The Kerry Rally
Senator John Kerry paid another visit to Milwaukee on Monday, August 2nd at a public rally in Pere Marquette Park. Gates to the park opened at 4:30 p.m. while the presidential candidate was still racing across Lake Michigan on the Lake Express ferry. Access to Kerry these days requires a thorough screening by security personnel, so by 6 p.m. a line stretched from Plankinton and Kilbourn, the park’s entrance, across the river to the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts, at which point it headed north, wrapped itself around the building, headed east on E. State Street and finally tapered off at N. Edison Street.
The line moved slowly as security guards checked the attendees, emptied pockets, etc. Once inside the secure enclosure, the crowd was able to buy bottled water and pizza from Amazon Pizza, a fun new spot on W. Wells St.
However, many people never made it to the security screening, and they simply camped out along the riverfront, enjoying the event from the Marcus Center riverwalk. It made for a nice sight for cameras, since Candidate Kerry, speaking from a raised platform on the north end of the park, would gesture from time to time toward those on the distant shore.
Joe Klein and I headed to Kilbourn and N. Third Street where an officer was in place to tell us that we could not advance to the press table set up in our sight, but out of our reach.
Meanwhile, he waved in such prominent figures as Sen. Herb Kohl, Rep. Sheldon Wasserman, Steve Marcus and others, all of whom had red tickets, while we had none. Providentially, Margaret Henningsen showed up on the scene with an extra red ticket, which we begged for and received.
The red ticket made us legit for the officer, and we proceeded through our screening, after watching several of the people mentioned above get screened themselves. (Steve Marcus does not look like a guy who gets frisked a lot.)
Inside the gates of the special section, where the red-ticketed people go, we were treated to a fascinating caste system in which our “Kerry Edwards From Sea to Shining Sea Believe in America Tour” Press pass marked us as scum.
The real media stars, and there were dozens of them, were members of the “Traveling Press.”
The Traveling Press spends its time apart from the regular press, and they dine together in a fancy tent. The food was from Chef Pat’s catering. Pat Houlihan said the campaign kept changing its meal plans, but he settled on roast pork sandwiches, a couple of salads, pretzels, soft drinks and Miller Beer. The Traveling Press drinks very little beer, which in the end turned out to be a blessing for Chef Pat’s weary and thirsty crew.
The Traveling Press also scooped up gift bags with New World Wine Company’s logo on them. Inside the bags were a giant notepad from the Milwaukee Bucks, a pen from the Milwaukee Bucks, a Discovery World keychain, a calendar of events or two and a warm bottle of Riverwest Stein beer.
The first thing the Traveling Press did upon entering their tent was to gobble down a quick meal. Then, they took their stations listening to Kerry say stuff they had already heard him say.
Then, while he was still saying it, they retreated to their special tent where they typed out their stories on their laptops and sent them out to their destinations on beams of ether.
Out in the park, luminaries like Jeff Plale, Shirley Krug, Matt Flynn and Reuben Harpole, all red ticket types gathered with regular folks including, almost incongruously, David Gordon, director of the Milwaukee Art Museum.
The ceremonies began with John Nussbaum, a Vietnam veteran and a former Republican, who said he “can not accept the current leadership.” He said Kerry offered “courage, leadership and integrity.”
He was then joined on stage by Herb Kohl and Russ Feingold, fellow members with Kerry of the World’s Most Exclusive Club, whose job was to look decorative. Another decorative element was Teresa Heinz Kerry’s son, who photographs well.
Ms. Heinz Kerry delivered the first extensive remarks of the evening, and she was quite endearing. “Mama T is here!” she said. She said her husband had “a message of hope, hard work and optimism. Senator Kerry apparently spends his spare time “rejoicing in the history of his country. … It is important to have a president who not only understands complexity but enjoys complexity.”
Ms. Heinz Kerry as first lady would likely be one to sit in on high level discussions, especially in a dinner party format. You could almost see the wine glass whirl as she said, “Diplomacy in addition to being an art is essential to world peace.” Certainly a class act.
Less classy were the actions of the Bush contingent outside the park. Armed with bullhorns, the Bushies were quite thuggish and obnoxious. As Ms. Kerry spoke, one yelled over his microphone, “Four More Years.”
Ms. Heinz Kerry responded (“acidly,” according to the New York Times,) “Four more years? They want four more years of hell!”
That did not shut up the hecklers, but it set off a round of applause from the Kerry supporters, followed by their chant of “three more months!”
Later in the program Mr. Kerry also spoke.
Todd Robbins’ Carnival Knowledge will debut at the Miramar Theatre beginning August 19th. The show is a tribute to the famous side acts that performed with circuses. “It is an oral tradition passed down for over 150 years,” said Robbins on a pre-show visit to Milwaukee. “There are few sideshows left – the state fairs got rid of the good stuff and replaced them with high-tech rides.”
Robbins is also chairman of the board of Coney Island U.S.A., dedicated to the preservation of that entertainment facility.
He is also extremely knowledgeable about his trade, and fills his show with authentic props and gadgets. “I bought my swords from a retired sword swallower. He hurt himself swallowing a neon sword. It blew up inside him and he decided, ‘maybe I’ll cut back a bit.”
He is also a performer, and during an office chat he removed a 4-1/2 inch nail from his pocket, and inserted it into his nose. It is not a trick that one ought try at home.
The Carnival Knowledge show has just ended a two-year run Off Broadway, and Milwaukee is the first stop on the tour for Robbins. He will stay downtown at the Holiday Inn, along with his troupe of four, including a contortionist and a snake girl. Shows will be Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., with Saturday and Sunday matinees at 3 p.m. at the Miramar Theatre, 2844 N. Oakland Avenue. Find out more at www.carnivalknowledge.com