BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. — You never know who you'll meet at the Beverly Hilton, the hotel where Whitney Houston died, John Edwards met his mistress and where TV critics congregate for a couple of weeks in the summer.
We're used to seeing stars — it's why we come here, after all — but we're not used to seeing Sarah Palin.
The former governor of Alaska was easily the biggest draw Tuesday evening at a poolside NBC cocktail party to promote several of its new shows, including "Stars Earn Stripes," the military-themed competition series in which her husband, Todd, will appear starting Aug. 13.
Wearing a dark olive wrap dress, killer heels and a fashionable pair of shades, Palin looked perfectly at home, cheerfully posing for pictures and chatting with reporters a few feet from her husband, who'd earlier insisted to me that the Palins hadn't yet passed the Kardashians as "reality" regulars.
When another reporter asked him about mentions of a previous project with producer Mark Burnett that might have focused on Alaska's former First Dude, he replied, "That's what the media said, that we were going to push my stuff, but that's not the case."
Though he's appeared in both TLC's "Sarah Palin's Alaska" and his daughter's Lifetime series, "Bristol Palin: Life's a Tripp," Todd, I suggested to the former vice presidential candidate, had never struck me as being as comfortable with the cameras as the rest of the Palins.
"He's very humble and calm, cool and collected, but jumped at this chance to participate in such a worthy cause," Palin said of her husband's role as a contestant in the show.
Hosted by retired Gen. Wesley Clark and Samantha Harris ("Dancing With the Stars"), "Stars Earn Stripes" pits Todd Palin against seven other celebrities — among them boxing champion Laila Ali, actor Dean Cain and actor Terry Crews — in a contest inspired by actual military exercises, with the prize money going to military, veterans or first-responder charities.
"He's very pro-United States military in honor of our son [Track, who served in Iraq] and all the other troops who are sacrificing so much. Todd wanted to participate to help raise money for the troops," Palin said.
And isn't this, I asked, more the kind of show that would likely appeal to him?
"The physicality, yes, the competition did appeal to Todd," she said. "He does this kind of hard-core physical work in his vocations and his avocations anyway as a commercial fisherman, as a pilot, as a snowmachine racer, well, just living Alaska. It's not an easy living, but it's a good living. There's tough conditions up there in terms of being able to survive in Alaska, and Todd, as an Alaska native born and raised, doing top physical things, this was kind of along those lines. But he'd be the first to admit that this is much tougher than he expected."
Her husband, she said, had opportunities "to do a lot of things in other shows offering gigs for him [but] he's always said no until this one came along. He said, 'This is such a worthy cause to highlight our troops, I'll do it.'"
And, no, she didn't offer him any advice, she insisted.