Florida. A representative for 3 Doors Down, who played last time at the convention, said no plans for the band have been confirmed. Former Chicago Bears coach Mike Ditka, who backs Trump, has passed on the chance to be a part of the show.

Lynyrd Skynyrd and Kid Rock — who have long voiced their support for Republican causes — will be in Cleveland but they’ll be performing private concerts to honor military veterans that are not directly associated with the convention, running from July 18-21.

Nugent, a Trump fan, is skipping the convention, despite numerous invitations to appear, “due to our intensive concert touring schedule,” a spokeswoman said. During the convention, he’s booked to play in Baton Rouge, Louisiana; and Melbourne and Jacksonville, Florida.

Country singer Martina McBride will perform in Cleveland, but as part of a charity gala for the nonprofit, non-partisan The Creative Coalition, an advocacy group for the entertainment industry.

Even Eastwood, who stole the show at the 2012 Republican convention with his empty chair routine, isn’t expected to make a similar surprise appearance in Cleveland.

On the other side of the aisle, celebs like Snoop Dogg, Lady Gaga, Lenny Kravitz, Cyndi Lauper and Bryan Cranston will be around in Philadelphia when the Democrats hold their party later this month. (Fergie will perform at The Creative Coalition’s gala there).

Trump has said it’s important to put some “show biz” into the convention and blasted the Tampa meeting four years ago, as “the single most boring convention I’ve ever seen.” For Cleveland, he told The Washington Post: “It should be a monumentally magnificent convention, and it should be brilliantly staged.”

Despite Trump’s long history in show business, film and TV stars haven’t lined up behind him — at least publicly. His vocal supporters include Robert Davi (best known for action films like “Die Hard” and “Expendables 3”), Stephen Baldwin, Gary Busey and Jon Voight, who praised Trump for having “no frills, no fuss, only candid truths.” A representative for Voight said he would not be attending the convention.

Many of the Republican Party’s biggest political stars also aren’t willing to appear on his behalf. The GOP’s two living presidents, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush, Mitt Romney, and Ohio’s Republican governor and a one-time Trump rival, John Kasich, all plan to avoid the event.

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Associated Press writers Jake Coyle in New York and Kristin M. Hall in Nashville, Tennessee, contributed to this report.

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