Hail to the Ex-Chief

Clinton gets the rock star treatment at UC Berkeley; Chron Covers Enron-Size Bust

Hail to the Ex-Chief
One local newspaper described President Clinton's reception at UC Berkeley last Tuesday as a "hero's welcome," but that doesn't do the adulation justice. Despite a few protesters' reminders of pardons and impeachment (one hefted a sign reading, "Liar, Rapist, Thief"), the pre-speech buzz in the plaza outside Berkeley's Zellerbach Hall felt less like a long, cold wait to hear an ex-president talk about globalization and more like the rev-up for a rock concert.

Behind the hall, under the watchful glare of law enforcement officers (some of them cleverly disguised as "college students" in backpacks, Cal caps, and wires running from beneath their UC Berkeley sweat shirts to their earpieces), a ticketless horde lined up 10 deep for a glimpse of Clinton. When he finally emerged from a dark SUV, his cheerful wave was barely visible through the swarm of Secret Service agents escorting him to Zellerbach's back door. But as one star-struck woman swooned: "There's no mistaking that hair!"

Those who were unable to snag one of the 2,000 Zellerbach seats (nearly three-fourths of which went to alumni, donors, professors, and journalists) filtered into nearby Haas Pavilion, where the university staged a live video simulcast to soothe tensions created by its lopsided ticket-distribution system. And when the piped-in fiddle music faded and the lights went out, the arena exploded in applause usually reserved for Berkeley's basketball team. "Clinton can't hear you," shouted one astute audience member over the din. "There's no reason to clap!"

Nevertheless, flashbulbs popped when the ex-prez finally appeared on screen. (On screen.) And the clapping continued as Clinton, hours before President Bush delivered his somber "axis of evil" State of the Union address, argued for an almost pie-in-the-sky vision of the global economy, wherein rich nations buy more products from poor countries and poverty wilts under the sustainable will of economic empowerment. If the speech was a trifle short on details, the audience didn't seem to care.

Nor did the luminaries joining Clinton onstage. When Orville Schell, dean of UC Berkeley's journalism school, sat Clinton down for an intimate, living room-style chat (replete with rug, flower vase, and microphones under their snouts), he served up only softballs. After the ex-president explained that right-wingers detested him because he won, Schell contributed this Great Moment in Journalism: "Speaking of winning and losing, Enron was quite a loss. What does that whole experience say to you about, well, anything?"

Haas Pavilion erupted a second time when a university official announced that the former president would like to swing by and thank the hard-core fans for their devotion. Students massed on the floor, screaming into their cell phones for friends to join them, as Clinton strode into the arena, flanked by Gov. Gray Davis and university administrators, and shook hands with the overflow crowd for almost 15 minutes. At one point, someone handed Clinton a basketball and he fired off a couple of close-range shots, missing the first and swooshing the second. "Dunk it!" someone shouted. "Four more years!"

Then Clinton swept out again, and the whooping Berkeley students were left to reflect on their brush with celebrity. "I just touched the hand of a president," said one girl into her cell phone, prompting a friend to point out: "You just touched the hand that touched Monica Lewinsky!"
--Matt Palmquist

Chron Covers Enron-Size Bust
San Francisco Chronicle columnist David Lazarus has earned loads of accolades covering major business stories, but on Jan. 25 he exposed a fraud over a bust bigger than Enron's.

Lazarus' column focused on the marketing of stripper Kayla Kleevage. Coincidentally, three days earlier, Kleevage had been featured in a Chroniclead for Market Street Cinema, which had dubbed her "the ultimate hourglass" and touted her 96-inch bust. But Lazarus' column the following Friday opened with a reference to Kleevage's "49-inch bust."

What gives? Had the Bay Area's reigning Journalist of the Year gotten his facts wrong?

"Her Web site uses the Macy's parade dimensions as well," Lazarus said. "So I asked her about it, and she said [the 96-inch figure] was "just marketing.'"

Because journalists generally relish catching interview subjects lying, we wondered out loud why his column hadn't called Kleevage on her indiscretion.

"I thought that if I focused too much on her frontage and not enough on her business acumen," Lazarus said, "there would be editors at the Chronicle who would think I was being too salacious."
--Jeremy Mullman

 
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