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Assignment: Manhattan

Sun, Oct 8th, 2000
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Monday, October 2, 2000

Its not every day that Im given an opportunity to go to a star-studded gala at Radio City Music Hall filled with famous celebrities and rock n roll stars. But a couple weeks ago, such an invitation came my way, and the only catch was that there would be some politicians in attendance, too. A guy named Al Gore and his sidekick, Joe.

I can cover that one, I said, I can swallow my non-partisan Independent pride. I can do it in the name of journalism. After all, Im always looking for an excuse to spend a few nights in the Big Apple.

The event was simply billed "The Concert" and its starting time was scheduled for "around 7 p.m.", further evidence to the well known fact that Democrats are neither prompt nor punctual.

Radio City Music Hall is located a few blocks from Times Square in the heart of midtown Manhattan and that night the surrounding streets were clogged with limousines, police and secret service agents. There was also a handful of demonstrators, most of whom were holding signs and chanting slogans for their candidate, Ralph Nader, the consumer advocate and this years choice of the super-lefties.

Inside the hall the lights didnt dim until almost 8:30, when the events tuxedoed hosts took to the stage: Rolling Stone magazine founder Jan Wenner, Miramax co-chairman Harvey Weinstein and VH-1 chief John Sykes.

"Im pleased to announce that we have raised 6.5 million dollars tonight for the next president and vice-president of the United States," Mr. Weinstein blared.

The irony was not lost on the New York and national papers the following day. For this was the same week that Gore and Lieberman, along with most of the other vote-grubbing politicos around the country, were blasting the entertainment industry for "debasing and corroding the souls of the children of America," with their vile movies and video games.

And here were Gore and Lieberman accepting a check for 6.5 million dollars from the very sordid people they held responsible!

"Biting the hand that pays them," a Time magazine headline read.

"Can you spell pandering?" the New York Press snorted.

Republicans and other Rush Limbaugh fans were outraged, not to mention envious. Six and half million dollars is a lot of money; even for Republicans.

After Gore and Lieberman made a couple of remarks and jokes (yawn), Sheryl Crowe, looking like a flower-child from the sixties, took to the stage, opening the show with a spirited version of one of her greatest hits.

For the next couple hours one celebrity after another marched on stage to introduce the next musical act and to say a few words in support of Al and Joe. Among them was Julia Roberts, who pointed out that in the dictionary the word "Republican" falls in between "reptile" and "repulsive".

Other celebs included Michael Douglas, Jessica Lange, Matt Damon, Salma Hayek, and as a climax to the evening there was a surprise appearance by People magazines "Sexiest Man of All-Time" and current richest movie star in Montana, Harrison Ford.

Featured musical performers were Jon Bon Jovi, Jimmy Buffett, The Eagles, Lenny Kravitz, k.d. lang, Bette Midler, Paul Simon, all backed by a band led by Paul Shaffer of the David Letterman show. Also taking to the stage were Crosby Stills and Nash, who looked and sounded as if theyd escaped from a convalescent home for geezer rockers.

Paul Simon, on the other hand, was the most riveting act of the night, breathing fresh life into his classics with the help of a blazing Afro-Latino rhythm section.

At the very end, all the eve-nings performers and actors returned to sing a rendition of "Teach Your Children". And as the Gore and Lieberman families came forward, so too, did New Yorks most recent migr, Hillary Clinton. Hillary looked around, seeming a bit befuddled, as if to say, "Well, what do I do next?"

Once the "Concert" was over we decided to walk all the way back to the Flatiron area in lower Manhattan, a distance of about thirty blocks. We headed down Sixth Avenue through the new improved family-friendly Times Square, with its bustling crowded amusement park atmosphere. South of 34th Street, the crowds thinned to the point where there was hardly another person in sight. In the old pre-Mayor Giuliani New York, this area would have been a muggers paradise, but alas, Manhattan is now an island of investment bankers and dot-com tycoons, where two-bedroom apartments go for millions of dollars. Theoretically, these people arent going to be sticking a knife in your back.

And then up ahead I started noticing a line-up of large cardboard boxes scattered about on the sidewalk -- dozens and dozens of them. As we got closer I saw that there were feet sticking out of each box. So Giuliani hadnt cleared all the homeless out of Manhattan, yet.

I wondered who these guys were going to vote for in the coming election. And I couldnt help but notice the startling contrast -- this, a bed of cement and cardboard com-pared to the glitz and glamour of the 6.5 million dollar concert we had just attended.

Which was the reality any-way?

The answer was obvious.

In Manhattan, reality de-pends on how much money you have.

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