August 28, 2021
Have any of you ever signed an actual non-disclosure agreement? No? Well, up until recently, neither had I. But then, there they were, two different forms, and if I wanted to work a certain party in the middle of the 2021 Martha’s Vineyard summer season, my signature had to be on both of them.
I think I can disclose this… I’m not really sharing a lot of inside information, in my opinion…
Probably the better question would be “have any of you actually READ a non-disclosure agreement?” because I’m less confident in my response to this one. I mean, I THINK I’d read those two pieces of paper before signing my name, but the actual terms and conditions being described are now close to being completely forgotten. Maybe I’d skimmed the damn thing. I don’t believe a copy was ever sent back to me after the initial process was over. Regardless, re-reading dry legal documents has never been a fun way for me to pass the time anyway. There were definitely things I was not supposed to disclose, that much I remember for sure. I just can’t identify precisely what they were.
So, you’d probably be interested to know what this event was even about.
Hmm… I THINK I can tell you…
Well - of course I can, because I was one of 200 people working this party, and there’s no way all of them have been able to shut up in the two weeks that have since passed.
Somehow I was asked to work the infamous Barack Obama “44x60” Birthday Party, at his beautiful home in Martha’s Vineyard.
To me, the best President of my lifetime. An utterly transformational figure. Adored throughout the world. A man who never once allowed himself to sink to the low levels of the vast and often racist critics of his own country. A man who, in my opinion, will only grow in stature as history continues to be written.
I was tending bar in the East Village on the night of his first election, and though the boss/owner/friend had strict feelings about keeping politics out of an establishment seeking to lure money away from democrats and republicans alike, by then I’d cultivated such an enthusiastically well-informed Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday night crowd of regulars that this historically significant night seemed almost dream-like and deeply deserved.
In 2008 - that same year - I’d also become a President; to a 20-unit coop on the Upper West Side. And I’ll admit to plagiarizing some of the words I’d suspect Barack Obama would likely use to my interior thoughts. Our coop ex-president turned out to be a vindictive and mean-spirited man, and while there has always been a part of me that believes in fighting fire with fire, I would try to emulate Barack’s more thoughtful and carefully-worded responses whenever they were called for. When our newly-elected US president was telling us “this is what change looks like” while carefully negotiating what at first appeared to be a less-than-huge health care plan, I also became painfully aware of how difficult it was to get 20 different Shareholders to agree on ANYTHING. Common sense seemed to be an attribute both Barack and I shared. And we both made good use of it, in my opinion.
I’d completely convinced myself I’d find a way to end my service the same time as his drew to a close - after eight years (he needed to be re-elected once; for me, this office had to be won every single year). But I suspect if he could have spared us his successor by continuing on, he’d have chosen to do so.
Alas, I’m still the co-op president today. (In fact, that ridiculous, unloved ex-president has been suing us for the past four years and I feel duty-bound to man this ship till we make sure his effort gets unceremoniously thrown out of an overburdened court system as FATE will hopefully decree.)
I would have loved to have shared “presidential burden” stories with our 44th.
But I think it’s OK to say that this didn’t happen.
I know everyone wants to hear about the guest list and the lineup of musicians, but what else about the party can I put down in writing?…
Well, I’m not sure, but I CAN say this: I’d have loved to have handed him a drink (I thought I was hired to be a bartender but ended up offering hors d’oeuvres to the - yes - star-studded crowd) with the words “from one sixty-year-old to another!” But this also did not happen. I was hoping to get one meaningful glance, eyeball-to-eyeball, but no; despite standing right next to him on several occasions, I was never granted this little miracle. (Michelle gave me an enthusiastic and direct reaction at one point, which is now etched in my mind in an unforgettable way. And Malia did, too!)
All in all, though, the event was over-the top, a bit exhausting, wonderfully memorable, and I was completely grateful to be there.
For those of you wanting to know more, you should reach out to me in person one of these days. Like I said, I never really read those NDAs carefully - if at all - but I believe we’re granted much more leeway in the oral presentation of these stories.
I’m sure at least a few of you will want to know whether or not I happened to run into Beyoncé and Jay Z…