Teddy is 45 minutes late, but Eleanor Trudeau doesn't mind. The blond, fortyish hairdresser has shut down Eleanor's Beauty Shop, where she untangles curls and troubles, donned her purple cape and traipsed through snow and ice to thrill to the political-media circus that will reach its frenzied denouement Tuesday on the windy backroads of rural New Hampshire.
"You make us feel like such celebrities," coos Trudeau. She cranes her neck above the crown of 500 people jammed shoulder to shoulder upstairs in Dover town hall and eyes the press tags dangling about the necks of 75 sleepy-eyed reporters and TV cameramen. "We love talking to all you wonderful men.
"Ooooooo! Indonesia!" she squeals, thrusting her leather-bound autograph book at Samsu Mahfudi, Washington bureau chief of a large Jakarta daily newspaper. He signed just beyond the page reserved for Ted Kennedy. In New Hampshire, every four years almost anyone can be famous for 15 minutes.
It is 10:30 a.m., Saturday, and there is still time to play that favorite campaign '80 game before the candidate arrives: Show and Tell on the Campaign Trail.
From a purse, Trudeau yanks instamatic memories of Campaign '80 -- Sen. Edward M. Kennedy at a get-to-know the candidate cocktail party -- and thrusts them into the hands of world-weary reporters. "When the Secret Service agents said, 'Here he comes,' that's when I first got him," she says. "It was a big shindig, all kinds of food and so crowded Kennedy couln't move. But I got through, got him again right under his nose. Here . . ." Kennedy is all nostril.
Smiling, Trudeau proudly poses for the press with her snapshot of the candidate. "That's 'Ms.' Trudeau," she says. "No divorce, no ex-husbands."
"Is that like in Pierre Trudeau?" asks a Japanese reporter.
"Oh, he's probably a rich relative," she says."But I'm independently poor. And I'm the only one in town with a picture of Ted Kennedy in the window that lights up at night."
A polite Japanese reporter shakes his head at the way Americans elect their president. "Politics is not so glamorous in Japan," he sighs.
For the past few months, 16 presidential candidates and hundreds of reporters have spent millions of dollars chasing about the tranquil back roads here with adrenalin-eyed abandon, courting the voters and each other like a band of hungry gigolos bent on landing the same rich old woman.
"This may be the end of New Hampshire," predicted Dick Tuck, prankster turned political editor of the National Lampoon.
"It's just a big game," says Dale Vincent, a local New Hampshire television reporter who has chased down her share of candidates. "It's like, 'Wow, here's the press. Everyone wants me.' Mosts people recognize that it's only for three months every four years."
In this madcap campaign, where politicians race from town to town trying to carve each other up with the dull knife of issues -- they're often mere hairs apart -- candidates find that when all else fails, celebrity will start the flashbulbs popping.
"Let's face it," says one Washington reporter. "We're romantics. We always have a new love. Most reporters are ignorant of the issues. There's a sophomoric, teen-age quality to our business. The press have a lot of biases, but we're not biased for one guy or for an ideology. We like what's new. That's why we have to struggle to write as tough about George Bush -- he's new and smarmy -- as Ronald Reagan."
And in New Hampshire, the press is always there, gobbling, voracious for novelty to satisfy editors back home and the insatiable growl of America, even as they rub elbows with media groupies like Trudeau.
"Everyone has fights and problems if they're married, but people get back together," observes Trudeau, a Humphrey supporter in '76 turned Kennedy devotee in '80, as Ted and Joan take the podium together. "I believe they're closer than ever," she says.
California Gov. Edmund G. (Jerry) Brown Jr., spiffy in a brown mackintosh over a gray suit, climbs out of his car in a muddy parking lot and heads through an alley. He walks beneath a gaggle of windown posters -- "More Nukes, Less Kooks," and "Nuclear Power Plants Are Better Built Than Jane Fonda," -- and into the arms of reverent supporters gathered in the Horsefeathers Restaurant in Dover to hear his anti-nuke, no-draft mantra.A supporter promises never again to use her electric can opener. Earlier, he is offered a $43 solar watch. He turns it down.
Rock star Linda Ronstadt, 33, waits in the car, chews bubble gum and drinks coffee with singer Phoebe Snow, 29, gossiping and laying low. The press has swarmed to join Brown, with Ronstadt in tow, for a day cavorting about the coast of New Hampshire. It was billed as the best media sideshow in New Hampshire Sunday; Ronstadt guaranteed a full house.
Why had she left California to traipse about New Hampshire tundra?
"Well to tell you the truth, apathy is getting real boring," she says before the caravan sets out. "And I really think that the way he is addressing the issues is so urgent right now and so important that I had to come and help. I really had to show support. I'm close to him. If I don't show support, it's almost like . . . I'm against him, y'a know."
How do you like New Hamsphire?
"Well, it looks snowy but . . who cares about the weather? That's boring. Ask me about nuclear power."
What about it?
"I don't like it and we're going to stop it."
That's in Manchester, where she has stopped by campaign headquarters to bolster the spirits of volunteers like Harvey Malawski, 18, a Northeastern University freshman. "The press wouldn't let us get near here," grouses Malawski. "But I finally got a reporter to open a path for me and I got her autograph.
By midafternoon Ronstadt wants out and corrals the governor in Town Grange. But he prevails upon her to stay. Now, in the parking lot behind Horsefeathers, where Brown is accusing Kennedy of being "wiggling as an eel on nuclear power," she waits in the car. Ronstadt can't wait to get off the campaign trail, so she can "gossip in peace" with Snow, she says.
A hush falls over the crowd of 75 people in the Concord Ramada Inn as Joan Kennedy speaks of her recovery from alcoholism, her husband's new-found closeness to their 12-year-old son Patrick, her discovery of the women's movement, her new self-confidence.
Afterwards, she blushes to applause, and they swarm up to her, the TV lights blinding guests and sound technicians thrusting their long microphones to record every ounce of spontaneity.
"I'm really honored to meet you," says a twentyish woman, pain in her eyes. "Nineteen months ago, I read your article in People magazine and it was instrumental in getting me into an alcohol recovery program."
Mrs. Kennedy is touched. "How are you doing?"
"Oh, I'm doing all right," replies the woman.
"You look like you're doing just fine," says Mrs. Kennedy.
One reporter misses the exchange and implores a colleague to fill him in on the dialogue. Boo Patoine, a Concord real estate sales woman on the Kennedy field staff, watches the newsman scribble the information in his pad. "That's disgusting, picking out all the weaknesses," she says.
The national press corps has swarmed to the dimly lit bar of the Sheraton-Wayfarer in Manchester, a sprawling hotel whose lounge becomes the unofficial watering hole of media celebrities every four years. Up and down the bar, the media heavies are replaying the events of the night, and Reagan-Bush debate that erupted in a family quarrel among the normally polite Republicans.
Three Manchester women sit at a table near the bar, mourning the death of actor David Janssen at the age of 48. They glance about the room, yawning at the faces they see in their living room every night on RV.
"Is Steve McQueen here?" asked a real estate saleswoman, her mink draped lazily over a chair. "Now that might be something to get excited about."