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From Times Community Newspapers, Loudoun, Virginia
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West Wing stars unite the parties
By Shannon Sollinger

Times Staff Photo/Michael J. Kacmarcik
FOUR MORE YEARS: Bluemont stood in for Middleburg, N.H., Sunday when "President" Josiah Bartlet of "TheWest Wing" television series returned to his hometown to launch a re-election bid.
Only in Hollywood: Loudoun's Republican Sheriff Steve Simpson on the reviewing stand, hailing the re-election bid of Democratic President Josiah Bartlett.

Click here for photos from Sunday's filming

Simpson and his family joined several hundred other eager West Wing fans in Bluemont Sunday and played their roles perfectly: Josiah Bartlett's Middleburg, N.H., neighbors welcome him home and cheer his announcement that he will seek a second term.

Stars (including Martin Sheen, Rob Lowe, John Spencer, Richard Schiff, Bradley Whitford and Allison Janney), cameramen, makeup artists,production crew and some 300 Loudoun neighbors including Rick Reaves and the entire Loudoun Valley High School band packed into Bluemont Sunday for the filming of what will be the opening episode of this season. It will air Sept. 19.

"It's a very intense show," said Simpson, who watches it whenever he can. "I think I can relate to it a little; I'm in the political arena."

Will hobnobbing with a Hollywood Commander-In-Chief give Simpson an eye for a higher office?

Not. He might like Hollywood, and while the sheriff's office elective, he really doesn't think of himself as a politician. "I'm right where I what to be, in law enforcement."

When Purcellville mayor John Marsh's historic farmhouse was the runner-up (55 houses were considered) for shooting the at-home scenes in the episode, the producers offered him a deal he couldn't refuse in return for selecting Bluemont to shoot the television program: bring some friends and neighbors and join the 300 extras in the crowd scenes.

Martin Sheen told him, said Marsh, "You picked the right place to be mayor. This is absolutely beautiful."

Sheen also explained that more than a few New Hampshire citizens are miffed that the award-winning television series chose to film in Bluemont, with the Blue Ridge in the background filling in for a New Hampshire mountain, rather than coming there.

Sheen told Jane Bogle of Purcellville, another extra, that Bluemont is "even prettier than New Hampshire."

Now there's not a doubt left that he is not a real politician.

Linda and Don Corley of Bluemont dressed in khaki shorts to impersonate New Hampshire neighbors at a political rally, and she added her Fourth of July blouse a sleeveless cotton red, white and blue top with little stars.

Corley chatted with the production crew's security man, who asked her if local residents "grew honey."

"I don't think he'd ever been this far out in the country, she said, and went home and got him a jar of home-made blackberry jam.

It was hard, said Corley, not to think of Sheen as the President. "I was startled to see him walking around with no protection."

But he had Hollywood security guards, talking into their wrists, and a Hollywood bomb dog (a friendly German shepherd) handled by a Hollywood trainer in full bomb gear.

The entire staff of the Bluemont Community Center started work at 8 a.m. Sunday, said assistant manager Don Stinnette, and stayed till 4 a.m. when the crew folded their tents for the night. They opened the community center at its normal 6 a.m. a few hours later, and the crew came back in mid-afternoon for more filming. By mid-afternoon yesterday the whole production crew was hard at work for a scene in front of the Red Fox Inn in Middleburg.

Sheen was fantastic, very easy going, said Stinnette and everyone else who ran into him during the day. Sheen got a little edgy when the Buick Open Golf Classic went into sudden-death overtime late Sunday and he couldn't break away from the cameras to watch Tiger Woods. He kept throwing questions out to the crowd of extras (between kissing babies) how's Tiger doing?

"It was a lot of fun and a lot of work," said Stinnette. "for a one-time thing."
©Times Community Newspapers 2003
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