The very first event held at the new Staples Center, last fall, was the L.A. comeback concert by Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band. Last night's show featured Al Gore (without his 'K Street' Band from D.C.) and the arena atmosphere both before and after the performance strongly resembled a Bruce concert.
On the lower level, crowds of enthusiastic fans gathered, swilling beer and munching dogs, buying a wide range of merchandise. On the swanky suite levels a plethora of the well-heeled and well-known spooled down the corridors like a tidal wave of footage from Entertainment Tonight. Richard Lewis looking trim; Rob Reiner looking Buddah-like; Diane Keaton looking... like Diane Keaton. Industry titans such as film mogul and Dem activist Mike Medavoy and Norman Lear rolled by. And everywhere there were the groomed and sleek upper echelons of liberal L.A. society.
There were unexpected faces too. Pat Boone in a bright orange jacket and an even brighter tan and smile, signing autographs for surprised devotees. GOP chairman Jim Nicholson scurrying from interview to interview like a field mouse in a meadow of Democratic fat cats.
And then there were Dem stalwarts such as Dee Dee Myers, former White House counsel Lanny Davis and House Judiciary Committee counsel Julian Epstein. Davis and Epstein both seething with anger about the fact and the timing of the news leak revealing yet another Clinton grand jury. Epstein referred to the conservative forces behind this never-ending saga as being "like Godzilla."
However - none of the Arianna clones (see previous posts) seemed to be in attendance.
After the show the mood was exultant. Keaton seemed to be actually glowing - agreeing that Gore had "at last connected all the dots." Medavoy and Lear had wide grins on their faces. The consensus was that their man had delivered. Plenty of talk about the smoothness and conversational timbre of Gore's voice. And one or two about Al's fluffier, less-brillantined hair and how it humanized him. (This is after all, a town where Hair matters.)
Tellingly, some of the conservatives seen afterwards were in somber mood. Bush mouthpiece Nicholson had the air of a man doing damage control for the owners of the Exxon Valdez. And the usually ebullient Sean Hannity (Fox News Channel) muttered that Gore had merely sewn up the McGovern vote and should have paused more for applause. Hardly devastating criticism by Hannity's standards.
Most surprising odd couple to see at a Springsteen/Gore concert were big, burly Joe Eszterhas with a barely-recognizable Matt Drudge - his famous fedora swapped for a garish baseball hat. As they rode the escalator to the suites - a voice called out that Eszterhas should be ashamed to be there - though whether this was a Friend Of Bill or Friend Of Sharon - wasn't clear. Estzerhaus turned, peered over his shades and made an unfriendly gesture. Two hours later - as they left the arena - they seemed to have acquired a small entourage of young men hanging onto their every bon mot. (Perhaps admirers of "Showgirls" Perhaps fans of Drudge's literary style.)
As the crowd burbled into the L.A. night to farewell parties or the Barbra Streisand fundraiser, the folks in Convention Chairman Joe Andrews' skybox were giddy with delight. "He did it!" exclaimed one staffer. Tonight Al had become the Boss. Now he has two months of his Born To Run American tour in which to prove that he was also Born To Lead.