“John, we’re short a newsman tonight, could you cover the political event tonight in Cornish?” Straddling the state of New Hampshire my employer, a Vermont radio station couldn’t help but be pulled into the political scene each election cycle. Our neighboring state boasted the first in the nation primary, so it was not uncommon for me in 1988 to interview some well known presidential candidates. Having learned all about politics in Texas where my broadcasting career got it’s start, I envisioned all political gatherings were the same; I was wrong.
In Texas where I knew Congressman, then later Senator Phil Gramm on a first name basis, every hosted event where he attended had almost a debutante feel to it. Women would get dressed to the nines, food was plentiful and the soiree would exude a celebratory atmosphere. There was a lot of fancy and good looking people at these gatherings.
With this in mind, I told my bride of four years that we needed to get dressed up. I was going to be interviewing Democrat front runner Michael Dukakis and I was sure the elite would be there. I had just purchased a beautiful fake fur coat on clearance from Montgomery Wards and my wife was ecstatic with her gift. Despite the fact in reality we were penniless, she looked like a wealthy and beautiful heiress. We hopped in our car crossed the Connecticut River and followed the instructions via windy country roads to the meeting place.
In past political races in Texas, it was common to hold the event in a prominent location to garner wider news coverage and importance. However in the down home traditions of New Hampshire, this particular fundraiser was held in a farmhouse by a Dukakis supporter. We didn’t know what to expect, but we didn’t expect this. Every attendee was dressed in simple clothes with some even wearing overalls. We were the best dressed in the room. We couldn’t have stuck out more if we’d showed up in scuba gear. As we awaited the guest of honor, numerous people could be heard whispering about the beautiful woman in the expensive fur coat. They’d say, “she must be rich.” As I stood to the side, it made me laugh.
After a thirty minute delay, Mr. Dukakis made a grand entrance. Sizing up the room quickly and seeing nothing but poor farmers, he made a beeline for where he thought the big money lay, with my wife. A bit taken back, she shook his hand and chatted with him as he made his case for financial backing. His quick conversation ended with, thank you for supporting me and I look forward to your vote. A short time later I got my “sound bite” as they say in the business (a quick interview on tape), and we made our way home.
If Mr. Dukakis knew at that time we had less than $100 in our bank account, I dare say he never would have initiated a conversation. Actor Vincent D’Onofrio once stated, “It’s pretty simple, pretty obvious: that people’s first impressions of people are really a big mistake. I would have to agree. However if you do have the opportunity to meet me for the first time, I will tell you that your eyes are not deceiving you. I really am dashingly handsome and suave. How do I know? My fortune cookie told me yesterday.