Waiting for Bob Dylan 

Another night on the campaign trail with Al Gore.

Christy thinks Democrats are lousy tippers. "But you know, with these things you expect it," the young waitress continued. "Everyone figures that they paid their money so they could be here and they don't want to spend any more on tips." The Democrats she’s referring to are the crush of people who filled the Wildhorse Saloon in Nashville last week for a concert and party that, together with other passings of the hat Tuesday, netted the Gore campaign $4.2 million. Christy and the other servers elbowed through the crowd to serve food and especially drinks to the donors, most of whom showed signs of rumpling and sweating, due to the room’s heat, well before the concert actually started. People huddled three deep at the bar, drinking cocktails out of plastic cups (glassware had been prohibited) and leaving the empty cups strewn on all bare surfaces (the secret service had removed the trash cans). About two hours after the Wildhorse opened its doors to guests, a long string of noticeably weary and disheveled national journalists filed in, settling into the press riser and trying to capture a new angle on a story they’ve already compiled dozens of times during this campaign season. “If you’re waiting for Bob Dylan, you might as well go home,” said one clearly agitated man to no one in particular. “That’s why I bought my ticket, but Dylan being here is just a rumor that was started by the Bush campaign.” Though this was apparently a well-circulated rumor, the outspoken man was the only one present with a theory on its origin. Instead of the legendary folk singer, campaign contributors were treated to a varied lineup that began with Billy Ray Cyrus and ended with Tony Bennett, with Kim Richey, Patty Loveless, and Bebe Winans in between. The very bloated and still mullet-sporting Cyrus took the stage first, playing a handful of songs, including his early Nineties hit, “Some Gave All,” a tribute to Vietnam vets. “This year we’ve got an opportunity to elect the first Commander in Chief who also served in Vietnam,” Cyrus remarked during his introduction to the song. At this comment, Al Gore, sitting on the saloon’s second-floor balcony alongside wife Tipper and running mate Joe Lieberman and Hadassah Lieberman, pursed his lips into a tight line, wrinkled his brow in thought, and nodded his head slowly and appreciatively, in an expression that seemed to reveal his thoughts -- something like “Yeah, that’s good, remember that, use that.” The mostly B-list performers seemed antsy and overwhelmed at the prospect of performing for the vice president and his running mate, with only Tony Bennett looking completely at ease. Bennett strutted and snapped through a repertoire of his best known hits, equally working a crowd composed of Ann Taylor-clad campaign workers and blue jeans-sporting labor union members. Though Bennett was a daunting act to follow, it was Al Gore who drew thunderous applause from the audience, his reception being second only to the one given to Eddie George, the Tennessee Titans well-loved running back who emceed the evening’s events. Gore eventually took the stage, markedly at ease and occasionally drawing laughs from the crowd, despite the circles under his eyes and the leaden weight that caused his feet to drag with each step. The Gore lovefest was only heightened when the veep contrasted the bright, sunny, beautiful day that November 8th would be if he is elected with the dreary, cold, gray day that he says the Wednesday after election day will be if George W. Bush wins the presidency. At this, the crowd cheered and thrust their “Gore/Lieberman” signs higher in the air, pressing forward in an attempt to shake the presidential and vice-presidential hopefuls hands. As the festivities drew to a close, the secret service men’s faces screwed into looks of deep concentration, cautiously eyeing everyone who drew near the candidates. Orlando, a secret service officer who had been surprisingly chatty earlier in the evening, disappeared at this point, sucked back into a job that called for him to protect Joe and Hadassah and Al and Tipper from the bad tippers. (You can write Rebekah Gleaves at gleaves@memphisflyer.com)

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