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The Next Museum Piece May Be on Your Head


The square-jawed, straight-ahead, earpiece-implanted men and women of the Secret Service aren't the only federal agents in town this week.

Larry Bird and Harry Rubenstein prowl the convention floor, eyeing a lady with a ridiculous hat here, a gent with a Hillary-as-Statue-of-Liberty tie there. Now and then, they'll move in and whip out their cards: "Curator. Smithsonian Institution. Division of Civil History. . . . Can we have that hat, ma'am?"

As they did in Iowa, New Hampshire, Philadelphia and even Long Beach, Bird and Rubenstein are adding to the Smithsonian's collection of 90,000 campaign items. Their budget is modest--$50 or so for buttons and bumper stickers--but their standards are exacting: "Is it witty? Is it arresting? Is it exhibitable? Do we like it?"

In Philly, their prize booty was the Webcam that broadcast the GOP convention over the Internet.

In L.A., the curators have already arranged to snag a gizmo that members of a Republican consultant's focus group will use to indicate their emotional response during Al Gore's speech. And, as always, they're looking for the handiwork of the true believers.

For the Record
Los Angeles Times Thursday September 14, 2000 Home Edition Part A Part A Page 3 Metro Desk 2 inches; 44 words Type of Material: Correction
JFK briefcase--In an Aug. 16 article, The Times gave an incorrect date for the auction of a briefcase that belonged to President John F. Kennedy. No date has been set but the auction will take place this fall, according to spokesmen for the Fisher Auction Co. and the Museum of American Financial History in New York City.

Four years ago in San Diego, they scored a battered cowboy hat with decades' worth of campaign buttons collected by a Texas delegate. "You could just see it," Bird said. "That hat had really been around."

There's Not a Hand (or a Paw) That He Won't Shake

Jeffrey Pledger and his guide dog Oliver were operating on two hours' sleep when they squeezed into a Staples Center corridor after President Clinton's farewell speech.

Pledger, who is visually impaired and runs a Web site for the disabled, was leaning on a wall against the crush of the crowd when he heard a silky voice: "Excuse me, sir. May I pet your dog?"

Oliver, a 9-year-old black Lab with upscale tastes (veggies and olive oil) sat at attention until Pledger released his harness, his cue that he was temporarily off duty. Then he rolled over on his back, graciously allowing the Leader of the Free World to scratch his belly.

The Sensible Shoes Are Always a Dead Giveaway

Dianna McCoy, a Democratic National Committee member from Portland, Ore., was puzzled as she surveyed the thousands of revelers milling around the Paramount Studios back lot Monday night.

"I know what delegates look like," she said, "and these aren't them. They're not young and beautiful. They don't wear three-inch heels."

In the movie-set streets of old New York, partyers awaiting the Clintons sipped wine and lined up for temporary tattoos. Stunt people on stilts waded through the crowd. At a karaoke stage sponsored by Schick, a woman sang as she pretended to shave her legs. Guests mugged with a Marilyn Monroe impersonator wearing a pin that said, "I Only Sleep With Democrats."

Two middle-age women wearing campaign buttons and sensible shoes appeared. McCoy took heart: "Look! Those are the faces of delegates!"

For Sale: a Briefcase Full of Memories

The JFK aura is alive and well. Democrats constantly point out that he was nominated here 40 years ago. They also feel intensely grateful that Uncle Ted persuaded Caroline Kennedy to give a rare political speech here.

But for a more tangible demonstration of the Kennedy magic, head to the lobby of the downtown Marriott. Delegates, police officers and passersby stand hushed before a display case, staring at a JFK artifact--a tan, monogrammed briefcase that Jackie gave him as a wedding gift. Years later, John Jr. hauled it to his classes at Brown University. And now it can be yours.

A donor gave it to the 12-year-old Museum of American Financial History in New York, which plans to auction it off in December. Another JFK briefcase fetched $805,000 a few years ago.

"And that one wasn't a gift from Jackie on their wedding day, and it didn't have his monogram or the connection to John Jr.," noted Doug Dennison, an official of the Fisher Auction Co.

Sometimes It's an Illusion, Sometimes It's Not

With many delegates attending important seminars Tuesday afternoon, often poolside, it took a bit of stagecraft to make the hall look full. Delegates from the District of Columbia were mustered to wave signs and cheer for the cameras after a two-minute speech by one of their own. Meanwhile, speakers hit their lines as if they were raised in--eek!--Hollywood: "We do not need to call Hollywood Central Casting to make us look inclusive," said Grace Napolitano (D-Norwalk). "We look like America, because we are America."

Senator, You Know What They Say About Redheads and Tempers

Sen. Bob Graham of Florida took on the redhead lobby in a speech on Medicare: "We must stop treating prescription drugs like the redheaded third cousin at the family picnic." Lucy, where are you when we need you?


Times staff writers Richard T. Cooper and Massie Ritsch contributed to this story.

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