Democratic Underground  

Bill Clinton: Live in Concert! One Night Only!
June 20, 2002
By Elayne Keratsis

"Big Dawg comin' to Level," the young hip-hopper commented as I was location-scouting South Beach's Level Nightclub for a music video.

"Huh?" I replied. He stared at me as if I were speaking Greek.

"The President, girl. Bill Clinton comin' to Level. Charity thing."

Gerry Kelly, co-owner of one of Miami's hottest clubs, is known in town for his generosity when it comes to charity functions. Just one week after September 11, Kelly opened the club for a Dance-A-Thon for Miami's Hope Center, a residential and day training facility committed to providing training opportunities and care for people with developmental disabilities. But Bill Clinton coming to the night spot formerly owned by the artist formerly and once again currently known as Prince was pretty big news.

"What's the charity?" I asked as I reached for my bag.

"Kids In Dade," he said.

The Kids In Dade Society works tirelessly creating positive after school programs for inner city youths.

"One night only!" he continued. "Big Bill Clinton, live in concert!"

I laughed as I paid for a ticket for myself and one for my twelve year old son. "In concert, huh? What's he gonna do? Sing?"

He did not appreciate my lame joke. He stared at me seriously for a moment, shook his head and then said "He don't need to sing. He just need to be."

Indeed. "Gimme two," I said. It was the best news I had had in a long while. I found out others felt the same.

You may have seen us, we lifelong Democrats from the greatest country in the world. You may have seen us over the past year, wandering in the deserts known as Miami, Boston, Los Angeles, and New York. We were already in the middle of the biggest collective ass-whipping of our lives before that freak from the Middle East snapped off the leashes of his babbling, incoherent pit bulls and delivered tragedy out of the sky. The appointment of the President by the Supreme Court had left us not only disillusioned, but dazed and confused, shocked and scarred, politically battled and ideologically bloodied. We wandered the streets wondering "Dude, where IS my car?" while the GOP wrote the script of their film which has been playing over and over on a repeating reel for over a year, snidely entitled "Get Over It!"

It seems a gag order was issued in the days after the horror of September 11 by the Oracle of the Administration. We could never, the Oracle decreed (and Ari Fleischer insinuated), come together as a united country as long as the specter of Bill Clinton and the ideals of the Democratic Party continued to be espoused. They demanded we as a country to wash that man right out of our hair. To paraphrase those old TV westerns you were either "with us or agin us!" The poor and the black, the gays and the women (and their bodies), blue collar workers and students must listen and heed. "The time has come," the Oracle said, "to stop talking of many things." It was time to grow up and act like adults, there's a war on, for God's sake! Put away childish thoughts like public education, Social Security, health insurance, and minimum wage. There's a war on!

And as we did our best to support the country that spawned us. The 42nd President walked the crash site, thanking workers for their service. He was thanked with commentary such as "How could he?" Senator Clinton attended every function connected with the tragedy, lauded the present First Lady on prime time for her courage and dignity, and was rewarded with minute scrutiny of every facial expression she made on every news program. Rumors begin to surface that shrewish Karen Hughes, speaking for the Oracle, declared "in speeches the President makes, make sure he never, ever thanks Senator Clinton as he reads off the names of the Governor, Mayor, and Senior Senator." Still we kept on. United We Stand. Thank God she eventually faded away.

When CSPAN and MSNBC cameras were removed during Democratic rebuttals to certain points of Ashcroft's anti-terrorism plan, not even MSNBC whimpered about freedom of the press and in fact removed a blurb about the incident from their website. Apparently the same media who thought you couldn't live the rest of your lives without a picture of dead Elvis in his coffin was too afraid of the Oracle to protest the suppression of what half of the country was questioning.

Time passed with the holidays. It had been many months since I had seen a politician on television speaking about some of the ideals I hold close to my heart, especially education. Oh yes, occasionally I would get a snippet of Senator Ted Kennedy and yes, I had already had my fill of Bush's tiresome joke "I can just imagine what the folks done at the Crawford Coffee Shop are sayin' when they saw me with HIM!" And I couldn't stand to watch yet another pained smile as the camera cut to Kennedy, knowing all the while he must be thinking "Sure. Fine. Whatever."

Could it be he good fight had been fought and it was over for now? Were we reduced to the living embodiment of Moe, Larry and Curly at the high society ball? When introduced to the hoi polloi Moe nods and say "Enlightened!" Larry follows him with "Enchanted!" But it's Curly who nails it with a quick leer. "Embalmed." And there we were.

All we seemed to have left to hang on to was the gentle warning of the late Sergeant Phil Esterhaus from that rundown station on Hill Street... "Let's be careful out there."

Until last night.

I took my kid out of school early yesterday. The invitation said "professional dress" but he insisted on a well-worn Martin Luther King Jr. t-shirt and a "Bill Clinton For President" button. As I have told you previously, Gentle Reader, this is Miami and the rules are different here. I myself squeezed into one of two dress up outfits I have and we were off.

The line outside Level Nightclub spanned the block and South Beach being what it is, another line of tourists, homeless vets, half-hearted protesters, and various freaks formed their own line parallel to ours while conducting impromptu interviews as we waited for the doors to open.

The folks who paid upwards of $10,000 to the charity, of course, had already entered the venue so they did not have to face the grilling we on the outside were subjected to as the sun began to cause a major make-up avalanche from Clinique and Maybelline.

"Why would you bring your kid to see that bum, Clinton?" an elderly man demanded as he shook his cane in my face. "Uh..." I stumbled, reaching back for all of those great retorts I had prior to the edict of the Oracle.

"He's a bum! Look what he did with that girl!" How 'bout you, young man! You think that was nice?" I pushed my son forward, whispering in his ear, "Mind your business!"

"My family is from New England," my twelve-year-old genius replied.

"What the heck does that have to do with anything?" the oldest grumbled, confused.

"We believe in MYOB."

The wrinkled face puckered up. "What does that mean?"

"Mind your own business!" I snapped at the old man, as the line began to move, bringing us level with a forty-ish black woman holding a sign which read simply "Thank you, Mr. President."

My son smiled at the old man and said, "That wasn't our business to mind."

Across the street, parked in the median, were a handful of Bush supporters with placards that I hoped my son wouldn't read and hurling racial insults toward the black woman that I hoped he did not pick up on. A lone Latin female cop was lecturing them about language when the doors, thankfully, opened.

The crush was amazing. I've attended political functions before. Hell, I've been to the Oscars. But riding the crest of this particular wave reminded me of two days long ago and far away, when I stood in line for 12 hours (and then waited inside for another 12) to see The Rolling Stones at the Orange Bowl. Way back in the day when there were no assigned seats and all that glory was first come, first served.

It was three long hours in a standing-room-only section for us "cheap seaters" although my son had managed to get himself invited past the red rope and was chatting with two elderly mega-contributors to the Democratic Party. I guess they had overheard him lecturing a Secret Service agent about the class system and how if all men are created equal, then everyone should get a chair. He is, after all, his mother's son.

During my wait I wandered through the crowd, with one eye on my son, making sure his behavior was as close to his best as possible for a kid who should have been in Civics and was instead chilling in a South Beach nightclub. It was a relatively reserved crowd. Let's face it, it hasn't been the best couple of years for us liberals. Yet within that atmosphere, there was an edgy electrical spark that sputtered on and off. One I hadn't felt in a while. These people were here to see some action and they were completely serious in their waiting.

Several false starts, once again reminiscent of big rock concerts when the occasional roadie wanders by the mike, made the crowd restless and vocal. And then the hours melted away in a single second. There he was. On stage, President Clinton live in concert.

The crowd rose to its feet with an explosive burst of uncontrolled emotion. Down in front in the Cartier and Prada section the people were screaming as loud as those of us way back in the Target-clad outfield.

This is the part where you may expect me to repeat word for word what he said and how it it touched me. But I'm not going to do that. The President spoke for only five minutes. He spoke about education and how everyone should get one, no matter who they are. He spoke movingly about after-school care and preschool and what it all means to the future of our country. He spoke not so much about leveling the educational playing field, but raising it and everyone else along with it. He was inspiring and charismatic, interrupted every few seconds by screams and raucous cheers. He spoke what we knew had always been the truth and we loved him for it.

But it was that one face in the crowd that moved me even more than Bill's words. It was the face of my son, upturned and shining in Club Level's disco lights just feet from the podium. His eyes were wide and bright, his jaw had literally dropped, transfixed. I saw the child who has spent the last decade plus listening to his mother rave on about school vouchers bleeding the soul out of communities and grownups who cannot read, and after-school care and preschool and the whole ball of wax. It is a moment frozen in time for me.

He got it!

He listened and then he knew who are and more importantly - WHY we believe what we believe. And why it's important to spread the message, not just by telling people but by voting.

And, in an instant, the red, white and blue balloons dropped from the ceiling, and Bill Clinton was gone. The applause was endless and the emotional catharsis was bloody red and raw. Especially for me.

The crowd partied on. But the rock show was over for us. We strolled down South Beach, basking in the afterglow and jazzed with excitement. "Mom," my son said. "Do you remember what you said about voting and what happens afterwards?"

"Which part?" I struggled, going through my mental flip-file of Mom-isms.

"That even if you didn't vote for that administration you have to make sure you get what you paid for? That if you went to K-Mart and bought a game and then went home and found out it didn't have all the pieces you would go back and demand that you get what you paid for? And that's why you have to keep an eye on the government and speak out when you see something is wrong?"

"Oh yeah." Man, that was one of my better ones.

He walked along. "Well Mom, tonight I got what I paid for!"

I stopped in my tracks. That kid. He truly is an Oracle of wisdom.

Listen up friends and neighbors! I am a Democrat. Always have been, always will be. I may have gone undercover for awhile, but I am BACK! I'm watching and listening and peacefully but loudly spreading the word, the word muffled by a faux Oracle lodged deep inside a shadow government.

And as we once again gear up to cast our votes (yes, even here in Florida - they are letting us have one more crack at voting!) I am reminded of Sergeant Jablonski who replaced Esterhaus after his untimely death.

His roll call closed with this simple phrase... "Let's do it to them before they do it to us."

Who's with me?

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