More outtakes from The Observer on events during the week surrounding the dedication of the Clinton Presidential Ceneter. (See the regular Observer spot for the regular report.)
We just couldn’t help it. Given the rumors of celebrities in our midst, drawn to our fair city by the opening of the Clinton library, The Observer found himself studying every face he met on the street last week, looking for that spark of recognition. We’re suckers for the Brush With Greatness, and besides, The Observatory fielded more than its share of calls about celeb sightings at local watering holes — most of them completely bogus.
Given that, it put a little smile on our face when we overheard a bit of conversation on Tuesday night while strolling through the welcome throngs downtown — a pair of fellow people-watchers, almost giddy and talking too loud:
Watcher No. 1: “Hey! I think that was Edward James Almost back there!”
Watcher No. 2: “You mean ‘Edward James Almos’?”
Watcher No. 1: “Whatever.”
That’s funny. The same night, we saw Brad Pitt, George Clooney and Tom Hanks. Almost.
Sign seen in a window on the top floor of the Stone-Ward building: “Honk if you’re Bono.”
And speaking of Bono, thanks to the library dedication, The Observer now knows how to pronounce his name. Also, that The Edge is a person, not a band.
Democrat-Gazette editorial page editor Paul Greenberg, launching yet another attack on Bill Clinton, wrote on Wednesday, Nov. 17, “By now I’ve seen myself credited with coining the nickname Slick Willie so often that I expect it will be noted on my tombstone.”
“Seen myself credited” — it sounds as if he’s had recognition forced upon him. The only reason he’s been credited with coining the name is that he’s seized the credit repeatedly for years. Nobody else was interested in who did it until Greenberg started jumping up and down and yelling “It was me! It was me!”
The Observer never heard anyone call Clinton “Slick Willie (or Willy)” until well after the opening of the bar Slick Willy’s in the old Train Station, a few blocks from the Capitol. Since closed, Slick Willy’s first appeared in the Little Rock city directory in 1979, well before the first recorded appearances of “Slick Willie” in print — a John Robert Starr column in the Arkansas Democrat dated April 11, 1980, and a Greenberg column in the Pine Bluff Commercial dated Sept. 27, 1980. Slick Willy’s was well known to political types. We always assumed that somebody — probably not a Clinton admirer — adapted the bar’s name to the governor, and that the nickname had circulated orally quite awhile before pundits picked up on it in print. We still believe that.
Observed by an attendee at the First Ladies Luncheon to raise money for “renovation” (read new digs) at the Governor’s Mansion: Mrs. Huckabee had warm things to say about her sisters on the dais. But, unlike the others, whom she called by first name, she referred to her immediate predecessor as “Mrs. Clinton.” The first ladies all were gifted with a silver tray by Mrs. Huckabee. Thoughtfully, she inscribed it with her name. It will be proudly displayed at many of their homes, certainly.
Peter Jennings was on Mrs. Ellyn Polshek’s plastic-bag-contents list. This warm and charming lady, wife of the library architect, was annoyed to hear Jennings two nights before the library opening describe it once again as a “double wide.” “People in New York aren’t even familiar with the term,” she said, making the dig more gratuitous, as well as unoriginal. The Observer consoled her, reminding her that Jennings is from Canada, and not really one of us anyway. She smiled. When Polshek’s museum in New Mexico opened, she said, the press said it looked like a spaceship.
Mr. Polshek’s own observation: After Clinton’s, “presidential libraries will never be the same.”
There was dancing, too, of course, when Bono and The Edge began to sing “Rain, Rain, Ra-a-a-ain ... I don’t mind.” It came as such a relief from the pomp that folks threw off their watery burdens and became giddy for just a moment (take them where you can find them). Two teen-agers looked at a middle-aged celebrant, and each other. Bono — fresh, yo. “Rain” — “I think it sounds familiar,” one said to the other of the Beatles’ song.
The place to be, of course, was by the Choctaw Station/Clinton School of Public Service. There were no press handlers on that side of the park (hoi polloi and special guests mingled freely) so The Observer was free to enjoy the crowd and mingle with the crush of people happily lined up, cameras in hand, to shoot pictures of the celebrities as they emerged from their dry hideout. Sen. John Kerry got a huge roar.
The Observer saw a young man off by the fence, 6’8” and blond and smiling. We couldn’t help it. You’re tall, we keenly popped off. He was a Kerry campaign employee, who’d struck up a friendship with the senator, if we remember correctly, at a wind-sailing event. He was extraordinarily charming in a Brahmin sort of way, and offered his card, though he said the phone number would soon no longer work. Then it was back to the star trek. John Podesta! we shrieked.