Fringe Candidates Revel In Defeat

They were treated as clowns in the political circus, and on Tuesday night many fringe candidates in the recall election stuck to the just-for-fun tone that drove their campaigns.

A porn actress hosted a barbecue, a former BMW salesman treated friends to an open bar, and a pornographer in a gold-plated wheelchair - Larry Flynt - spent the night talking to reporters.

Other long shots amid the 135 contenders included former "Diff'rent Strokes" child actor Gary Coleman, a sumo wrestler, a guy whose gimmick was a bright blue cowboy hat and melon-smashing comic Gallagher.

Most had long ago resigned themselves to defeat.

"I expected to have fun," bubbled candidate and porno star Mary Carey, who had a barbecue party Tuesday night at the Game Show Network studio in Culver City. "I love cameras and am getting in front of them without getting naked and having sex."

Now it's back to business as usual: "Next I'm promoting feature dancing at strip clubs," she said. But someday, she added, "I'm definitely going to run for president."

While she and a few others seemed to be in the race only for giggles, other dark horse candidates jumped for self-promotion or to advocate deeply held principles.

All found themselves in the shadow of "Terminator" Arnold Schwarzenegger, who bested the entire field including Democratic Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante to win the job of ousted Gov. Gray Davis.

The two X-rated candidates, Carey, star of "New Wave Hookers 7," and Hustler magazine publisher Larry Flynt, were opposed to the recall even though their names were on the ballot.

"As much as I dislike Gray Davis, I think he's been an efficient governor. To vote yes on the recall, you're really changing democracy," Flynt said. "That's what the normal election is for."

Then why run?

"I didn't think I was going to get elected," Flynt laughed.

Among the long shots with serious intentions were Jim Vandeventer, a Republican former car salesman who supported increased fiscal responsibility, environmental protection and legal unions for gays.

He hosted an open bar at the La Meridien Hotel in Beverly Hills, where supporters and a few other recall candidates gathered to watch election results on television.

"We were in this for a great experience because we have a passion for the people," he said.

He spent about $20,000 on his campaign. The defeat party cost about $2,000, he said, provided no one caused damage to the hotel facilities.

By Anthony Breznican