The SNL After Party with Joe the Plumber
IT WAS THREE DAYS before the election, November 1, 2008, and there I was at a legendary Saturday Night Live after party with my candidate's sexy blonde daughter, Meghan McCain, and America's newest political celebrity, Joe "the Plumber" Wurzelbacher. He was over six feet tall, tan, with rippling muscles; like Mr. Clean at a soap convention. Meghan had interned at SNL the year before and she knew the ropes. She led the way as we snaked through the hordes of beautiful people, back to the bar. Over in the corner, we saw a skinny bald white guy hunched over two turntables spinning tunes. Meghan couldn't contain herself. "Ohmigod, that's Moby!"
"Hey, Joe," I shouted above the crowd. "Looks like you crapped out a tiny version of yourself!" I could see Joe and Moby exchanging head-nod hellos, as if they were in some sort of private skinhead fraternity.
While we waited at the bar, SNL cast member Fred Armisen (the nervous guy with the glasses) came over to us and said, "Hey, Joe, I'm a big fan!"
Joe replied, on the threshold between umbrage and disdain,"Do you even know what I stand for?" Armisen glanced at Meghan and raised his eyebrow, looking for an assist. Meghan's shrug said, "Fred, you're on your own, buddy." Joe, his brow furrowed, pecs tensed, and buns taut, glared down at the small funny man.
Fred cowered away, "Uh, uh, you know, what you, uh, said about the little guy and taxes, or something. Sir?"
Then Joe busted out his secret weapon: the biggest smile this side of Cleveland, and said in a perfect impression of Armisen's Venezuelan TV host character, "I'm jus' kidding!" and wrapped up Fred in a giant bear hug. Poor Fred seemed relieved and bought us all a round of drinks (I was told that due to budget constraints at NBC, it was a cash bar).
This was the hottest ticket in New York, especially the Saturday before the election. But like coats and weapons, politics were checked at the door. In this very Democratic city it was nice just to see people let their hair down and forget about the campaign for a couple of hours.
Sean "Puffy" Combs was holding court in one corner of the club, enthralling the likes of Andy Dick, Paul Simon, Lauren Hutton, and Mary-Kate Olsen with contractor horror stories from the Hamptons. I ducked into the bathroom and overheard Alec Baldwin in the stall yelling at his daughter in L.A. Then again, it could have been that night's host, Ben Affleck, doing his Baldwin impersonation yelling at Baldwin's daughter. Hard to say.
When I returned to the bar, I noticed Meghan McCain eagerly sampling hors d'oeuvres of sesame-crusted crab cakes with wasabi aioli. Dammit, they looked delicious, but for reasons I'll explain later, no shellfish for me. Governor David Paterson walked over to Meghan. Hands outstretched, he found her. "Ms. McCain, what a pleasure it is to meet you. Welcome to the fine state of New York."
"Uh, you can take your hands off me now."
"Please forgive me. I'm here with my wife tonight, and we swing."
Just then, a meaty hand grabbed my shoulder.
"Marty, hey, there you are. I got to tell you, man, I don't usually have a pregger fetish, but there's this smokin' tall chick over there who looks about seven months ripe."
"Is that who that is? Yeah, come to think of it, she did introduce me to this stuffed suit who she said was her husband's agent. He wants me to star as the Bachelor next season. Here's his card."
I looked at the card: Patrick Whitesell, Endeavor Talent Agency.
"It's the talent agency run by Ari Emanuel. Rahm's brother."
"You mean the guy from Entourage?"
"Something like that. Mind if I keep the card?" I asked. Not a bad connection to the Obama team if this McCain thing doesn't work out.
"Sure, I don't really like to stuff things in my pockets anyway. Interferes with my mobility, if you know what I mean."
Night wore on to early morning, and Joe finally got some "quality" alone time with a certain female cast member. I'm not that familiar with the show, but I know it wasn't Tina Fey or Amy Poehler. The skinny brunette, I think it was. Kristen, maybe? If politics makes strange bedfellows, then plumbing makes stranger ones. I ran into Joe the next morning outside his hotel, and ever the gentleman, he refused to reveal more than his mile-wide grin.
So how had I, a mere campaign consultant, think-tank fellow, and pundit, found myself at the epicenter of the wildest presidential campaign in history? I was at the cusp of politics, celebrity, fame, and fortune.
And all this just three days before the election. For a political operative such as myself, it really couldn't get any better. The only thing that could top this would be an election-night victory for John McCain! So you're probably asking yourself, how on earth did a Washington brat from a broken home grow up to be this successful self-made man?
That night in a leopard-skin booth, with a highball in one hand and a buxom young actress in the other, I asked myself that same question. But just a scant two weeks later, I would have to ask myself the even deeper question: How did that blessed life come crashing down to a fate worse than death--being accused of never having lived at all--and what on earth could have gone so horribly, horribly wrong?