We play this game at our house. It's called "Where's Jesse?" At breakfast, we all write down three places where we think Jesse Jackson will be during the day -- a labor dispute in Miami, a political luncheon in New York and negotiating for a hostage release in Beirut. Then we tune in the 6 o'clock news to see where Jesse's been, and who's ahead. Late film from the 11 o'clock news usually determines the winner. In case of a tie, we use "Nightline" as sudden death.
At the moment Jesse holds the following positions: mayor of Chicago, shadow senator from the District of Columbia, governor of South Carolina, a regular on "American Bandstand" -- he usually dances with Justine -- and the secret square. "I'll take Jesse Jackson to block." (Next year, lounging in the armchair and speaking in iambic pentameter with a vaguely British accent, Jesse will host "Masterpiece Theatre"; you've already heard his radio show, "Rap With the Rev," on 1,600 stations. )
Some people say the toughest job is president of the United States. I think it's far tougher being Jesse Jackson's travel agent -- Jesse's in more airports than the Hare Krishnas.
And he's on TV every day. No matter who's making news, Jesse is right there at his side. If he was any closer to Nelson Mandela, they'd be doing the lambada. You can't crop him out of the photo.
Seriously, there must be some sort of physics law he's mastered, Van Grack's First Law of Telemagnetism. He must have a magnetic attraction for the camera. Do you remember Woody Allen's film "Zelig," which purported to examine the strange life of the human chameleon, Leonard Zelig? Zelig became the toast of the 1920s. He was pals with luminaries like Babe Ruth, Scott Fitzgerald, Herbert Hoover and Charlie Chaplin. Zelig in Rome with Pope Pius XI. In Berlin with Hitler! Everywhere that mattered, there was Zelig.
I wonder how many times Jesse's rented that movie.
True story: Last week I was in Las Vegas to see Mike Tyson fight. Early on the morning of the fight, I was certain I saw Jesse on TV, from Washington, talking about Marion Barry. Then I go to the fight, and there's Jesse sitting ringside among the celebrity guests like Bo Derek, Eddie Murphy, Jack Nicholson. It turns out Jesse had flown to Vegas that day to lead a union rally outside a downtown casino whose workers were on strike. Good timing, right? Then, an hour after the fight, Tyson holds a press conference, and who should be seated on the podium with him, but Jesse! What is he now, a cornerman?
I get back to Washington and tell this tale, and one of my colleagues who'd covered the NBA semifinal between Detroit and Chicago tells me that just before the seventh game a league PR man tips the press that Muhammad Ali is in the Detroit dressing room talking to the Pistons. So the writers head that way, but they're intercepted by a different PR man with a showstopper: "Jesse's in the Chicago dressing room praying with Michael Jordan."
(Did you know that recently Jesse's face mysteriously appeared on the side of a rusty refrigerator near Las Cruces, N.M., that is now being referred to as the Norge of Jesse?)
Jesse got to Hurricane Hugo before State Farm did; he gets to all the natural disasters first. He beat Dan Quayle to the San Francisco earthquake by 40 minutes. "Who's flying his plane, Rick Mears?" Quayle hissed in anger.
Looking through the photo file at The Post, I found pictures of Jesse with striking coal miners, with striking Eastern pilots, with striking Greyhound Bus workers, at the New York Stock Exchange (he must have gotten lost), with Marion Barry, with Bill Cosby, with Miss America Debbye Turner, with William Bennett, with George Stallings, with Doug Williams, with George Bush, with Margaret Thatcher, with Mike Dukakis. He has more pictures of himself with famous people than Ted Baxter.
Everyone knows Jesse has hugged Yasser Arafat, and negotiated the releases of Navy airman Robert Goodman Jr. from Syria and 48 U.S. and Cuban prisoners from Cuban jails.
But here are some obscure Jesse sightings.
Tour de Lite beer commercial. In the New York finale Jesse's on a 10-speed wearing a Cameroon soccer shirt.
"We Are the World." Top row, beside Dan Aykroyd.
It's Jesse's face that's outlined when you connect the dots on place mats at the Fresh'n-Up Truck Stop in North Platte, Neb.
Hands Across America. Between the Motel 6 night manager and Mr. Goodwrench in Clinton, Iowa.
"Steel Wheels" tour. Backup vocal on "Tumbling Dice." Drove the pace car at the Indy 500.
Guide, Bass Masters. (He was the one in the birch-bark canoe.)
Third runner-up, Miss Shenandoah Apple Blossom Queen.
"I Want to Give the World a Coke" commercial. Far meadow. Eighth row, sixth from left.
Fifth place, 110-meter hurdles, Seoul.
Columbia Space Shuttle, flight No. 8, first religious leader in space.
"Sesame Street." On Tuesdays he's Big Bird.
For the next few days you can catch Jesse on the Mandela tour. After that, the Paul McCartney tour. In mid-July, he opens at the Taj Mahal -- providing The Donald's creditors haven't turned it into a Levitz -- and in Aug... wait a minute, I'm not Ed McMahon. You want Jesse? Consult your local listings.