Shh! Here come the Clinton nuptials ...
Rhinebeck, New York, is under siege as the world's press descends for the (secret) wedding of the year
Charles Derbyshire, owner of Old Mill Wine and Spirits, is trying to take delivery of some cases of white, but the distractions keep coming. A foreign reporter is commandeering his counter, and through his window he watches CBS News setting up. "I'm ready for it to be over," he confides.
We are in the small, chintzy town of Rhinebeck, two hours north of Manhattan – it has a cinema specialising in artsy films, an organic bakery and fancy restaurant in a retired church – and the "it" he refers to would be the storm of rumour about a wedding that may take place within its bounds next Saturday; a wedding with a bride who goes by the name Chelsea Clinton.
It has perhaps been Rhinebeck's misfortune that Ms Clinton, 30, put discretion before pomp as she laid out her wedding plans. No one was to leak the location to the press – even her 400-odd guests were not due to be told before yesterday – and even the date was to be more secret than the code to the nuclear suitcase (once held close by her dad, former president Bill Clinton). But the upshot of her passion for privacy should have been predictable: it has turned press interest into press hysteria.
Three weeks since Rhinebeck surfaced in social columns as the likely venue – specifically, a villa just outside town built for John Jacob Astor IV – nothing has been the same. On Friday, the police arrested two reporters from Norway for trying to photograph the entrance to the estate.
But the town residents have questions. Where will the guests stay? Will Barack Obama come? Who is doing Hillary's hair? Who is the caterer? And so on. Friday seemed to offer relief with a town councillor coming forward with the news that Rhinebeck is indeed the town where Chelsea and her financier fiancé, Marc Mezvinsky, will tie the knot. But everything else remains a mystery. So the nervous chatter goes on.
"I can confirm we are not the caterers," says Bryan Roberts of the Terrapin Restaurant (with the stained-glass windows). He has already said too much, even if no light has been shed. "No, not us, but we hear the Terrapin is doing it," offers Tara Glenn, the bartender at Gigi next door. A waitress at Gigi has heard about people renting out their homes to wedding guests but doesn't know any of them personally. Glenda Connors, a stylist at Trendsetters, just off Montgomery Street, would like it known that if Mrs Clinton, the Secretary of State, needs a last-minute do, she may be able to clear her appointments book. "Oh dear God, how I would like to get my hands on Hillary's hair, give it a sexy bob."
Entirely calm amid the brouhaha is Kathleen Cornelske Dionne, an estate agent whose office is opposite the biggest hotel in town – the Beekman Arms (no comment there) – and doubles as an art gallery. The Clinton family, she reports, have been visiting both Rhinebeck and Woodstock, on the other side of the Hudson River, for months, so it should be no surprise that they chose it for Chelsea's big day. "They obviously found out what we knew already."
Chelsea, she reveals, has been seen in recent weeks at a winery not far from here that happens to be called Clinton Corners. The place itself is Clinton Vineyards. Her intelligence has it that this is the wine they will be serving at the reception.
Mr Derbyshire is not impressed. "They can't serve that," he says with disdain. "I have heard there will be bottles of Clinton wine on display. But only on display."
And is Obama coming? Yes. No. It depends which report you read. The White House will say nothing.
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