Passengers on yesterday’s JetBlue flight 160 from Denver to New York got quite a surprise. I was one of them, too.
Yes, sitting in the middle seat in row 6 on the left was a familiar face: New York’s Gov. David L. Paterson, the man who replaced Eliot Spitzer this past spring.
He wasn’t the only politician on the commercial flight — Rep. Eliot Engel from the Bronx was there, too. But Paterson took passengers aback.
It’s not like former famous governors like Nelson Rockefeller, Mario Cuomo, or George Pataki were regularly seen flying that way. If they did, it would have been first class. On JetBlue, it’s all one class, although some rows have more legroom than others.
Paterson’s ticket probably cost around $350. Compare that to the over $80,000 Spitzer is accused of spending on hookers over 10 years.
The other passengers, many of whom were with the New York delegation, were thrilled. When Paterson’s face popped up on our TV screens during a montage of clips from the convention, the whole plane broke out in massive applause. Frankly, the same thing happened when Hillary Clinton came on screen, too, and Stevie Wonder. But Paterson was first.
The governor was accompanied by a couple of nicely dressed bodyguards, who sat next to him and behind him. When the plane landed, they helped him with his luggage from the overheard rack — he’s legally blind as well as the head of the state — but Paterson got no special attention. He waited in the crowded aisle like everyone else until the jet’s doors were opened, and then exited in turn.
Much of the chatter on the plane home was about Denver in the eyes of New Yorkers. Let’s face it: It’s a clean, boring city that desperately needs a transportation chief and maybe a head of public safety.
Denver was simply not prepared for a convention of this size. From the hotels to restaurants, to most especially, the lack of taxis, New Yorkers — and frankly Los Angelenos, Washingtonians, and Chicagoans — all knew we were in trouble.
Every day began with the dread of knowing there would be long lines at the entrance to the Pepsi Center — if you could get in there within an hour. The long lines were only underscored by blazing 4 p.m. heat. You see, there is no shade in Denver. They seem to need trees and awnings. Since you weren’t allowed to bring umbrellas onto the campus, that plan didn’t work out either.
The trip to the Pepsi Center from downtown was made worse by a significant lie: That the main hotels were either “minutes” or “blocks” away, that the Center was within walking distance. All of this was untrue, but exacerbated by too many blocked streets blocked off to vehicles, not enough vehicles, and no streets dedicated to shuttle buses, taxis, and limos during crunch hours.
Convention goers from different parts of the country bonded on one topic at different corners: The total disorganization of the entire process. These conversations were generally had while waiting for crossing lights to change, perspiring in suits, ties, dresses, and high heels, a half mile or more away from the beginning of the long lines into the Pepsi. It was easier getting around Moscow this summer!
Leaving the Pepsi Center when the convention was over at about 9:30 p.m. was even more of a challenge. Some 30,000 people would pour out of the building simultaneously and begin the long walk back. After crossing bridges, etc., to get back into the city, we’d find no taxis or public buses to return us to the main activities. Long walks were involved. Some brave New Yorkers — I’m not saying who — actually commandeered occupied cabs going in the right direction.
Bob Seger wrote it, Dave Edmunds sang it: “Get out Denver, baby, go.” I never fully appreciated what that meant until now. Someone should play that song for Howard Dean.
Meantime, here’s a personal note to the Sheraton Hotel chain: Did you not know that the convention was coming to Denver? Wouldn’t this have been an opportunity to show off your corporate pride? Would it have been too hard to replace the stained carpets in the hallways of your main building? Did the maids have to knock on the doors at 7 a.m. every morning? Did they think it was a hospital? I thought they were coming in to take my temperature.
It was the Geeks vs. the Freaks Thursday night at Vanity Fair’s party at the Democratic National Convention.
In this case, the Geeks were the guests from co-host Google, who were the oddest bunch of people some of the usual Vanity Fair invitees ever set eyes on. There were other Geeks, too: lots of staffers from various District of Columbia congressional offices.
The Freaks at the Exdo Event Center? The Vanity Fair Hollywood types, from Susan Sarandon and Matthew Modine to “Devil Wears Prada” star Anne Hathaway, who was getting intense attention from Maroon 5 front man Adam Levine.
Hathaway is only recently single after breaking up with her indicted boyfriend Raffaello Follieri, accused of committing fraud on a number of counts concerning his alleged spending of other people’s money. Levine, who’s cut a wide swath through female celebdom after two hit albums, may be just the medicine to help the “Princess Diaries” star forget her “court”-ship.
The party, which looked like a Vanity Fair event in its glossy elegance, also addressed the Geek squad. For the first time in the mag’s history, the hosts featured a video room where guests played Nintendo Wii. There was also — gasp! — a karaoke area where the game "Guitar Hero" blared classic-rock hits.
Almost needless to say, the Hollywood crowd didn’t participate in those events. Most of them, including Gloria Reuben of “ER” fame and Alan Cumming of “Cabaret,” stuck close to a small bar oasis in one of the many little private rooms.
The video game participants tended to be pale, thin, "Napoleon Dynamite" types who looked like the heaviest weights they’d ever lifted were not those at a private gym but the kind you’d find in a long row of computer processors.
Hathaway told me, by the way, that she was nervous that a quote of hers this week wasn’t received the way she intended. I thought it was kind of brilliant. She said she was initially “afraid” of Barack Obama, but eventually came to admire him and want him to be president. The “fear" was because she’d felt burned in the past by politicians she’d liked.
Barack Obama’s run for the presidency has launched many different grassroots campaigns. The most interesting may be the revival of the Grateful Dead.
I am told that on Oct. 13, possibly either in Philadelphia or Pittsburgh, the Dead will get back together for at least one show to raise money for and awareness about Obama.
All four living original members will play together — Bob Weir, Mickey Hart, Phil Lesh and Bill Kreutzmann. The band's leader, Jerry Garcia, died in 1995 from a heart attack.
Substituting for Garcia will be Allman Brothers and Gov't Mule master musician Warren Haynes.
If all goes well, my sources say, the band will then set out on a major tour in summer 2009.
The Dead, you know, were always ahead of their time. Long before Napster or iTunes or Limewire, the Dead let their fans tape shows for free and trade them back and forth.
Early in the game, the group decided its money would come from live shows and not record sales. They were probably the least disappointed of many modern acts when the bottom dropped out of CD sales because of downloading.
Barack Obama’s wildly successful rock concert-slash-nominating celebration was unprecedented, hip and a signal of a new generation. You didn’t have to be a Democrat to enjoy the performances by Jennifer Hudson, Sheryl Crow, Michael McDonald or the new song by Stevie Wonder and Take 6.
Sitting right up front in the audience: Jessica Alba, Fergie and Will.i.am from the Black Eyed Peas, Matthew Modine, Kerry Washington and Lawrence O'Donnell, Wilder Valderrama. That wasn't all, since most of the A-list names were scattered about the Invesco stadium, a cavernous building that seats 75,000. Every seat was taken.
The pull on celebs was so strong that Emmy-winner Dana Delany stayed an extra day rather than shoot “Desperate Housewives.”
Backstage, Will.i.am visited Stevie Wonder, who was fretting over a sore throat from a viral infection. Originally he told me he was only going to play his new song, written for Obama. But when he got on stage, Stevie couldn’t stop himself from playing “Signed, Sealed, Delivered I’m Yours.”
The selection was perfect, and in stark contrast to Kanye West’s dedication the other night of “Gold Digger” to Obama with guest star Jamie Foxx at the RIAA/One Campaign party. People are still trying to figure that one out!
As for Jamie Foxx, he made the rounds Thursday night post-convention, holding hands with Ashley Judd and happily announcing plans to make a second CD soul album with his former talented executive producer Breyon Prescott. Maybe Foxx will get back to keyboards and good vocals and stop “hoarsing” around.
Meantime, up in the luxury suites, Oprah hosted Forest Whitaker, Angela Bassett and a few other A-list actors to help celebrate Obama’s big night.
Over at restaurant Tamayo, Hill Harper, Obama’s college-era pal from Harvard days and “CSI” actor, hosted yet another private dinner for the candidate and friends.
Stevie Wonder stayed down on the stadium floor after his own performance, hanging with wife Kai and assorted other relatives out in the open. This could have caused a commotion among the loitering paparazzi, but Stevie would not pose for pictures while Obama was speaking.
This, friends, is called integrity. And restraint.
But where was Bruce Springsteen in all this? After a couple of weeks of speculation that the Boss was coming and performing solo, the answer was finally made clear. He simply was not part of the show, whether it was his decision or the campaign’s.
However, Springsteen must have agreed to let Obama use his 1984 anthem “Born in the USA” instead. It was just about the theme song for the night. This is a far cry from the years when Springsteen wouldn’t let anyone claim that song for political purposes.
Other sightings: Daniel Dae Kim, from “Lost,” turned up at the DNC after-party at Invesco Field. Daniel is Jin, one half of the sexy couple on the show with Yunjin Kim (who plays his wife, Sun).
Daniel is bound and gagged not to reveal anything about what happens to his character on “Lost,” but I inferred from our conversation that Jin may not be as dead as his headstone made it seem.
“You know that on "Lost" nothing is what it appears to be,” Daniel advised me.
A little like politics.