Excuse me while I wring out my notes.
At least Barbra Streisand had the good sense to wear a hat to the Bill Clinton library deluge. But most people were way under-prepared for the downpour, their $500 Manolos sinking into the mud as they waited to pass through security.
Nobody was allowed to bring an umbrella to the big dedication ceremony here--for security reasons, the Secret Service said.
But unlike the commoners who attended and were consigned to the bleachers, major donors and other VIPs received ponchos and umbrellas--with the $3 price tags still on them--once they passed through the magnetometers. I know this because I sneaked in to the special Purple Passes tent to see how the other half lives. It was pretty amusing to see a bunch of really rich people wrestling their Chanels and Armanis into what was a glorified trash bag with a hood.
Volunteers passed through the crowd with boxes of white towels so that ticketholders could mop off their seats, but there's no other way to say it: This was a disaster. As for the poor drenched masses in the bleachers--well no wonder about half of them left before the program got underway. Without rain gear you had to be a really, really devoted Friend of Bill to stay in the cold heavy rain.
BLAME IT ON BUSH. Given Bill Clinton's vaunted luck, I was sure the clouds would disappear, the sun would come out and birds would chirp just as the ceremony started. "I think Bush had a hand in this. He talks to God," joked Frank Dirado, a Clinton booster from New York who came to the opening with his wife, Eila and their daughter Sofia, 3. "They said, 'This storm is coming from Texas.' As soon as I heard that, I said Bush had a hand in it. He wanted it to rain on Clinton's parade," he said.
As I'm typing this, I don't have a TV nearby but I'm guessing that Dirado is not the only guy who used that line today.
NO WHINING. Despite the misery--and the huge bus chaos and jam up afterwards--attendees I talked to seemed to be in a darned good mood. And they wouldn't have missed this even though they looked like drowned razorbacks--whatever they are.
"We just kept saying, 'This is history. This is history, '" said Lakewood Elementary School principal Beverly Kelso, who accompanied a group of students from their nearby school. "I'm sure that some day we'll look on this with fond memories. But, it'll take awhile," said a cheery Kelso.
For some of us, it will take a REALLY long while.
Posted: November 18, 2004 6:38 AM CST
BYE-BYE TO BILL'S BAGS. With something like 1,000 journalists in town for the Bill Clinton library dedication Thursday, you don't need a very vivid imagination to re-create the X-rated jokes about what's not on display here.
But there's something else missing from the William Jefferson Clinton Presidential Center that I can reveal here for the first time: The bags under Bill Clinton's eyes.
Nope. No Extreme Makeover. The former president hasn't had a lift or a tuck. At least not that I know of.
However, the Friends of Bill making the picks of the Clinton photos on display throughout the library, were careful to reject the ones where the President is not looking his best.
Bruce Lindsey, a top White House Clinton aide and now general counsel to the Clinton Foundation, was much involved in the exhibits in the library and he told me that he and others making the photo choices told the exhibit designers, "The bags under his eyes are too pronounced. Go back and find a different picture."
MORE NEWS HERE. So, the bags under Bill Clinton's eyes are history. But the former president has made some history here this week too. He was ON TIME for his first event in this week of celebration--this one Monday at Central High School that was integrated under federal order in 1957.
But wait. There's more. During his White House years, Clinton was notoriously late--for everything. Way late. Hours and hours late. But, he was--brace yourself--20 minutes early for his speech to the Chamber of Commerce after the Central High.
This was so noteworthy that his ex-staffers who flooded into town for the dedication couldn't stop talking about it.
TWO ARCHITECTS WALK INTO A BAR... It makes for a good story, and there is even evidence to back it up. But, alas, the Clinton library was not designed on a White House cocktail napkin.
"That is an architect myth. There are a lot of napkin sketches, but it didn't come quite that simply," says James Polshek, who designed the Clinton Center with partner Richard Olcott.
In fact, a picture of the White House napkin with a sketch that looks eerily like the actual building, appeared last Sunday in the Arkansas Democrat Gazette without much explanation.
Asked to amplify, Polshek explains that while Clinton was still in office and early discussions for the library were underway, Olcott "swiped a napkin from the White House." The partners used the golden presidential seal on the napkin to sketch the design and that round seal on the napkin ultimately became "Celebration Circle" outside the library.
SHOW ME THE MONEY. I ran into Polshek, paying full retail price ($65) for his own new architecture book, "Polshek Partnership," at the Clinton library gift shop.
Out on the street--President Clinton Ave., natch-- Polshek lovingly paged through the volume and said, "It's absolutely gorgeous." The Clinton library project is in the book "only a little bit" because it was not completed when the volume went to the printer.
As he put his credit card back in his wallet, Polshek told the cashier this was the only store that carried his book. He'd had them shipped there especially for the opening extravaganza. "I hope you sell a lot," the architect said.
(ALMOST) NAKED IN LITTLE ROCK. There's not much racy in the museum store unless you count the paper doll book ($5.95) that shows Bill and Hill in their underwear. The president is wearing a white t-shirt and plaid boxers. Hillary is shown in a full slip.
One of the hottest items in the store this week is the presidential seal mouse pad ($7.95).
SOMETHING FOR EVERYONE. Clinton likes to tell you that he's a uniter not a divider and that's even true at the gift store, where you can buy a baby t-shirt that says, "Future Republican/ William J. Clinton Presidential Center."
THIS AIN'T WALL STREET. The Arkansas state capital is a small town and if you stand in one place long enough you'll see everybody you're looking for.
I found Andy Kessel, the Clinton Foundation's chief financial officer, outside the museum store, fielding questions on his cell phone about how to locate 50 more Clinton library T-shirts.
"I seem to be more involved in this vending operation that I would have liked," he said. Kessel, who left Wall Street to move to Little Rock, was wearing tassel loafers and a pricey Patek Philippe watch with his business attire but he said the livin' is easy here. When I asked him how often he suits up these days, he said "probably once a month. It's a pretty casual town."
Later in the day, I spotted Kessel, still in his suit, hauling a large computer that looked like it might land on the pavement, it was teetering so in his arms. This heavy lifting supports his contention that "the event gypsies" were "running my butt off" with last minute chores.
OLD HOME WEEK. It's been part family reunion and part group therapy for all the Clinton White House staffers who have come back here to work on the library opening.
"Emotionally this has been just fantastic," says Laura Schwartz, who worked in the Clinton White House social office and, most recently, was the trip director for Teresa Heinz Kerry.
"After this election, I've had this pit in my stomach. I asked 'Mama T' (Heinz Kerry), 'How do I get rid of this pit?' "The entire (Clinton) social office is here. You worked with these people for eight years. That's as long as you're in grammar school. It's a positive, positive thing."
FINISHING THE CONVERSATION. Clinton White House photographer Sharon Farmer said that she's picking up where she left off with all her buds at the White House. Farmer, who recently finished a gig as staff photographer for the John Kerry campaign, is running the photo operation for the opening here with 10 shooters taking pictures of the events. She's still wild about Bill: "He's like a person who knows your cousin around the corner, down the block. He can relate. He can touch! He's a Bad Dude. That's a capital B, three As and Four Ds. That's a Baaadddd boy."
NO MORE 'MRS.' CLINTON. Former Clinton White House Social Secretary Capricia Marshall was back on the job, running that end of things for the library opening and declaring, "For me, there is only one president!"
Darting off to walk through the library with Bill Clinton, Marshall made a reference to former First Lady Hillary Clinton. "I have to constantly remind myself she's a Senator now!"
THIS JUST IN. The local television coverage of the many events surrounding the library opening has been, to put it mildly, enthusiastic.
Exclusive interviews have included ABC 's Peter Jennings telling a Little Rock TV reporter, "What a beautiful state!" and the Rev. Jesse Jackson is introduced by a news reader as, "One of the biggest civil rights activists there is!"
"It's exciting to be back in Arkansas," Jackson told the TV reporter. Never one to miss an opportunity for a little publicity, Jackson is popping up at media venues all over town--including a drop by at the Arkansas Democrat Gazette.
DIVERSIONS. I took a quick and memorable trip through the Central National High School Historic Site, a museum in a refurbished 1920s gas station across from the high school that made history in 1957.
This is a must-see reminder of the nine black students who integrated the school after President Eisenhower ordered federal troops to Arkansas to protect them.
When one loud museum-goer got into an argument with her companion, the Park Service woman supervising the souvenir counter smiled amiably and, with irony intended, told the loud mouth, "This is a non-violent facility."
THE DOCTOR IS IN. Sure CNN sent an army here to cover the story. But what was senior medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta doing cooling his heels at the library site? Besides, of course, providing a much needed eye candy element.
Gupta, who recently married--sorry, ladies--told me he came in for the day from his Atlanta base after getting Clinton to agree to an interview for a special Gupta is doing on HIV/AIDS. In a previous life, Gupta was a writer on health issues for the Clinton White House so it was old home week for him too.
Incidentally, he says that people stop him on the street to seek his medical advice. "It's one thing about being a doctor on television. People think they know you." His producer, Chicago native Rachel Ruff, told me that Gupta's diagnosis of her leg problem "was better than my orthopedic surgeon."
Joked Gupta, "What she didn't mention is that I just touched her and she healed."
YOU READ IT HERE FIRST. U2's Bono has written a special song he was rehearsing on the outdoor library stage Wednesday night to debut at the opening during his five-minute performance slot.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times