Actress scores a '10' with state legislators

May 19, 2004

BY LESLIE GRIFFY Chicago Sun-Times Springfield Bureau

SPRINGFIELD -- Lawmakers are hoping '70s sex kitten Bo Derek can "bring focus" to important legislative issues.

That's why the star of the movie "10" came to Springfield Tuesday to lobby against the slaughter of horses for meat.

Powerbrokers were listening -- and posing for photos. "I am a horse man now," said one lobbyist.

Rep. Robert Molaro (D-Chicago), who sponsored a previously failed measure to keep a DeKalb horse slaughtering plant from opening, said Derek would help lawmakers see how it's wrong to kill horses and sell their meat overseas for people to eat.

"She is going to crystallize the issue," Molaro said. "The budget is very important, but there are other issues."

Derek, 47, best known for the cornrows and bikini she donned in the 1979 film, said she has been spokeswoman for the anti-horse slaughter movement for 10 weeks and will speak before a Senate committee about the issue today. The proposal, which failed in the House, has been given new life in the Senate.

"I will be stopping [lawmakers] in the halls, whatever it takes," Derek said of her lobbying efforts.

But, judging by the reaction at a reception sponsored by the National Horse Protection Coalition, she might be the one stopped in halls. During the event, a reporter asked her to sign a 45 record from the movie.

"Every time a celebrity comes, people want to find out what they are all about," said Rep. Terry Parke (R-Hoffman Estates). "You can look at her. She is still charming."

The plant, which employs 40 people and is scheduled to open this week, is in Rep. Robert Pritchard's (R-Hinckley) district. He isn't sure star power will be enough to garner the five votes the bill was short last time it was considered in the House.

"I've talked to lots of people under 30 who don't know who she is," Pritchard said.

Still Derek got more attention Tuesday than Lucky, a horse saved from slaughter in 1987.

Lucky was trucked in from Chicago, where he works three nights a week at the Noble Horse Theater. Despite his handlers' best attempts, Lucky was excluded from many of the lawmakers' photos. One supporter of the measure suggested only "yes" votes be allowed to snap a picture with the star.

As Sen. Louis Viverito (D-Burbank), a member of the committee handling the horse slaughter issue, and his wife were leaving, they asked Molaro to meet them for dinner.

Molaro refused, saying, "I have to see what Bo wants to do."

Supporters believe that this kind of buzz in the Capitol will help push the measure through.

"It's exciting to have a celebrity help us pass this bill," said Senate sponsor John Cullerton (D-Chicago).