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My Dinner With Bill: Hold the Spam

September 23, 1996|ERIC IDLE | Eric Idle, co-founder of the Monty Python troupe, lives in Los Angeles and is currently commenting on life via his Internet site Pythonline (

It's a tough life if you don't weaken. A few days ago, I sat behind President and Mrs. Clinton at a gala Hollywood evening, attended by some of the richest and most powerful people in the town who had clubbed together to donate $4 million to have dinner and watch a concert featuring the Eagles, Chicago, Tom Scott, the Neville Brothers and Barbra Streisand. (If the price of democracy is high, the price of Democrats seems even higher.)

So what was your humble correspondent doing there, decked out in a smart suit sitting for two hours within arms' reach of Hillary and William Jefferson Clinton, cheek by jowl with a couple of burly security guards on seats marked Secret Service in huge letters (not much of a secret really)? What was I doing with the First Couple watching them as they laughed at Tom Hanks, watching them hug each other (really) to the Eagles, watching your president wipe away a real tear as Barbra Streisand sang with 30 young kids, hearing your president say, "Oh it's Tom," as my pal Tom Scott came on to play?

I am not making this up. My wife and I felt like Cinderella for a night. We had to pinch ourselves we were really there. I could reach out and touch both of them. Of course, I couldn't really, as the muscles of the man pressed next to me testified, but I have to tell you this was impressive proximity to the seat (or seats) of power.

As we looked around at people who had shelled out thousands of dollars to be there, people who glanced wonderingly at us, wondering why the hell we were there, we could only smile nicely and graciously and bask in the knowledge that sometimes life (like God) moves in a mysterious way. Karmically, we were there even though we didn't give a buck.

So having been asked by Bob Dole to represent the Republicans in my area, how come I am now practically pushed into the arms of the Clintons, I hear you ask? Well, this is evidently chaos theory in action. If in a month's time I am reporting to you from the Perot camp, you will know that there is much more than blind chance at work here.

But, you see, I have a friend, well, more of a god really, who shelled out an awful lot for two seats--man, we are talking six figures here--and that's a lot. But his movie director wouldn't let him go.

There you have it. His president wanted him at his table, but his director would not release him! (If the director finds his tax returns heavily scrutinized this year, I for one wouldn't blame Bill Clinton.) So Tania and I were called in to pinch-hit for him. We weren't doing anything that evening so we thought, well, why not?


So we faced the traffic snarl and the protesters--we tried to smile nicely and maintain an air of ironic detachment while a man in a mouse suit protested the devastation of the wetlands--and went through the security (no worse than an airport) and into the former Harold Lloyd mansion. It's now owned by a wholesale grocer--and when I say mansion I mean hotel. In fact, in England some towns are smaller than this.

We wandered around the cocktail party picking up a few friendly faces who all asked us what we were doing there, and finally we were called in to another garden where a huge stage was erected before an outside auditorium.

Tania and I were alerted by the red of our tickets that maybe something was a bit special. The audience was laid out in rows on the grass on those little event chairs that appear at weddings. We were walked toward the front, we sat down center stage--oh, good seats we thought, no problem about hearing the Eagles from here.

Suddenly, my wife gave a little gasp and clutched me. She was staring wide-eyed at the seats just in front. On them were labels which read "The President" and "Mrs. Clinton."


Now I know this is expecting a lot of you to believe, but we had no idea that's where we'd be. We were like a couple of innocent out-of-towners who suddenly found ourselves center stage. As the president came in glowing with health and goodwill and took his seat in front of us, I found myself marveling how anyone could cope with such pressures.

While he tapped his feet to the Neville Brothers, and declined gracefully to play saxophone with Chicago, was he really wondering how many Stealth bombers to send to Kuwait, just how many cruise missies to drop on Saddam Hussein? This is truly scary stuff. The man in charge of the Western world has to schmooze the crowd, and duck for dollars, and continue with politics as usual, and run for office, and still run the world. All I can tell you is that Bill and Hillary truly seemed to have a great time. They looked like they were on a great date. They glowed with vitality.

Of course, sitting behind U.S. presidents at a theatrical event may be considered historically just the job for a Limey. It is, after all, a dangerous seat, directly in the line of fire, as the burly Secret Service man pressed against my thigh silently testified.

How wonderfully ironic that I could bounce and jig and shake my legs to the wonderful Neville Brothers while he had to remain ramrod stiff and unflinching.

Sometimes, as Barry Cryer once said, life is very well written.

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