Saturday, September 8, 2012

Anderson Exhausted

Convention Diary

In a Swirl of Excess, No Guilt Included

The lobby of the Ritz-Carlton, which was a lively center of activity during the Democratic National Convention.

By Mark Leibovich

Published: September 7, 2012

Charlotte, NC

“HEY, it’s Anderson Cooper!”

Early Friday morning, about 90 minutes after President Obama finished his acceptance speech a few blocks away, a little slice of hell was breaking loose in front of the Ritz-Carlton.

As mobs of delegates, donors and Democratic Usual Suspects were flooding out of the Time Warner Cable Arena, Mr. Cooper was trying to flee without notice from the free bar and restaurant, the CNN Grill, that his network had established for the week. It was one of several troughs within a few blocks of one another where seemingly anyone with rudimentary door-talking skills could freely nourish and inebriate himself. Eat and drink free, and maybe catch a picture of Anderson Cooper? This could be fun.

Unless you’re Mr. Cooper, at this wee-hours moment at least: with 1 a.m. approaching, the host of CNN’s “Anderson Cooper 360” emerged from the grill looking exhausted, with his head ducked. He tried to cross the street. Cue hell.

“Anderson, stop, Anderson!” a lunging woman yelled, and within seconds a hungry mob of a dozen iPhone paparazzi was chasing in a hot camera-pointing pursuit. “Just one picture, please, please,” shouted one stampeder, knocking a convention delegate to the ground. Mr. Cooper did his own 360 and headed to the safety of the Ritz, where the full-on decadence and celebrity culture of the modern political convention had been on eloquent display in the lobby all week. So much for hell.

This was the week’s culminating wee-hours scene: Mr. Cooper rushing through the mob, past the Democratic money maven Orin Kramer, who stood a few feet from where the actress Eva Longoria had just breezed through, and where Senator John Kerry, who himself had just finished a big speech, was now ducking into the lobby men’s room.

The wood-paneled tables of the lobby bar were veritable table-hops for signature Democrats. The hard-covered liquor and snacks menu resembled a book. Orders being discussed: milk chocolate fondue, mini lobster rolls with shaved asparagus and a $420 bottle of Louis Roederer Champagne.

It was difficult to inch along the main convention drags in Charlotte last week, as in Tampa, Fla., the week before, without concluding that we are living in fat, prosperous times, and forgetting that the national economy has lagged for years and that large numbers of Americans are feeling deep contempt for the two major political parties. Never mind all that. Political conventions are about big speeches, funny hats and packed swag bags, and they are also moneyed and decadent affairs. To wit: the rolling party at the Ritz bar, spilling into the adjacent BLT Steak restaurant.
_ _ _

A version of this article appeared in print on September 9, 2012, on page ST1 of the National edition with the headline: In a Swirl of Excess, No Guilt Included.

This is only the first third of the article. The next two thirds talk about other people in politics, in lobbying business and in the press; but the Anderson Cooper section is only this. If you'd like to rear the whole long thing, please click here to go to the New York Times page with the full article.

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