I (almost) met Bill Clinton

I arrive 50 minutes early at the Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman ready to scope out the joint in the hope of getting a sneak peek of former president Bill Clinton, who’s in town to speak on humanity for his foundation. I didn’t receive the $1,500 ticket to that particular event, so I’m here in a journalistic capacity covering the pre-event cocktail reception. Luckily I have a contact. We meet, she makes small talk, asks about my background in filmmaking (I had to turn in a small biography for vetting because of the nature of the event). She warns me that I have no chance of meeting the president, but I can go into the hall and start setting up shots soon.

My stomach sinks, I’m disappointed because I’ve been keen on meeting Bill Clinton for quite some time; after all he’s a former president of the United States. I decide to casually stroll down the hallway to the art gallery taking my time and eyes and ears open. “Where there is a former president, there is bound to be other action,” I tell myself.

My anticipation of actually shaking Clinton’s hand shifts my focus back to the registration desk where there’s some action happening. People start to speed up. They carry their computer bags and talk on their cell phones as they hustle in and out of the reception area. Everyone is dressed in suits and skirts. Everyone is buzzed. You can feel the energy in the air. The president is close, and everyone knows this. I even hear a hotel guest pass and say, “You’d think that they’d keep it all a secret.”

I push closer on the alert. Nervous as I am to actually have a conversation with him, I need to do this. Come on – that’s why I’m here.

I watch other people, a well-known local man arrives through the side door. I look out and see an attorney I recognise from this week’s liquor license meeting. I say ‘hi’ to the local man and shake his hand. He tries to place me. He can’t. I ask him if he remembers me. He immediately responds, “Of course, from Pirate’s Week.” Oops. I was wrong. He did remember. “Good memory,” I tell him. And he starts taking pieces of toilet paper out of his copy of the Clinton memoirs. “You gotta mark it with whatever’s close,” he says. I keep thinking, “When will I meet Clinton?”

At the reception desk, guests figure out who’s coming and who’s not coming with the two other people now helping my secret contact. The question that everyone is asking is, “When can we go in?” And, “What’s that guy writing about? Me?” as I scribble in my notepad. Yes, I am. It’s then I see a team of three Secret Service men. There’s a major difference between hotel security and Secret Service. Night and day, really. Then the developer and part owner of the Ritz walks in. I met him once, but he doesn’t remember, or doesn’t show it. He’s uber-confident. He knows he’s the dude with the grandest hotel on Grand Cayman with a former US president as his hotel guest. “Do we go up there now or not?” I hear him ask. See, everyone is thinking the same thing.

Later…

At 5.30, I have to take a break from chatting and photographing because I’m sweating like a beast. Secret Service men duck around bushes all around me. After my run-in with two women I know from other stories, I’m dripping sweat worse than before. I’m no good to anyone here. I’m probably scaring people with my excessive perspiration. I pack up the camera and head for the bar. The bartender spots me and knows I’m struggling. He gives me a glass of ice water and I tell him he saved my life. I look good (well, better) in a suit, but my constant sweating gave me away as a fraud in this scene. I’m not even a T-shirt and jeans guy. I’m a shorts and tank top guy, on a good day. Here, now, I might as well be wearing a polar bear outfit.

As I finally cool down, I get a chance to look over the crowd. Anticipation is mounting, drinks flow, everyone is on seconds or thirds and the smiles come out.

My back starts to ache. Oh, yeah. It’s because I’m fat and I’ve been standing in uncomfortable shoes for the past hour.

Not even the briefest glimpse of Clinton yet. I look inside the other room where he will be giving his speech. I see a looped video that shows a picture of Brad Pitt sitting next to Clinton at some event. And another 20 frames before the loop is back to Pitt. My lady friend who was one of my contacts there grabs my arm and shoves me through the door into the no-fly zone – “no journalists allowed,”she says. We scurry through the doors and she whispers, “We’ll just sneak you on in.” Pictures form of Secret Service men descending on me and beating me unconscious. That doesn’t happen. Neither does my chance to meet Bill Clinton.

After 10 minutes of waiting at the back of the ballroom, it’s all over, my press contact tells me I have to leave. I hang around another Clintonless five minutes until she comes back and tells me again. I leave defeated. ”What a bummer,” I say to the air. I pay for valet and tip guy who brings up my car. On the drive home, I think about the night. There’s bad news and good news, I think. The bad news is I didn’t get to meet Bill Clinton. The good news is that I fit into the suit that I’ve had for over two years. I’m not as fat as I think I am.

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