From Hollywood, an ode to Howard Berman

Politico publishes an essay mourning the looming departure from Congress of Rep. Howard Berman, who was defeated by fellow Democrat Rep. Brad Sherman after a bitter intra-party battle.

Matt Gerson, who oversees government relations for Universal Music Group (Berman has long been a go-to guy for Hollywood on the Hill), pays tribute to the California congressman’s smarts, dedication, sense of humor and apparent ignorance of pop culture.

Here’s Gerson on Berman’s relationship with the entertainment industry:

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For the entertainment community, Howard has been an invaluable ally and leader. But he has also been an honest broker ready to point out when we are wrong or overreaching. I remember getting a call a decade ago during a high-profile legislative battle: He said, “I think your position is unsustainable. Let everyone know it is time to step down.” We didn’t push back or quibble — we stood down.

Despite representing Hollywood for more than 30 years, Howard never went Hollywood. Several years ago, we were at a music industry ceremony with the obligatory photo of dignitaries lined up with celebrities. Howard stood next to Jewel — an attractive artist with long blond hair. As we walked away, I said, “Remember to tell your daughter that you met Jewel.” And Howard responded, “Was he the one with the beard?” Not many men could confuse Jewel with ZZ Top.

At a recent hearing, he was probing an Internet expert about online piracy and brilliantly set up the critical question. It was artfully crafted, easy to understand, his timing was perfect, and when he moved in for the kill, he referred to the global superstar he was using in his illustration as “Bee-yonc.” Two syllables, no “cé.” The whole room cracked up — and when he realized his blunder, he lit up the room with that twinkly smile.

The Los Angeles Times reported early last month that Berman was one of several people being considered for the job of secretary of state, but there hasn’t been much public talk of the possibility since.

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