|MOVE ON, NEXT TO NOTHING TO SEE HERE.|
|Just one block and four days away from the Republican National Convention, the grassroots political organization MoveON PAC hosted its first major event Tuesday at the Hammerstein Ballroom. Intent on rallying support for Presidential hopeful John Kerry, MoveOn|
members emphasized that 10 weeks separate now and November 2nd; thousands of Democrats gathered to motivate a movement that could possibly affect the election. Of course, no political event would be complete without a little Hollywood infusion.
Supposedly MoveOn was touting its new anti-Bush advertising campaign, helmed by major Hollywood directors like Richard Linklater, Darren Aronofsky, John Sayles and, um, Rob Reiner, As always, the real excuse was to make fun of celebrities. An inside look:
7:30 pm: Herald Square teems with tourists. The coming Republican National Convention,
while scaring most locals away, has attracted the sightseers. Madison Square Garden is the focus of much attention and is already decorated with various patriotic garb. The Statue of Liberty looks down from MSG's circular exterior. "Why the Statue if Liberty? That's dumb," says one sharp passerby with derision.
Adding to the increased pedestrian traffic, extra security in the form of stalwart police officers intimidates the cowed and causes jams. Dowtown, the crowd shifts to a young, energetic mass streaming toward Hammerstein. Girls proffer T-shirts reading "Save Trees, not Bushes!" Adding incentive, one of the girls adds, "They're really cute! And 100% sweatshop-free!"
7:45 pm: The multiple lines move swiftly into the venue, thanks to cheery support from ample MoveOn volunteers. Copious pamphlets are handed out to those waiting, eager distributors navigating a sidewalk lined with stoned-faced cops. The vibe is upbeat and optimistic; after all, everyone in line paid to attend an event whose existence solely supports the Kerry campaign. There is no dissenting faction to catch the attention of the authorities. The most likely riot would be in response to host Janeane Garofalo's MC skills.
8:00 pm: Showtime is delayed, an unseen announcer intones. Audience members seize this opportunity to head to the rear bar, where for a mere $8 one can enjoy a quality plastic cup of quality domestic beer. Keeping an eye on the liquor-driven part of the crowd are several event staff, resplendent in "Security" polos and, truth be told, looking wholly unprepared to deal with any real disturbance. The cops outside must be on call.
The stage is set minimally, with a projector screen flanked by American flags dominating the background and a podium set to the left. Both podium and screen read "MoveOnPAC.org." There is no lack of self-promotion tonight. "No flash photography" is warned, though no one is collecting cellphones, so that's a tough decree.
A $25 ticket earns a seat in the uppermost mezzanine, the floor set with chairs for the $250 people. The space is small enough that it makes no difference where one is sitting. Most of the audience is clad in jeans, but there is the occasional hopeful socialite in satin glimmering amongst the VIPs, clutching a cup of wine and looking pained.
8:10 pm: Still no action, and the crowd is getting antsy. The lesbian couple ahead of me cuddle to pass the time, straining to move at all in the coffin-like seating. Neither appears to be Dick Cheney's daughter, though one kind of looks like Kyle MacLachlan.
8:15 pm: The lights finally fade, and Garofalo takes the stage, introducing the first musical performance in that grating, nasally voice that makes you, in spite of yourself, want to join a fraternity. "Welcome to the Hammerstein Ballroom, or whatever the kids are calling it these says." Moby and Perry Farrell entertain us, and we move to the music in whatever limited way we can. One fan resorts to gesticulating with her arms only, but gets her point across without sloshing her beer. Most of us groove with well-timed head bobs.
The curtain falls, smacking an oblivious band member on the head. Heh.
8:30 pm: Sample Garofalo joke: "95 percent of us really do want the same things [health care, education, etc.] I could add to the list. Like on the show "Amish in the City " I wish the city people would be nicer to the Amish." Yes, Janeane. Whatever.
8:35 pm: Natalie Merchant takes the stage, warbling about the "faceless, nameless, innocent, blameless " Do I hear a sniffle? It's a good performance. Unfortunately, my attention is diverted to the two dozen photographers camped out below the stage; their flashbulbs pop like fireworks. So much for that ban. Natalie launches into another haunting song, and I use the extra light from the flashes to read one of my pamphlets, "AlterNet's Guide to NYC." Apparently on Saturday we all have the opportunity to participate in "American Oligopoly," where "foreign policy takes the form of a gigantic adapted Monopoly board game!" Excellent. Monopoly is the only board game that could actually last longer than the war in Iraq.
8:45 pm: Natalie finales with a dramatic pose behind a peace-sign flag. The photogs, who were losing momentum, are reinvigorated.
Garofalo screens one of the 10 TV spots debuting tonight, titled "Mistake." Rob Reiner did this one; it depicts a flustered President Bush trying to articulate any mistakes he has made since 2000. He fails to identify any -- Presidenting is hard -- and we laugh. Dumb President, with his dumb words, he's so dumb.
9:00 pm: Moby takes the stage again, happily performing four cover songs he claims "have no relevance, but are fun." At the end of the set he says, "I've said it before, and I'll say it again, George Bush is treating New York like a cheap whore." Yeah, kind of like the way Eminem treats you, Moby.
9:15 pm: An ad directed by Darren Aronofsky airs, thankfully sans electroshock therapy and amputated appendages. Titled "It's His Job or Yours," it details the effect 1.4 million fewer jobs has had on America. Though the only people in the audience who don't have jobs are the ones living off trust funds, the crowd screams its approval.
9:20 pm: Al Franken -- inexplicable guest star of The Manchurian Candidate -- takes the stage to the strains of a standing ovation. He grins and says, "I'm sure if Vice President Cheney were here he'd tell you to go fuck yourselves." Laughter. "And he'd feel better about it too." Someone yells, "Franken for Senate!" That's all we need.
Al screens a series of hilarious ads featuring the old MTV character "Jimmy the Cab Driver," a Donal Logue creation that approaches such subjects as Halliburton, gun control and the decision to send troops to Iraq, all in a pitch-perfect Bahston accent thrown over his shoulder at whoever he's driving. Completely hilarious. Much better than that "Grounded For Life" show.
9:35 pm: With obvious pleasure, Garofalo introduces Gov. Howard Dean, and the audience goes nuts. Another standing O. He gives an impassioned and sincere speech, but all I heard was "We're gonna go to Texas! And Colorado! And Pennsylvania!" He knew what the audience wanted, and got a "Dean 2008!" shout for his trouble. It seems amusing that Dean is still hanging around; I bet he's had this date circled in his calendar since he dropped out. He still looks like he's going to burst into flames any second.
9:50 pm: Kevin Bacon mentions "Six Degrees of Radical Hollywood Lefts," and I stop paying attention. He introduces The Roots, who induce the most in-chair movement thus far. The curtain falls for the last time, thankfully avoiding any stray band members. Awesome.
10:10 pm: More Garofalo, more ads a few people start to trickle out. The winners of MoveOn's ad-making contest, Charlie Fisher and P. Dyer, debut their spot "The Air We Breathe." In it, people do regular things like work out and give birth, all while smoking cigarettes. The tag line: This is equivalent to city air because of Bush's Clean Air Act inadequacies. Even his six-month-old baby smokes in it, and Fisher says "No babies actually smoked in the making of this ad. It's amazing what computers can do!"
10:20 pm: MoveOn pioneer Eli Pariser, a 23-year-old wunderkind, wraps up. His mantra: "Don't Get Mad, Get Even!" Democrats have 10 weeks until November 2nd, time enough to garner the integral Kerry votes needed to win the election, he says. If everyone here does his part you get the idea.
10:30 pm: Everyone files out peaceably, first past the rent-a-security, then past the stony cops. More pamphlets, mostly protest information for this weekend, some "Support Our Troops" stuff. I'm left with the notion that we do have the power to make a difference in November, but also wish that the Natalie Merchant/Roots ratio had been reversed. Oh well, it's a free country.
Angela Leroux Lindsey is a freelancer writer based in New York City.