Monday, May 14, 2007

But Does He Have a Strong Downbeat?

Who says being President of the United States is all about wearing serious suits, destroying smallish countries and making determined faces during speeches?

One of my favorite escapist movies is "Dave," where Kevin Kline plays an impersonator who gets roped into a scheme to portray the President permanently. Dave, being a fun-loving guy (for a liberal), becomes the sort of playful president everyone wishes our Chief Executives would be in real life, culminating in his throwing out the first pitch at a ball game. Go, Chief! Way to go! Such antics ensure that the President isn't doing something dangerous, like cutting taxes.

No one expects George W. to be a "fun" president, even if he is from "y'all by gosh" Texas.

So imagine my shock to hear this item from PlaybillArts being read on our local classical radio station while I was doing errands this afternoon:
JoAnn Falletta was conducting a 400-piece orchestra in The Stars and Stripes Forever yesterday in Jamestown, Virginia when she noticed someone standing behind her gesturing for a turn on the podium.

It was George W. Bush — "smiling at me kind of devilishly," as she told the Associated Press.

So she gave him a turn, and he conducted the Sousa march for about two minutes — rather successfully, by all reports.
As I listened in shock (He took the baton? From JoAnn Falletta??), it reminded me that most of us, even Presidents of the United States, must have unfulfilled ambitions or fantasies in life. While Bill Clinton may have had little trouble indulging in his, George W. hasn't had a lot of fun on his watch. If it isn't those pesky Islamist fundamentalists stirring up trouble over thar in Whatchycallit... Iraq, then it's most certainly that shrill little filly who keeps slammin' that gavel down in the Capitol.

So, what with one thing and another, I can readily imagine Dubya walking past the podium during his exit music and thinking to himself, "Hey. I'm Prezdent of the U-Nited States. If'n I wanna conduct me an orchestra, there ain't no better time."

(This blog imagines that, had it been Al Sharpton, he wouldn't have bothered unless the orchestra were playing "Jump Down, Turn Around.")

Call me a conservative shill if you must, but I think it would have been très cool to have been there. By some accounts, it was very cool for some of the participants. UPI picks up another angle on the story (courtesy
"I wish you could have seen the expressions of everyone in the symphony, especially some of the young people," said Falletta. "As soon as the music ended, they were all on their cell phones telling their parents they had been conducted by the president of the United States."
I can just bet. Of course, this also brings up three very significant questions in the mind of this blog:

1. These kids had cell phones on stage?

2. Were they all set on Manner Mode?

3. Didn't the Secret Service sweep for just that sort of thing before the performance?

Egregious breaches in Homeland Security aside, I'm betting this was one of those unforgettable moments in the lives of those youngsters.

By all accounts, Dubya not only kept the beat but managed to cue the proper sections at the right times. Of course, as many times as he must have heard "Stars and Stripes Forever" by now, I shouldn't really be surprised. He's probably memorized the movements of every conductor who ever performed it for some inspection or state dinner or something over the years.

Knowing of my lefty friends' need for Bush Outrage, there was a reported bit of scandal attached to the incident. PlaybillArts ends with this tantalizing bit of gossip:
Shortly before the march was over, he turned to the maestro, kissed the top of her head, stepped off the podium and left.
One can only imagine what Laura must have felt.

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