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Kerry and Clinton Benefit Show Sets Politics to Comedy and Music

By Dan McGuire
News Editor

What would Bill Clinton, Ted Kennedy, Whoppi Goldberg, and a host of music personalities be doing together? To endorse Massachusetts Senator John F. Kerry last Saturday evening at the Fleet Center where several thousand people had gathered to witness the event of course.

What makes this worthy of a story is that two members of the crowd were members of the Tech's dedicated press corps, myself and photographer Gabor Csyani. We had managed to obtain tickets from a kind MIT graduate student and were attending because we wanted to get the feeling of what it's like to be part of the media big time and to figure out exactly what happens when democrats get funky.

I attended on the general principle that it included two inherently entertaining parts, music and politics. I was not disappointed.

The Fleet Center was reverberating with a sort of low, thudding music with lots of bass and no discernable tune as I entered. Members of the press were pushing and shoving for spaces in the cramped press bleachers facing the stage.

"I think they might collapse," one reporter confided to me as he skittered away.

Television cameramen tried to tune their equipment while the manager of the White House press pool screamed at the event's staff about the accommodations.

But I didn't really care. Gabor disappeared into the mass of photo folks in the stands, leaving me alone to read over the press materials.

Democrats filtered in, waving t-shirts and signs displaying support for Clinton and Kerry. Traditionally democratic groups turned out big, with union members taking up much of the lower level.

College students also showed up. A reporter from United Press International and I watched as an enthusiastic bunch of students on an upper level took the Clinton/Kerry signs sprinkled about the arena and used them to make words such as "KERRY" and "HI".

Crowd focused on Clinton

The general mirth rippling through the audience turned to adulation as President William J. Clinton entered the arena. While the concert was for Kerry, the evening clearly belonged to Clinton.

Mayor Thomas M. Menino kicked off the evening by welcoming the President to Boston before handing the stage over to comedian Whoppi Goldberg. Goldberg spoke only briefly, branding as soulless the republican candidate and expressing her support for Kerry.

"It has come to my attention that some of you think that John Kerry is not as cuddly' as he could be." she said. "Well, I'm telling you that if you're going to send someone to the U.S. Senate, you don't want him to be cuddly!"

Whoppi left to cheers and then the music began. Peter, Paul, and Mary kicked off the concert, playing "Blowing in the Wind", "Where have all the Flowers Gone?" and other favorites.

The evening climaxed early for me when Mary dedicated a rendition of "Puff the Magic Dragon" to Kerry, who she called "our own magic dragon" for standing up for his ideals.

Don Helney followed, kicking his section off with "Dirty Laundry", which criticizes the media ("Kick them when they're up, kick them when they're down airing in the evening news their dirty laundry"). I nearly dropped my pen.

"I'm not using that quote," a paper reporter beside me declared. The TV folks seemed happy, though. They were swaying gently to the beat, trying not to disturb their cameras.

David Crosby dedicated "Helplessly Hoping" to Republican Presidential contender Robert Dole, a move that was greeted by much applause by the audience.

Crosby, Stills, and Nash also pitched in, speaking briefly about the environment and noting the importance of education before launching into "Teach your Children Well".

Walsh endorses Clinton

The best speech, I think, was made by Joe Walsh who jokingly announced that he was "withdrawing from the presidential campaign and endorsing the incumbent."

After about an hour and a half, the Democratic festival began to get tiring. It was then that I noticed the group of Republicans sitting far up in the corner of the arena. The spotlight hit them once, and then skirted the area thereafter. Every now and then, prompted by some invisible force, they held up their "Weld for Senate" signs and cheered. Paired with their "Love the music, but I'm for Weld" t-shirts, the entire surreal scene held my attention for some time.

Kerry gave an animated speech, thanking the musicians for retaining the dream of "changing the world". Kerry restated his dedication to the environment, social projects, and worker's rights, earning several "We love you Kerry" shouts from the back rows en-route.

"I would like to thank all of the college students who attended today," he said, prompting cries from the assembled groups. Wellesley, Brown, Mount Holyoke, and Smith, who brought signs with their names, waved them high in the air as he continued.

In a tip of the hat to the bands playing, Kerry noted that this time, no one at the concert was naked. Kerry concluded the speech by giving a bean pot to Clinton as the president walked up on the stage. Kerry noted that the pot contained "something much better than McDonald's. It's some of the best food you'll ever eat."

"Who says that Kerry doesn't have a sense of humor?" asked Clinton. "Next thing you know, he'll be up on the stage doing the Macarena with Al Gore." The audience cheered.

Clinton then launched into his speech. Calling Kerry and Kennedy parts of a "bridge to the future," he praised their civic and environmental credentials, calling them assets to the state and close allies in his senate battles. The crowd erupted in cheers and then, just as quickly as e arrived, the president departed.

The lights came up and there was no encore. I managed to re-unite with Gabor, and we ambled out of the coliseum. Concert it was not, yet somehow the event wasn't a political rally. This strange beast managed to combine both. Politics set to music: environmental policy and "Puff the magic dragon". Oh well, who ever said it was easy being green?