Friday, April 25, 2008

A Porn Star and a President: When Ron and Bill Came to Town


It was as if a throng of groupies had descended the back door of a happening concert hall, ravenously expecting a back-door-post-concert cameo, except this was for a show that hadn’t yet begun and for a man who wasn’t a rock star. Yet similar. This was a commons, a gathering in the middle of campus where students would type on laptops and laugh over steaming cups of over-caffeinated beverages from the nearby Starbucks. Tonight, instead of pockets of unexcited students, there was a sizeable line on the perimeter of the scene, and those outside of the line were astonished at how long the line had become. But maybe not. It was no mistake, this was the place.

This had been anticipated for a month. All the major news outlets covered the story. It was on the minds of the student body, alums and townies since it appeared on the event calendar for the moderately-sized Midwestern University. It had since been a frequent topic of conversation between young males on campus, the kind of things they marked on calendars, and that was rare for any campus event. One conversation took place on a bus that carried students to an apartment complex on the outskirts.

“Yeah, I’m a huge Boondock Saints fan,” a chunky one said to a friend with fuzzy, afro-like hair. “I’m bringing a copy of it for him to sign.”

In Boondock Saints, the individual in question played only a minor role – a scene where he appeared as an eager patron of a peep-show booth for about 30 seconds, before being gunned down by the vigilante protagonists. In the movie, the protagonists were a pair of brothers who set out to rid Boston of all things evil, which was fairly ironic considering the victim’s fictional past lives. This was the kind of role the star excelled at in the big-screen-big-budget Hollywood productions; violent and short. This wasn’t the fame he hoped for, but he found stardom through the back door.

Inside the auditorium, a portly sports reporter with the student newspaper had a bushy, red beard and two small cameras at the ready, slung across each shoulder like a tourist about ready to see the highlight of some vacation.

“I want to take a picture of him when he rolls in with his dong hanging out,” he said.

The newspeople could see the cops through a glass door in the green room. The officers roamed in boredom. They had nobody to watch over and chatted idly with the students about the weather outside, which brought to the campus some heavy winds. The airplane, the campus event people said, had been delayed.

The only expectation was the student newspaper would get the one and only interview before the show. Even that expectation had a bit of uncertainty. With a porn star, nothing could be expected. Especially when the porn star is Ron Jeremy.


Five A.M., same campus, but the commotion is coming from the next building over. This time there are more guards. And they have dogs. Great, big dogs. And badges. Big badges. And firearms. And no smiles or friendly chitchat. White vans deployed dishes skywards that tilted to one side because of the hilly ground. The reporters compared notes; which one had the most impressive laptop, digital camera, recording setup. One newsy asked “you gotta notebook I can use?” while another dictated into a voice recorder:

“Former president Bill Clinton was set to campaign for his wife, Hillary, this morning at [University] before a crowd of college students. Because of some recent remarks about rival Senator Barack Obama, some political pundits question whether he’s helping or hurting the campaign.”

A photographer in the back mounted a camera to the tripod and told the room that “nobody better stand up and block my shot when the president comes in, or they’ll get knocked on the head with a big-ass camera.”

A collective of neatly groomed operatives corralled these journalists to a cramped, roped-off area in the back.

“NO,” one of the female operatives said, as if speaking to a badly behaving two-year old. “Behind the rope.”

Outisde, those standing in the 20-degree air said the reason they were not standing in the warm University commons was because the Hillary campaign dared not hold a meeting in the same venue a porn star visited not twelve hours ago. Another explanation, one more widely accepted, was that the auditorium was less prone to an attack by terrorists.

Asked about it, the University’s PR response was “ask the Clinton campaign.”

The University’s spokesperson was asked what he thought of a porn star and a former president visiting the campus, one right after another. His response was “if you’re looking for a social statement, I don’t have one for you.”

The only two certainties were Bill’s intentions of winning over some of Barack’s much coveted 18-23 demographic, and that Bill’s arrival was quickly arranged with a short burst of activity. It was 48 hours earlier that word got out about Bill’s arrival, sparked by questions as to why bomb-sniffing dogs were roaming the campus.

In the same token, some kind of Illinois event was expected. In six days, the state would be inducted into a special kind of state taking primaries simultaneously, a ritual not philosophically separated from a mass of nude polar plungers taking an annual hypothermic dive. Early in. Early out. So it was planned. And that, in the minds of the legislators that pushed Illinois’ plunge earlier to coincide with Super Tuesday, might somehow get Illinois Senator Barack Obama more delegates.

And so, the Hillary campaign new, Illinois would be a challenge. Pundits long since written off the idea of Hillary gaining favor in Illinois. But the campaign continued to pursue the state because of a diehard group of supporters that remembered her growing up in Chicago. They may also have been counting on a small number of undecided student voters who might be easily swayed.

As the small theater opened and students began to mingle inside, refreshed by the heat, some said they were voting Obama and were just there for the show. One group of students, members of the service fraternity Alpha Phi Omega, had a deep-rooted alliance with Bill, since he joined the coed organization in ’66. They came wearing white-t shirts with the likeness of the president emblazoned in blue.

After being seated by the operatives, the students quickly gobbled up Hillary signs. Tom Petty’s “American Girl” provided the soundtrack as students turned on cameras and barked rabid phone calls.

“… Well it was kinda cold that night/ she stood alone on her balcony/ Yeah, she could hear the cars roll by/ Out on 441 like waves crashin’ on the beach/ And for one desperate moment there/ He crept back in her memory/ God it’s so painful when something that’s so close/ Is still so far out of reach…”


And there he came. It was quick; there was only enough time to see the door open, to see the man, and then to see the students stunned for a brief moment before he disappeared into the green room with the reporters. Cameras were clicking rapid-fire.

The first thing the reporters noted was just how exact he looked to his pornographic likeness. He was trollish and hairy, black hair, with a caterpillar-mustachioed face, finished off with a pronounced nose. His clothes were spot on: Hawaiian and loose at the top to let loose tufts of chest hair.

Sidestepping the reporters, he immediately became attracted to a piano situated in the room. He lifted the cover for the keys and extended his sausage-liked digits, and began playing a rushed sonata.

“He’s a beast,” the sports reporter said, recording the whole thing. “Now that’s talent.”

Ron stopped.

“Now for my favorite part,” he said, and sat on the keys. “That’s Beethoven’s last movement.”

Ron sat himself in a chair while a young, blushing reporter from the campus newspaper collected herself for a round of questioning.

“Sex – does it ever get boring?”

“No. Next question.”

“What’s your favorite sexual position?”

Ron thinks. A student walks by the glass doors and catches a glimpse of the man, and grins wide. He stands only for a moment and then runs off.

“Missionary. Once you try them all, you go back to the standard bit. I like to see a pretty face, you know?”

“What’s the best place to meet women?”

“A discotheque. It’s the only place where you can break the ice and it’s socially acceptable.”

(“Discotheque” was later misspelled in the campus newspaper as “disco tech,” the word being foreign to much of the news staff.)

As reporters finished up questions and left the back room for Ron to prepare, students began filling the rows. When it was time, a portly moderator addressed the crowd, and informed them that people who wanted to ask questions had to submit the questions to a table in the back. The students answered with a groan. Any deviation from the plan, and the questioner would be “cut off and escorted out of the ballroom.”

At first, the moderator introduced to the crowd the other person in the debate, Michael Leahy, the leader of the anti-pornography group BraveHearts. “PORN is the battle, FREEDOM is the reward,” was the mantra prominently displayed on the BraveHearts Web site. Leahy, the moderator said, had a battle with pornography that cost him a job and a marriage. The audience clapped honestly as the grandfatherly man in black strode to the podium and took a drink of water.

Then the moderator listed the stats as if setting the mood for a heavyweight prize-fighter. One-thousand-five-hundred X-rated films spanning a 27-year career. More than four-thousand conquests.

Glowing dots popped out over the audience as students set their cell phones for photo and video capture. From the back the man came, striding confidently as rows and rows of students jumped and started snapping. He made it to the stage and was greeted by the words of his competitor.

“So, Ron,” Leahy said. “I hear we are opening for Bill Clinton.”


The dots swayed as students tried to follow the man, trying to get an image of him as he stepped out of the screen into real life. There he was, the magician making magic before the crowd. Perhaps a little older than most remembered, but nonetheless imposing with a considerable height and shoulder breath, not to mention gravitas.

“Boy, am I glad to see you,” he said with the slightest exasperation and a hint of a southern accent. It was vaguely cartoonish.

Bill launched into the subprime mortgage crisis, explaining Hillary’s tactics for negotiating with lenders and homeowners.

“I know this isn’t your typical ra-ra campaign speech, but it’s important.”


“I thought this was supposed to be an academic assessment of pornography,” the young audience member said into the microphone. “I don’t understand the point of this.”

The two sides had argued their introductory points just prior, with Leahy saying the adult film industry wasn’t taking responsibility for advertisements reaching underage people, and Ron saying he was being upfront about everything, unlike the mainstream media, who masked sexualized images to sell a product.

“Oh, ok, you want to talk about eroticism?” Ron said. “The difference between eroticism and hardcore is the lighting.”

When asked what impact pornography had on rates of sexual abuse in society, Ron asked the moderator to come to his podium and read an excerpt of a study.

“Can you not read, Ron?” Leahy said. The audience moaned an “oooohhhh….”

“The eyes don’t work so much, but the stick…” Ron said.

The students exploded.


“I’m exhibit A,” Bill said. “We are not good at keeping people well. I am tired of being told America can’t solve the healthcare problem.”

The students erupted. Signs waved. Cameras flashed.

Bill discussed how other nations’ healthcare systems could easily be dropped into America. Then it was on to the war on terror.

“I want you to know two things,” Bill said. “We can’t solve terrorism ourselves. From now on, we will cooperate with you.”

Second, he said, “the military option is the absolute last resort.”


“I don’t understand what you’re trying to accomplish,” another audience member asked. “What are you looking for?”

“Donations,” Leahy said, suggesting the money should be sent to end sex trafficking.

“We want them to say ‘we see that as a problem and we’re willing to help.’”

Students were shifting more now, talking to each other. They left in twos and threes, seats immediately taken by others who were in the standing-room-only crowd. Cell phones were no longer being used to take pictures, but to message others outside the room.

“Maybe it’s too educational,” a blonde student videographer wondered.


“She will send a very different message,” Bill said.

“We’re back.”

Bill told one last tale of a man he met on a golf course, a caddy, who moonlighted as search and rescue personnel and saw action on 9/11. This person, Bill said, remembered Hillary showing concern over dust particles being blown up in the wake of the towers’ collapse, and ordered an immediate shipment of respirators. He just wanted to let him know he thought mighty highly of the gesture.

“Sometimes you can forget who put you there or why they put you there,” Bill said of flying high in Air Force One or being behind the desk of the Oval Office.


“When we do the autographs, I’m usually nice to Leahy and tell him to look the other way,” Ron said of autographing parts of the female anatomy.

When the questions ended, there was a short break, and a line of students formed to get a close encounter with Ron. Some women held felt markers in anticipation. Others went to the coffee shop and got something to go.

“I mean, it was educational, but I didn’t really understand what Leahy wanted,” a large female student said, sipping a latte on the run. “It was like he was sending mixed messages.”


Bill remained in the theater for ten minutes, shaking the hands of the Chancellor of the school and whoever security let in to see him.

“Oh, Alpha Phi Omega!” he said, and pointed to the shirt of an Alpha Phi Omega. “Get them up here.”

She and other members of her fraternity were frozen while Bill made his mark on their shirts and posed for a quick picture.

“This is a huge deal for me,” she said to reporters.

Outside, another one of the attendees walked briskly towards the student union, carrying a souvenier Hillary sign.

“I thought it was nice,” he said. “But I’m still voting for Obama.”

Later that day a rumor circulated through the press of a reporter that was able to get past the campaign officials and get close enough ask Bill something. The question, as the story went, was if Bill knew of Ron Jeremy coming to campus.

The alleged answer to the question was: “That’s two porn stars in one day.”

This was the rumor that swept the campus news office, and though the student reporters looked rabidly for some shred of evidence to this on blogs and news sites, none was to be found.
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