Bill Clinton, the Really Hot Author
By Hanna Rosin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, July 7, 2004; Page C01
The front of the line is where you find the book-signing junkies, the ones looking for a brush with fame, the ones who otherwise might hang around outside David Letterman's Manhattan studio waiting for stars to duck in.
Would they turn out for an Al Gore or a John Edwards book signing?
"No. It really has to be someone big," says Cherry Grazioso, by which she means someone big enough for the tabloids.
Grazioso has done Paul McCartney, Dolly Parton, Mikhail Gorbachev, Mother Teresa, Frank Gifford. She thought about doing Hillary but instead she's here, third in line, waiting for Bill Clinton, ahead of almost 1,700 others.
Last week this low-key commercial strip on upper Connecticut Avenue in the District was transformed by a bank heist. Yesterday the mood was more like a July 4 parade, or one of those endless lines at the Six Flags theme park for Magic Mountain.
"We're getting closer . . . to Bill Clinton," one lady is singing and waving her arms. She's wearing a big American flag shirt and a short short skirt. She's sashaying her way toward the front door of Politics and Prose bookstore.
Politics and Prose! With Nabokov in the window and gingerbread lattes downstairs. And now one Jaama Buckley, trying to tamp her exuberance down to a kitten whisper as she confesses:
"Women have told me that he mesmerizes them," she says. "I want to experience that. I'm already feeling some of that," she says as she presses her palm to her bare inner thighs and then sneaks inside.
Pity the earnest campaign volunteers who showed up with their Kerry for President buttons and their Anybody but Bush T-shirts. This may be Washington during election season and Bill Clinton may be a recent ex-president, but this is not in any sense a political scene.
Even the protests are tabloid, men with crazy hair and flannel shirts smoking cigars, holding lurid signs about Monica Lewinsky, shouting, "Slick Willie. Come out with your pants up!"
Clinton is not like the others. He is not old and wizened by power. He does not belong in that stale part of our collective memory where Gerald Ford sits in a corporate boardroom and Jimmy Carter, wrinkled and worthy, observes suspect foreign elections.
His hair is gray but he has twice as much as he needs. The wrinkles around his eyes are like arrows, pointing somewhere definite. His fingers are long and smooth and his nails are neat and shiny as dimes. Those fingers! The ladies outside talk about them, how they held the pen, how they moved over the page, how they felt when he grabbed their hand, how they might feel if . . . well forget it, that's going too far.
There are presidents who were famous and then became stars (John F. Kennedy), presidents who were stars and became politicians (Ronald Reagan), and then there is Clinton, who was a nobody from nowhere who's already moved beyond the presidency and now could star in his own movie.
There are buttons for sale of Clinton playing his saxophone in those "Risky Business" sunglasses. "Clinton Still Rocks!" they say, but they feel like a memento from a long-ago era, when Clinton was still the overeager fan, desperate to get on Arsenio Hall, to meet Barbra Streisand and David Geffen, desperate to be loved and even more, to show he was cool. Now he is bigger than all of them, with the audience to prove it.
© 2004 The Washington Post Company