It was a lovely reception, with guests sipping cocktails under the shade of aqua umbrellas, carrying books to be signed and nibbling on hors d’oeuvres on the patio of Bar + Bistro at the Arts Factory, served by staffers wearing Reid for Senate T-shirts. So pleasant was the May 14 gathering that when Al Franken, the man of the hour, emerged from the doorway of Bar + Bistro, only one person audibly noticed. It wasn’t until the senator wandered into the crowd that heads began to turn and a photo-snapping—but courteous—posse enveloped him.
Finally, a representative from Stonewall Democratic Club of Southern Nevada, which hosted the fundraising event for Harry Reid, announced that photos with the senator would be taken if guests would line up.
What other junior senator gets this kind of polite fandom? Not many, says one guest, who’d always wanted to meet “Al,” such an “important figure in the evolution of sketch comedy” during his years on Saturday Night Live.
Guests brought copies of Franken’s books to have autographed. Artist Diane Bush brought an autographed copy of her own book, Warheads, a commentary on mainstream media during the Iraq War. “I think I already mailed him a copy when he had his radio show,” she says. “But I’m sure he was inundated.
“I love him,” she continued. “He was presenting information on his show that people weren’t getting, especially during the Bush administration. There was almost a blackout in conventional media. He filled that gap.”
Brett Sperry, whose Brett Wesley Gallery is right across the street, held his newly signed copy of Lies (And the Lying Liars Who Tell Them): A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right with the inscription, “To Brett, Never Lie. Al Franken.”
Eventually, the Minnesota senator was introduced and made his pitch for Harry.
“You’re looking at someone who won by 312 votes. I believe Harry’s going to win this one, but I know it’s going to be close.”
He continued: Reid is an “unbelievable leader,” a “steely man of integrity” whose return to the Senate is in our hands. He’d heard Reid’s Republican opponent, Sue Lowden, was ahead by 20 points, then, “for some reason she stumbled.” The crowd laughed at the reference to Lowden’s suggestion of bartering for health care with chickens, which became a national joke. They laughed even harder when Franken gave a few potential doctor’s-office scenarios, including one about an anesthesiologist who loves Hummel figurines. Franken also amended Lowden’s campaign slogan: “My job is fighting for your job, unless you happen to work at my husband’s casino.” Then he delved into a brief question-and-answer that began with a weird and lengthy query about the roundup of wild horses (“So do we have any questions on things I might know something about?”), then health-care reform and the oil spill (“We gotta get off oil”).
Franken called for a moratorium on Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and gave anecdotal stories about USO tours that left him with the impression that those serving don’t care about someone’s sexual preference.
And then he added, “I’ll get back to you on the wild horses.”