Magazine article The New Yorker

The Talk of the Town: Bill and George

Magazine article The New Yorker

The Talk of the Town: Bill and George

Article excerpt

Bill Clinton came to George Plimpton's house on a very hot night last week to attend a party for the new book "The Games We Played," to which both gentlemen contributed chapters. Clinton wrote about playing a kind of bat-and-ball in Hot Springs, Arkansas, as a kid, and Plimpton wrote about igniting cherry bombs to shoot small rubber balls into the sky.

"I don't know how to introduce anybody, because I don't know anybody here," Plimpton said in his genial, elegant manner as his Upper East Side home (which is also the headquarters of The Paris Review) filled up with perspiring guests. They made twilight small talk, regularly casting casual but eager glances toward the front door. Plimpton said, "I never had a President in the house--just lots of senators and would-be's, like John Lindsay and Bobby Kennedy and Ed Koch."

A red-haired young man approached. "I'm Steve Cohen, the editor of the book," he said. "My red-haired baby, Abigail, is here, and that's her mother holding her."

"I was just told the President likes to walk into a room with hordes," Plimpton said. "He likes a sea of people around him." He went outside to keep an eye out for Clinton.

"The President calls me Scoop," Cohen said. "I was just out of college in the summer of 1991, and I heard a rumor about him, so I jumped in my car and drove down to his campaign headquarters. I just showed up. I told him about the rumor, and it turned out to be false, but they've called me Scoop ever since. I was his press aide until 1995, when I shifted over to Mrs. Clinton. I haven't seen him since January. But he came through for the book."

A couple of very skinny, twentyish fellows in blazers introduced themselves as Billy and Dixon. "I wasn't old enough to vote for President Clinton," Billy said.

"In the last election I did the next best thing. I wrote in his name on the ballot," Dixon said. "Everybody here wants to vote for him again for something."

Plimpton dashed back into the room, sweating, and not his usual unflappable self. "I just met him out front!" he said. "Somebody handed him a child, and the child instantly began to cry. I then said something I'm sure he's heard a thousand times. I said, 'She must be a Republican!' Everything I said was out of order. But he's here!"

There he was, in a sea of sweating, shining faces, his own face cool and dry and cheerful, under a snowy thick mane of hair. …

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