at John Grady’s request, I pulled this out of the files . . .
The Franken Fracas
(Democracy in Action – Sunday! Sunday! Sunday!)
Manchester, NH —
Howard Dean’s Town Hall appearance
High Noon, the Sunday just before Super Tuesday
Hundred year old theater, core heart downtown Manchester,
in a city & state completely consumed by the primary;
every corner and window painting a candidate’s name in red white & blue.
Beatlemania outside the theater.
Obviously the hot show of the hour.
Frank Luntz, David Brooks, Al Hunt, Paul Begala, Jonathan Alter . . .
Every seat filled,
Back of floor and side aisles packed with cameras and media and people all ages in parkas.
After the stump speech, the Q & A starts,
By 2nd question an early twenty-something guy approaches the hostess with the mike in the aisle,
Weird vibes from question man
Hostess begs off with promise he’d be next.
I’m crouching right beside him, also waiting to ask a question,
Then Howard asks to take one from the balcony,
hostess uses the opportunity to move up to front row,
Suddenly Question Man starts to yell out about Dean not being a real Democrat, and that he’s a phony, and why doesn’t he go after Dick Cheney, and what about the drug war, and all these non-sequitors, and everybody’s kinda “huh”, until he mentions Lyndon LaRouche and everybody’s “ohh.”
Some guys in dark suits try to talk him down, he doesn’t stop,
More big guys in jackets show up,
Huddle around him, then inch the huddle up the aisle to the back of the house –
darkest opposite back corner from lobby doors
Dean keeps talking to the next audience questioner . . .
the show goes on.
As soon as the huddle gets past the final row,
Another guy stands up in his seat,
Bigger, louder, five rows behind me, picks up the rant,
How many are here?
Coordinated political terrorists emerging from among us . . .
“You’re not a real Democrat! What about the drug war? You’re part of the establishment!”
Other dark suits try to reason with the guy.
They coax him out of the seat to the aisle where
There’s only me and some other girl crouched down waiting to ask a question.
The acting ushers are thinking he’s a reasonable New Hampshire theater-goer –
their hand held politely to guide him to the rear.
I see his eyes, the face, the anger, the punching finger-pointing,
“No way he’s going back.”
Most staffers and “security” have left with the first heckler.
No one’s in charge.
Sure enough, as soon as he steps out of the row of seats, he bolts down the aisle for the stage.
Big guy, six-footer, big belly, storming right toward me,
Nobody but me and the girl between him and the stage,
I leap up from the crouch
Throw a shoulder & back block into his middle.
solar-plexus bull’s-eye thump
Bounce, blubber blubber,
My feet regain grip on downward slopping aisle, and he charges ahead again, boom!
Stay low, bounce back, “solid force,” one foot way back as deep anchor.
I’m turned sideways, he tries to go around behind,
No one’s stopping him,
“Stay with him. Be a wall,” pushing back,
He tries to go around front, we crash into the row of seats,
Eyes closed, using The Force, responding to how his body moved,
This is my home turf — a theater concert aisle 🙂
He keeps pushing, no one comes to the rescue,
Stay low, shoulder to his mid-section, following his center, pushing back,
head-tucked, hunched over, holding him, huge, fat, pushing forward, “stay low”
Finally he seems to get pulled back,
Everybody’s yelling, finger pointing, Dean supporters trying to shut him down, suits got their huddle back.
I’m like, “Holy shit!”
As soon as he’s to the back, a girl stands up right in front of me and starts yelling at Dean.
I say, “Hey you guys already had lots of time, you said more than anybody else already,” and I engage her in a conversation just as she started her speech and kept her attention and she stopped yelling.
And while I’m talking to her, the big angry immovable whale train guy is being ushered out in the back of the theater where it’s impassable with cameras and press and campaign staff and
The passive campaign ‘security’ is about as tough as a church so
Suddenly the guy appears over the back wall in the one open spot where some camera had vacated.
And he starts all over again – Dean n Cheney, loud n angry . . .
I feel like – “I’m dealing with the girl” who was next in their choreography,
and had just shown you can be pro-active & stop jumbo-guy, but
Nobody’s stopping him
And I’m holding the girl with words but
He keeps on yelling , and meanwhile
Dean and the questioner are trying to keep talking over it.
Finally I go, “This is nuts,” and I leave the aisle to stop him.
Just as I get there, there’s all sorts of people sorta tapping him on the shoulder,
and one guy in a parka (turns out, Al Franken) tries to pull him back from the partition,
The guy lashes out, throws his arm,
Action, people, arms, dark, flurry
Parka-guy gets thrown to the ground
Just as he does that – the violence has escalated and camera gear is at risk —
the Road Warriors’ babies are threatened.
and they mobilize like Special Forces, but
Too many move for the guy at once, and
He falls back into a tri-pod, and a camera goes over, but
There’s so many people, it doesn’t have room to hit the ground.
The fire exit door’s kicked open with a bang
The area fills with sunlight
A body flies out, coat flapping like a cape.
The door slams shut.
Emergency Room doctors rushing to check cameras’ vital signs
Big parka body still on his back on the floor,
I look down — it’s Al!
“Al, no way!”
He’s holding half a pair of glasses, broken at the nose,
One hand blindly fumbling among a million dark feet for the other half.
Finds it. Holds them together. “Oh shit.”
He stays on the floor, kind-of mild shock. Been there.
“I’ll just stay here. Safe. Legs shaky. Don’t stand.”
A few more seconds, it’s getting dangerous being down there, too many feet.
Me and some other guy each reach a hand down and pull him up.
He’s kinda stunned, looking at us funny,
Faces a foot apart.
We’ve talked a few times, there’s recognition,
He’s staring right at me almost scared, stunned, looking for an answer.
“Good job, man. Way to go!” reassure him. “You did the right thing.”
He’s staring at me, nodding like he’s coming back.
“Yeah, he broke my glasses,” is all he can say.
Dean’s voice fades back in from the distance.
Finally some friend nods, “Let’s go this way,”
And leads Al off to fix the specks, and
He gets taped up and is back in the game in minutes.
Here’s a brief mention of it in the press: http://portland.indymedia.org/en/2004/01/279515.shtml
For one of the most historic events in American history — check out my Obama Inauguration Adventures.
For how Woodstock promoter Michael Lang used my reports in his book — check out how Obama’s Inauguration was like Woodstock.
For an account of the most jubilant night in the history of New York — check the Election Night 2008 Adventure.
For a night in New York that started out just as joyous — check out the Election Night 2004 Adventure.
For the kind of creations that got us across the historic finish line — check out my poem and video for Where Wayward Jekylls Hyde.
For my tribute to a great political reporter — check out my Tim Russert tribute.
For a full listing of great reporters and news sources — check out my Political Sources Primer.
For how well these sources work — check out my 2012 election predictions.
… or here’s the 2008 projections — in both, I’m over 98% correct. 😉
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