Andy Warhol, one of the nation's most persistent celebrities, once observed that, in time, every person in America would be famous for 15 minutes.
For Richard Bove of Burlington, Vt., the national spotlight lasted somewhat longer that 15 minutes -- actually several weeks -- as the forces of Sen. Edward Kennedy struggled unsuccessfully to crack President Carter's overwhelming bloc of delegates.
When Bove, in late June, told a reporter for The Rutland Herald that he was having second thoughts about his support for Carter, he stepped into a political house of mirrors. The Rutland story was followed by a July 1 story in The Boston Globe headlined: "Disenchanted: A Carter Delegate May Defect."
The Boston Globe story, in turn, drew the attention of an editor at The Washington Post who talked with Bove. The result was an open letter to President Carter, published in Outlook July 27 under the headline:"A Carter Delegate's Plea: Open the Convention." In it, Bove told of looking out the window of his small Italian restaurant and watching the growing lines at the unemployment office across the street. "That is where my troubled feelings really began," he said.
After that, things really began to blossom for the 43-year-old Bove. He flew to New York to appear on ABC's "Good Morning America" July 28. News reporters and broadcasters from across the country called. Canadian television filmed the Saturday night crowds in Bove's restaurant.
Bove's sudden prominence as one of the few delegates across the country ready to break ranks did little to help ease the growing tension in the small Vermont delegation, which was split 7 votes for Kennedy, 5 for Carter.
On the opening day of the convention, the tension prompted Vermont Secretary of State James Guest, leader of the Kennedy forces, to ask the delegates to cool their tempers so that when they went home, "If we are not blissfully united, we will, at least, not be bitterly divided."
The basic tiff was between Bove and State Sen. Esther Sorrell, leader of the Carter forces in Vermont. Both had much to say about each other. Sorrell thought Bove was breaking his pledge to Carter and seeking publicity. Sorrell also doubted the news value and authorship of the letter that appeared in The Washington Post. "Dick is not a writer," she said. For his part, Bove thought Sorrell was angry because his possible defection made it look like Sorrell wasn't doing her job for Carter.
In the small delegation, where business was conducted informally and on a first name basis, Bove moved around easily. But he did not stay with the delegation at the Abbey Victoria Hotel. He chose the New York Hilton, he said, because he and his wife, Josephine, came to the city several days before the convention to celebrate their 19th wedding anniversary.
True to his doubts, Bove cast his vote -- actually only a half-vote -- for the "open convention." On platform issues, Bove's voice was heard with the "ayes" supporting the Kennedy position. Then the roll call on the nomination began and Bove told delegation leaders he planned to abstain. Sorrell tried to talk him out of it. Bove was adamant. The Vermonters asked the chair for a ruling on whether Bove could abstain. The answer: He could, but under the new "bound delegate" rule, Bove could be replaced by a Carter alternate. The Carter people talked about it and decided not to invoke the penalty.
By the time Vermont was called upon, the Kenndy endorsement of Carter had been read to the convention. Bove, whose odyssey began with second thoughts about Carter, again had second thoughts. He changed his mind about abstaining, and voted for Carter. "Teddy Kennedy is a bigger man than I am," he said, somewhat grandly, "and if he can do what he did for party unity, then so can i."
Sorrell when she heard Bove's reasoning sniffed, "It was just a big ego trip for Dickie."
Then it was over and Bove was on his way back home to Burlington. Back to Bove's Restaurant, back to spaghetti and meatballs, and back to watching the unemployment lines across the street.
He thought he could handle the loss of fame. "It didn't swell my head or anything," he said. After a moment's pause, he added, "I think it's good for the restaurant."
Bove paused again., The experience wouldn't encourage him to run for Congress, perhaps but he might think about the state leglislature. "I'm going to stay in politics," he continued. "I think politics is great."
Of all the events in New York, though, the one Bove may remember the longest took place at St. Patrick's Cathedral last Sunday. Bove and his wife went to an early mass, took seats at the front and found themselves opposite Ted Kennedy.
After the service, Bove recalled, "I went over and shook hands with Kennedy and told him who I was. And he looked at me and said, 'That was good front-page play.'"
kennedy, it seemed, knew who Bove was. Better yet, he knew what Bove had done.
Bove was unlikely to forget that very soon.