Washington audiences could chuckle over one clever bit in the otherwise lackluster Emmys: When Julia Louis-Dreyfus accepted the prize for her “Veep” role, Tony Hale — the actor who plays her personal assistant — hovered behind her on the stage, holding her purse and whispering reminders in her ear.
Ah, the “body man”! While “Veep’s” Gary may be a joke on TV, in real life the lowly-but-conspicuous job of bag-handler to a Washington power player is often a stepping stone to a big-deal career, as we’re reminded by the trajectory of Doug Band — a former Clinton White House peon, whose rise to power within the ex-president’s foundation is scrutinized by an exhaustive New Republic profile this week — or Huma Abedin, Hillary Clinton’s long-time right hand.
Most body men stayed in the shadows until the media discovered Reggie Love, the charismatic former Duke basketball player who spent five ubiquitous years at the side of Barack Obama, like a real-life Charlie from “The West Wing.”
“The real risk of being the body man is that you stay too long,” said Tim McBride, who served George H.W. Bush for five years starting at age 26. It’s an exhilarating experience, but at some point every body man realizes it’s time to move on. McBride remembers thinking: “I’m living this very exciting life, but it’s not mine.” It got him a lot of job interviews — everyone wanted to hear his stories — but “part of the challenge is being taken seriously.”
But most body men, including McBride, leveraged the gig into successful business careers. Love left the White House for Wharton Business School and now gives motivational speeches. Former caddy Marvin Nicholson, John Kerry’s body man during the 2004 campaign, is now a White House staffer and regular golf buddy of the president. Blake Gottesman, personal aide to George W. Bush (after a stint as Jenna’s high school boyfriend), left the White House for Harvard Business School — amazingly without an undergrad degree — and is now a senior partner at a Boston private equity firm.
And Clinton aides? Abedin, of course, wed Anthony Weiner but is back on Team Hillary after his disastrous mayor campaign. Band parlayed those Bill Clinton connections into a lucrative consulting gig. As one former White House colleague told the New Republic: “Doug has always been reasonably commercial, let’s just say. . . He was a gatekeeper who charged tolls.”
Related, at The Fix: Meet Doug Band: Why you need to know about Bill Clinton’s former body man
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