My night on the tiles with Chelsea
David Usborne joins the Clintons' daughter as she rallies voters on a gay bar crawl around Philadelphia
Sunday 20 April 2008
Her dad was just the same. The agreement was to meet at Bump at 10 first, before hitting the other bars and clubs of Philadelphia's gaybourhood, including Sisters, a lesbian joint, and finally Woodies, the biggest and most popular of them all. But it's 11 and my fag-hag for the night (I am sure she wouldn't mind the term) is missing in action.
Come on dear, watching Bump's video promos for Size Queen Thursdays is getting lame. But I see ripples of excitement at the door. Wouldn't you look at those sharp-looking guys walking in? Oh sorry, Secret Service. Now the music is off and the whole place is going nuts. Good Lord, Chelsea, they adore you! And it's not just the two of us tonight.
She has brought friends along for safety. Ed Rendell, Pennsylvania's Governor, is a burly guy and so is Rob Reiner, the film director. (Didn't he make The American President?) But Chelsea, who wants to tell the room something about voting for "mum" in Tuesday's primary elections, needn't be afraid. Hillary already has the gay and lesbian community sewn up. Looking pretty hot in worn jeans and short jacket, she is getting started with her short pitch now, the same one she will give at the other bars.
It's about how Hillary will make a "better president than my father". That's bold. But the guy just behind me, Jeff is his name, won't let up yelling. "Chelsea, the gays love you! We love you here. And the gays love you! Chelsea, what will she wear in January? What will she wear?" He means at the inauguration ball.
After weeks stumping for her mother on college campuses, Chelsea has become practised at this. "Most people ask me who her running mate will be," she fires back. "We have to get her to Washington first, because we can choose." Done talking, she steps off the small stage to chat a little. Everyone wants to get her picture in their cellphone. Won't someone buy her a drink?
No time for that. The Governor is outside already and impatient to hit Sisters. "Someone has to get her," he grumbles to an aide. While we wait, we talk. It seems he has made a tradition of visiting Philly's gay haunts on the eve of every election he has contested, going back to 1977, when he was running for district attorney. "You know what? This community, they are great voters."
Our schedule continues to slip. Rendell and Reiner pep up the crowds at each stop as well as a handsome guy who, they say, starred in the US version of Queer as Folk. At Sisters, Chelsea seems a bit more tentative at the microphone, but they love her there, too. The upstairs dance floor has been decorated with posters with Hillary's profile and the words "Madame President".
Woodies, jam-packed and sweaty, might be the biggest test. It's past one on a Friday night and you need a pretty good reason to stop the music. But for Chelsea it happens, even if the baby-oiled go-go boy across the room is still collecting dollar bills in his turquoise thong when she starts speaking.
Her eyes don't stray in his direction once. It's a bar-crawl, but she has serious work to do.
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