Here is what it was like out here in East Hampton when the Clintons came for the weekend.
The fun actually began a week or two earlier. New York magazine called. Would I do a curtain raiser piece about the visit? Sure. I interviewed Mayor Paul Rickenbach, and he called the police chief, Glen Stonemetz. Helen Rattray, who edits the local paper, helped out. So did shopkeepers and local savants.
The biggest break I got was at the bar of The Blue Parrot, where I was told that the Maidstone Club, the most aristo and gloriously snob club we have, wouldn't let the Prez play a round of golf. It seems the weekend was reserved for the club's annual Member/Guest.
"The Maidstone regrets," I wrote as the lead to my New York piece.
Then two young women from the New York Post arrived at my driveway on Further Lane. How could I help? I began rattling off places to go, people to see about the great visit, which was swiftly taking on the dimensions of Lourdes. One of the young Post -ies was taking notes with my ballpoint on the palm of her hand. I cleared my throat. Would she like some notepaper? No, she said. I should just keep talking.
Next, the AP. They were sending out a reporter named Chelsea Carter. Ms. Carter arrived next day. I showed her around and took her up to The Blue Parrot where Roland the manager recounted tales while Sudsy, the unpaid gossip columnist/restaurant critic of the weekly Montauk shopper took notes, coolly unconcerned Prosecutor Starr might subpoena him. Kelly Ann Smith, Hamptons stringer for The New York Times, arrived and I put her together with the AP's Chelsea and off they went to get the dish at a party at Jerry Della Femina's, chaired by Liz Smith.
On Sunday, Ms. Carter returned with a photographer and took me to the beach to be photographed. In turn, I took them to The Blue Parrot. Trouble was, Chelsea was drinking Diet Coke and her photographer ordered a Shirley Temple. What's happened to America's wire services?
On Tuesday in Manhattan, Dr. Rigel carved a dermatological chunk out of my upper lip. My quandry? Should I grow a mustache or shave just one side for a week?
My daughters solved that. Since I am already recognizable for my loping walks 'round the village, commenting aloud on badly mowed lawns or the neighbors' privet hedge, they informed me that if I went about with half a mustache, the feds were sure to pounce.
Wednesday noon, four prowl cars rolled slowly past my house in formation, sweeping Further Lane. Fierro's Pizza and Rudy, who owns Dreesen's, the grocer and donut purveyor, said agents had been checking them out. I went off to The Parrot where Roland said his Brit pals, who've rented the same house on Ocean Avenue every August for 17 years, had also been visited by the feds.
Their problem? The house next door owned by two Gay gentlemen, was to be the scene of an alternative lifestyle fundraising reception Saturday afternoon. "Don't go anywhere near your own windows!" the indignant Brits were sternly admonished. One of them that evening struck back by presenting The Blue Parrot a framed photo of himself, sprinting stark naked with a burning newspaper protruding from his backside. I expressed hope he would not repeat this amusing stunt while the Clintons were next door.
More alarming: Just who drained Georgica Pond? Teenaged vandals or the feds, anxious that kayaks, canoes and crabbers not get too close to Bill and Hill at the Spielberg house. Town trustees put up a $1,000 reward. The village was pruning trees that hung over motorcade routes. On Friday Channel 2 News arrived at my lawn and I gave them sound bites. That evening the motorcade whipped past my house for the first time heading to the Bruce Wasserstein dinner.
Early Saturday village employees were putting out American flags along Main Street while John K. Ott's "honey wagon" emptied the cesspool of Rowdy Hall. Just before 10 the motorcade drove by en route to the Amagansett fire house. An hour later, here they came back. That afternoon nuclear power protestors demonstrated near the windmill, maybe 200 folks. It was like those jolly "ban the bomb" marches of the '60s, little kids and guys in Grateful Dead getups. But from Ocean Avenue there were no alarming reports of naked Englishmen prancing in windows with their rear ends on fire.
That evening Kim Basinger and Alec Baldwin threw their bash, and John Harris, who covers the White House for The Washington Post and was looking for Stephen Talkhouse, stopped at my driveway. I told him the story of my life.
Oh, yes, my lip is healing nicely. And for all my railing about Mr. Clinton's moral and ethical flaws, when he drove past I was like most everyone else: I waved.