There’s a President sitting at the corner table…

President Bill Clinton 2007
Image via Wikipedia

If you live, as I do, near the suburban New York town of Chappaqua, and if you like the local French bistro, Jardin du Roi, the odds are good you will see former U.S. President Bill Clinton there.

It’s a little like seeing a UFO or a unicorn, something you’ve heard about for years but thought…nah…not in my lifetime.

On our last visit, a few weeks ago, he was sitting at the corner table of this quiet, unpretentious bistro, run by a mid-life career changer named Joe, with two delicious blondes, women somewhere near his age. Knowing the deal, I asked my husband — who spent eight years in the White House Press Corps as a New York Times photographer, and who has met Clinton in that capacity — where’s his security detail?

Are there Secret Service agents who look like models?

It’s the second time we’ve seen him there. The first was decidedly odd, as he stood in the very narrow doorway to the restaurant — a large, bulky agent standing visibly a few feet away that time — and held forth to a rapt audience for a long time. His zeal for conversation was legendary when he was in office, but you might expect that of a politician who, in some measure, is always campaigning.

In private life, not so much.

It is a strange, if interesting, moment when you encounter someone so iconic in the flesh. After seeing thousands of images for decades, there they are!

I followed Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip around Canada for two weeks on their 1984 Royal Tour, and the cognitive dissonance was even greater. As a Canadian, I grew up with her image on our coins and stamps and, suddenly, right in front of me, there she was.

Not only was she a living, breathing woman, she was surrounded by an eddying sea of equerries and ladies-in-waiting. Not to mention her security detail, which included a devastatingly handsome Glaswegian in tweed and her bodyguard, a quiet, small man people referred to only as The Detective.

We watched an excellent two-part documentary on Clinton this week, on PBS show, The American Experience; if you ever wanted to know more about this man, or how American politics shape a President once he’s in office, I highly recommend it.

10 thoughts on “There’s a President sitting at the corner table…

  1. I really loved that documentary, the whole TAE series is excellently done.

    Also, you paint a fantastic picture. The Detective. I can see him hovering quietly on the side lines watching everything and provoking commentary on the part of observers. Love it!

    1. It really helped me understand him better..

      ooooh, the Detective. He was gggggggorgeous. swoon. And, most compellingly, totally anonymous. I’d spent 14 18-hour days covering the Queen and Prince — and had never (?) noticed him, as is his wish, until our final party.

  2. Yes, I agree. Wonderful documentary. We were riveted. Still, now I really need to know who the two attractive blondes were. No further tidbits? I hate to say this as a Democrat, but why can’t these guys just keep it in their pants? It seems like sexual escapades are the primary undoing of every politician with great potential. Of course, if we were in France, it would be no problem. In fact, I’m pretty sure that the answer to any dilemma for the French is: Take a lover.

    1. I’m dying to know. I stared a bit, but the restaurant is very small so it was too obvious. I can say with certainty that neither was Hillary!

      Some politicians have impossibly huge egos…ergo the stick-man behavior.

  3. It’s a small world, isn’t it. Funnily enough, in New Zealand politicians and celebrities get virtually zero attention, massively less than they might elsewhere. Orlando Bloom and Miranda Kerr have walked about in Wellington without drawing particular attention. The current Prime Minister sometimes lines up in the queue of the sandwich bar I occasionally buy my lunch from. He has to take his turn.

    It’s part of the lip-service tradition to egalitarianism – and a generation ago, National PM SIr Keith Holyoake (“Kiwi Keith”) actually had his phone number in the book on the basis that he was a servant of the people and was available if anybody wanted to talk to him. Some did.

    On another note, I thoroughly enjoy reading your blog – I think we both started in the business at muich the same time (I left Napier NZ when I was 18 to attend university in Wellington and got a gig on the university newspaper, which kicked things off – still keep up with the editor of it, 30 years on). I’ve been pleased to be able to pass on the ‘Versatile Blogger’ award to you – comes with certain requests, please do feel free to check it out, I’ve posted it here:


    1. I am constantly amazed here at the NON stop attention to the Republican race (vomit) right now…and also to how revered Presidents are. I grew up in Canada, and Prime Ministers are never given that sort of respect or awe…While Americans routinely tour the White House, I’m not even sure Canadians can visit Sussex Drive (our equivalent.) I wish more politicians were as down to earth as yours!

      Thanks for the blog-love…I’ve been nominated for the VB thing a few times, and appreciate it, but haven’t made the time to find seven others…I also started writing for my university paper, dated the editor (who’s still a friend) and in December was on a Canadian TV show hosted by someone who ran the competing uni paper…small world, for sure.

      It’s odd and very cool to have found an enthusiastic reader so very far away! I spent two weeks alone in New Zealand in 1998, after covering the Whitbread/Volvo Race and fell IN LOVE with your fantastic country. I wept when the plane took off, having been escorted to the airport by four young students (!) who I’d met in a youth hostel in the Coromandel who (!) took me to their weekend home, then home to their Mum (!) who — totally unfazed — was super-welcoming and took me bra-shopping in Auckland. Such adventures…

  4. I started to regain a little bit of my respect back for him after watching part of the American Experience series, and then lost it again when I read the part about the two gorgeous blondes in your post! It’s unbelievable to me that he just hasn’t learned a thing from the biggest mistake he ever made. American politicians are indeed so much more fascinating, you’re right! Can you imagine anyone caring if they saw Stephen Harper in a cafe? Snooze!

    1. They may have been friends, or colleagues or neighbors…My comment about the women was NOT meant as a criticism of him in any way. He is an extremely attractive man and it’s none of my business who he sits with, really!

      Canadian politicians — beyond Trudeau — zzzzzzz. You’re right about that!

  5. I recorded that program but haven’t watched it yet, and my husband just finished Clinton’s book on the economy. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone in high office in person, though I would love to. I saw Paul Newman and his family at a restaurant in Westpor,t Connecticut once. Does he count as “royalty”?

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