Retired Fireman’s Political 5 Alarm Fire

May 3, 2009

Farewell Jack Kemp 1935-2009

Filed under: The Fireman's Fav's — Retired Fireman @ 3:34 am


In 1996, I had just left one job in theatre and had gone back to working for a sound company as a freelancer.  This was in October and the company had been given the contract to do the sound for all the candidates for President/Vice President as they came through the area between San Francisco and Sacramento.  I had done a similar thing back in 1992, allowing me to meet Bill Clinton and those who would go on to become his Cabinet…such as George Stephanopolous who, and I need to be very clear in this, was an obnoxious, prick with one of the worst cases of Short-Man’s Syndrome I had the displeasure of meeting.  Anyway, this time I was fortunate enough to meet Bob Dole as he came through and spoke to folks at a cannery, Al Gore who left a bunch of students waiting while he sat on the tarmac at Sacramento International Airport, deciding that the weather was just to wet for him to drive to Fairfield to have a “townhall” thingie with students at Solano College.  He did make it up by having a similar thing at Fairfield High School, and it was there that I discovered two things.  One, the reason why they never showed Algore from any angle but the front was due to his gigantic bald spot on the top of that big dome of his, for to do so would have shattered the image of youth that the Democrats had crafted around him and Bill (when I shook Bill’s hand, it was because I was going on stage to gather up the mics and was forced to stand there until he got off the stage…and as he walked by he stood there until I put my hand out, where he shook it.  The only thought I had at the time was “Used Car Salesman”.  That was the impression he gave and later, I found it hilarious that others would say the same thing), and Algore was one hell of a mean, uncaring, selfish, self-centered son of a bitch.

I also had a really interesting time with meeting and working with Jack Kemp.

For some reason, Solano County was a big deal that year.  I don’t remember the particulars, but it seems like there was some sort of hotly contended Congressional race between a very beautiful woman in a wheelchair and some guy that was the incumbent.  This is why Kemp and Gore were spending so much time there.

Anyway, while Gore was trying to woo the 18-20 crowd, Kemp’s people decided that he would speak at the Jelly Belly factory in Suisun.  For those that don’t remember, Ronald Reagan made that place a household word by declaring their candy to be his favorite, so I imagine they decided to speak there to invoke a little of the great Ronaldus Magnus memory.

We ended up there for about 24 hours.  By this time we were all on first name bases with all the Secret Service guys, and the stories they would tell us were just hilarious.  Well, theirs and the pool journalists following both teams.  We would set up our stuff, then go outside for a bit while the bomb dogs walked through and did their thing and then we would be handed our little lapel pins (which were really just little tin things that had a different design every day that folded over your lapel, or in our case, t-shirt collars) and go about our business.

I can’t remember why we needed to be there for so long.  It was some sort of big set up, with stage and all, and it was being done inside the factory proper.  The employees went about the business of making all the products they had, and the smell was just amazing.  Big bonus, all the free little sample packs we could stomach.  Kemp’s package consisted of wireless lapel mics.  It was standard to mic any candidate up with two mics, just in case one failed.  The plan was for several speakers to work the room, and then Jack would arrive, I would put the mics on him and stand backstage waiting for him to do his thing, then remove them, he would get back in his limo and that would be it.  Easy peasy…right?  Yeah…

So at the appointed time, I was backstage waiting for him to arrive while whatever was going on went on.  The place was packed with employees, dignitaries, how-to-do’s and some regular folks tossed in for good measure, and everyone was pumped up.  I had to admit that I really did not know much about the guy, other than I had heard he used to be a football player.  I was used to having any and all political people always aware of what they said, how they acted, and they NEVER said anything that could be misconstrued at any time.  That is, until Jack and his wife showed up.

Well fist the CHP, who did the Dignitary Escort in California, showed up, followed by Jack’s big vehicle and his entourage.  He shook hands as he made his way towards the stage and where I was.  I walked up to him, introduced myself and told him that I would be hooking him up.  I let him know that I would be placing the belt-pack on his hip and running the cord up through his clothes etc. so that the cord would not be seen. He was half listening, and his wife paid no attention at all.

I put the first one on, and that is when it became apparent he had not paid any attention to what I said, because as I started to put the second one on, he got really agitated.

“What the hell are you doing?  you already put one on.  Why are you doing another one?”  I tried to let him know why, and was trying to do so while I stood there with my hands in his pants where the beltpack and cable was going, when his wife suddenly turned and saw what was going on, and she started to flip out.  “What are you doing?  Why are you doing that?  Why….what…where…blah, blah, blah” making my life just miserable.  About that time, the SS started to look at me funny and move towards me.  I was stammering out the reasons, he was getting louder, his wife was getting frantic, the Secret Service was about to do…I don’t know what….and finally he said, “I just don’t understand why you need to put a second one on when you already have THIS one”.

I looked him square in the eye and exclaimed loud enough for everyone to hear, “BECAUSE YOU PAID FOR IT!”

At that point, he calmed right down and said, “Oh…well then by all means, go right ahead,” his wife all of a sudden started to help me and helped him [ut his jacket on and started chatting with me like we were best friends and the Secret Service just turned away.

After I got him all hooked up, we chatted about nothing.  There was some guy on that I understood to be the incumbent that was fighting for his seat against that beautiful woman in the wheelchair.  Jack, out of nowhere, yells for all to hear backstage, “Who the F*** is this a**hole?  Why the hell won’t he shut up?  I want to get out there so we can get out of here!”

It was at that moment that I knew without a doubt that the wrong guy was running for President.  As far as I was concerned, we needed someone who was a straight talker and didn’t care who was around.  I looked at the Secret Service guys and they were in tears, his wife did a wifely, “Oh Jack…” and he was just rocking on the balls of his feet, pumped up and ready to go.

He got out there and worked that crowd.  He was a great speaker.  Incredibly dynamic, especially compared to Dole and Gore.  They guy was great.  When he was done, he walked off the stage, straight over to me, allowed me to do what I needed to do, thanked me by name, shook my hand and then went and worked the crowd until time to leave.  It was far more than I EVER got from the Dems and Dole, well he was rushed through with his handlers…in and out with no time to spare.

So there is my Jack Kemp story.  You can tell a lot about a person by their handshake…and even more by the way they treat the people that work for them.

The Republicans always treated us great.  They fed us like we were kings, treated us with respect, never once giving us a bad time.

The Democrats…well, I guess I should write another article on them.  They were so horrible to us, that at one point they weren’t even going to let us into the building until we explained to them that if they didn’t, no one would hear the future movie star.  I won’t even tell you right now about the lack of food.

Anyway, the nation lost a great American today.  I often wonder what the world would have been like had Clinton been a one-term President and Dole/Kemp had won.

As for me, that was the last time I was able to work the candidates.  Hell, they don’t even come to California anymore, and haven’t since that time.  It has been 13 years now, and I still remember that week like it was last week.  Jack Kemp gave me one of my best stories of those days, because after all…how many people, outside of pudgy interns, can say they had their hands down the pants of a Vice Presidential candidate while his wife helped and got free jelly beans and paid to do it?


1 Comment »

  1. To the guy on the Ron Paul forum:

    Buddy, you totally and completely missed the point I was making. It was not what he said, the swearing, that made me like the guy…it was the fact that he was not being a phony like so many candidates are. It was the fact he was a regular, normal person who was not afraid to be so just because he was running for office.

    However, considering you are a Ron Paul fan…well, I guess that would be reason enough to explain why you would miss the point.

    Comment by Retired Fireman — May 3, 2009 @ 4:48 pm

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