Val Kilmer couldn’t make it to Denver, which was bad news for fans of Real Genius and supporters of Ralph Nader. Kilmer was supposed to speak at Nader’s Open the Debates rally on Wednesday night. The no-show diminished the event’s Hollywood factor, leaving Sean Penn as the lone movie star who took the stage during the night at Magness Arena (worthy indie musicians Jello Biafra of the Dead Kennedys and Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine did speak and sing for the crowd). Kilmer’s absence was just the first downer in the parade of bad news that was the Nader rally.

A line of speakers, including Cindy Sheehan, Penn, and, finally, Nader all harped on the sorry state of affairs our country is suffering through: Our democracy has gone to hell. Corporations have captured the parties and their agendas. Obama is no better than McCain in terms of his policies on foreign diplomacy, corporate responsibility and prison reform. Before the rally got going, Nader spoke to press, mentioning he made a visit to the Democratic convention during the day. He claimed to have received a warm welcome from several party leaders. When talking about the Dems’ presidential nominee, Nader said, “I say this to Barack Obama: If you become president, you must view it as something more than an unprecedented career change.” Penn later referred to Obama as “a great symbol, a possibility,” but a candidate who is yet to fulfill any promise. Nader’s closing speech to the assembly lasted over an hour and railed against just about everything associated with our current government (that’s several kinds of bad news). But he also outlined how his positions–in support of single-payer healthcare, living wages and ending the war in Iraq–are in line with a majority of voters, while the major party candidates’ are not. Nader will be on the ballot in 45 states, and a recent Time/CNN poll figured his support at 6 to 8 percent. It’s a sizable slice that could influence the election, if it holds. If Nader somehow got onstage for a debate and tempered his long-winded monologues, he could really wreak some havoc. Whether he has the money or his backers have the muscle to get him onstage with McCain and Obama is dubious: When one speaker tried to spontaneously get audience members to show their support by contributing $4,600 to Nader’s campaign (the maximum amount allowable from an individual donor), only a single person, a cast member of “Gray’s Anatomy,” stepped up (Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said she expects her party to raise $1 million this week). But Nader’s rally did have one fine nugget of good news: The arena served up beers for the first few hours of the night, a move that the Democrats have avoided during DNC speeches, including Obama’s coronation at Invesco.