So, perhaps I could suggest my morning wake-up call came from Ben Affleck. Figuratively, it’s sort of true.
Here’s the deal: I was, as they say, dead dog tired heading downstairs for this morning’s delegate meeting in the hotel. The way I counter this is to eat before I go, then stand or stroll the entire time, which keeps me awake since I have never gained the talent of sleeping standing up, but listening to one more politician giving one more speech that I’ve heard one-too-many times could push me toward that elusive goal.
But then Jean Hessberg, the IA Dems executive director, told me Ben Affleck was going to make a visit to the Iowa Delegation’s breakfast. This perked me up the way a cup of coffee used to (I no longer drink the caffeine; body’s a temple and all that garbage). Something outside of the routine. Somebody who might say something to generate water-cooler talk. Somebody everybody in Iowa knows (I’m not sure everyone knows who John Kerry and John Edwards are at this point, but I’m waaaay sure they know Benifer, I mean Mr. Affleck.)
And that’s how I addressed Mr. Affleck when I got the chance. Four star General Wesley Clark was exorting the party troops (notice the pun, PLEASE, or I’ll turn this car around right now) for a good 8 minutes and 45 seconds (remember, I’m the one with the digital recording of this stuff, so I know) and he did marginally better than he did during his one campaign-style appearance in Iowa. Clark ended with some flag-waving rhetoric (read the news story about this on the website to get the 411 on his hangover, or at least suggestion of a hangover or rather late-night on Monday), and as the crowd applauded his last line he grabbed the folds of the American flag posted right behind him and held it out/unfurled it for show.
Then came the big show. Lots of screaming. Everybody, it seemed, had a digital camera. Yes, this was the moment. Jean Hessburg stepped to the mic and introduced Ben Affleck as “a man who’s near and dear to my heart now that we’re best friends.” (Hessberg was forced to spend some time in the hallway with Affleck while Clark was speaking. It’s that kind of behind-the-scenes “work” that makes up for the other stuff, like the envelope stuffing.) Flashes went crazy. Affleck began by tossing birthday wishes to the two Iowa women who happened to be having birthdays today. Then he launched into a speech which is posted on the Radio Iowa website somewhere. It lasted approximately 3:16, after the birthday well-wishing which took up about 27 seconds. I had a catbird’s seat (I’ve never actually seen the catbird’s seat, but it’s a description I’ll throw in for good measure) as my chair was positioned at the front of the room, right by one of the doors (always smart to be near an exit, friends) and near my equipment on the lecturn (always good to keep a close eye on the recording) which means, of course, I was within spittin’ distance of Affleck, and I can say I’ve never been able to spit very far (I really have never tried), so you get the picture. I was close. After he finished speaking, there was a huge rush to the front of the room get to him. A WDM doctor who’s been jumping into camera shots the past two days (he got snaps with Clinton & Carter last night; the guy is unbelievable in his quest for celebrity pix) jumped right under Ben’s right arm as Ben had his left arm around a blushing young girl who, when asked by Ben, admitted she was only 18. “You’d better get away from me. I don’t want to get into any trouble with your folks,” Ben joked. I popped a question at him.
“Mr. Affleck, this (the rush) didn’t happen with Mr. Clark. Why?” I asked.
“Oh, I don’t know,” Affleck said, laughing. “Mr. Clark’s extremely charismatic. I think he’s sexy, to be perfectly honest.”
More jostling occured as others tried to get in position to get a picture with Affleck. Then, amid the mayhem, Affeck leaned back toward me, touched my arm and delivered a line before his exit from the room.
“Maybe people are a little intimidated by the General,” Affleck said. “He’s imposing and seems serious. I don’t think people confer the same kind of gravitas on me.”
‘Can we get a picture?” another Iowan asked.
”Sure, take the picture,” Affleck replied.
Des Moines Register chief political reporter Thomas Beaumont offered this assessment a short while later: “He (Mr. Affleck) re-established eye contact with you, and you broke away. I mean, he sought you. He sought you.”
Perhaps it was the breath mints. A fresh breath is always a great way to greet the day, or any movie star.
Chanon & Candace Opstvedt, 16- and 18-year-old sisters from Story City, got their picture taken with Affleck.
“AAAAHHHH!” they declared in a joint scream in the elevator afterwards.
“He’s, like, just as good looking in person as he is…” said one.
“He’s tall,” said the other, interrupting.
“Nice, and what can you say about him. He’s good looking.”
“He encourages young voters and that’s especially important to us.”
“And he’s a democrat.”
“We could go home now and be happy.”
Oh, and in reply to my friend Mary, who asked “where did he touch you?” — it was a touch to the forearm.
Enough Ben. Next, a funny story about the Iowa delegation’s phone. As you may notice when you’re watching the convention on t.v., the delegations have a conventional, old-style phone in their midst on the convention floor. The Kerry campaign puppeteers are on the other end of the line.
So, last night the phone rings, and the floor whip picks up it, to hear: “Michigan is waving their signs more.” A hang-up immediately followed. As you may know, Michiganders hate Iowa’s role as the first Caucus state, so there’s a little rivalry there. So, Jean Hessberg says she picked up a sign and started waving it like crazy, and her fellow Iowans got the message.
Now, I’m getting ready to write a piece about the young Iowans who’re part of the delegation here in Boston. And those of you will no doubt note there has been no complaining about food or lack of sleep today. I’m resolved to be Little Miss Positive for, oh, at least another hour or so.