I was there back when it all got started. Will, well you know--you've seen him on television. He's like that in real life. Only more so. If you can believe that's possible. So, whenever Will was in the Motley Eagle, I'd make a bee-line for him. Because I knew something would happen.
It was a quiet night and Will was watching the news on the television over the bar. I sat down next to him and bought a round.
"Shhh! I'm listening to this."
I looked up and saw the politician talking to Larry King. Some Nixon speechwriter had seized control of a billionaire's plaything. Half the lemmings that had followed the billionaire into an electoral fjord in the last election were fighting the other half who rallied behind a transcendental meditation guru. A Federal Court gave said speechwriter twelve megabucks to go out, run advertisements and get the votes of 0% of the electorate. Will is a lot of things, but political junkie he's not.
The talking heads on the television were a sure cure for insomnia, but after a glance I was watching something much more interesting: Will's smirk. You've seen it. Some smarty-pants out East, the guy who wrote that Blackford Oakes spy novel I bought at a garage sale--he called that smirk coprophagous.
So, I watched Will until an ad came on CNN.
"Ok, Will, you're dreaming up a prank. I can see it in your expression."
Will's eyebrows made a half-hearted attempt at looking hurt. The smirk remained, but his voice had a mock-reproachful tone. "Now, what could make you think I had something sneaky in mind. I'm merely acquainting myself with the political process. It's part of my civic duty to become part of the informed electorate."
Will put his hand over his heart and looked at the ceiling. I think that Buckley guy would have called the gesture disingenuous. "Sad, but true. However, I now have a reason to vote--a vision if you will."
"Will, how much have you been drinking?"
"I'm as sober as a Deacon." Larry King came back from commercials at that moment. "Look at that man," Will indicated the politician. "He's wasting his time, and the time of everyone who's getting all caught up in his run for President."
I started wondering if Will was going to need a white suit coat with sleeves that lace up the back.
"The government gave that guy twelve million dollars, and what's he doing? He's wasting it! Do you know what he's spending the money on?"
I'm not an expert in things political. I temporized. "I suppose he's spending it flying around the country, printing up yard signs and running commercials."
"Exactly! A phenomenal waste of money! Something must be done." Will's disingenuous way was replaced with fiery passion. His eyes were wide open. I saw a wildness there.
"Uh, Will," I was getting a little scared that Will was getting ready to check into a rubber room.
"How would you spend twelve million dollars?"
"How would you spend twelve million dollars?"
The smirk was back. Will leaned back and put his hands behind his head. "I'd throw a party."
I sighed heavily in relief. He hadn't gone crackers after all. He was merely putting together the biggest prank of his life. "All you have to do is talk the government into giving you the money."
"The government gave that guy money," Will said.
"But you're not a serious candidate."
Will hitched his thumb at the TV. "Serious. Like that guy and the billionaire before him. Yeah right! Those guys are a red nose and floppy shoes away from paying dues to the clown union."
Three days later, Will finagled his way onto the local radio station's morning drive-time talk show. He rolled tape on the interview and sent it along with bottles of booze to radio talk show hosts. He put up a web site and after that, every third sentence he spoke mentioned the Internet address. He got another interview on a nationwide late night talk show, shoehorned between an Apostle of the First Church of Elvis Reorganized, and an Alien stranded on Earth after locking his keys inside his flying saucer. At least, that’s what he claimed. Tapes of that interview with attached bottles of booze made their way to more talk show hosts all over the country.
Will's big break came from the strangest place. A Producer at NPR had a bad cold and couldn't sleep. He got lemon and honey from his pantry and sought a bottle of whiskey to mix up his grandmother's cure. The bottle he found was one of Will's with the cassette tape duct-taped to it. Unable to sleep, the Producer popped in the tape and sipped his medicine. The alcohol fogged his brain enough that he left a voicemail for his secretary asking to set up an interview with Will. More alcohol helped the Producer forget the request until the day of Will's interview on Morning Edition. If he'd remembered while sober, he'd have cancelled the interview. At least, that’s what he told the New York Times afterwards.
Nevertheless, Will dutifully called the radio station in Boston at the appointed time and after a few minutes wait he was on the air.
"I'm talking to William Jefferson who's one of the minor candidates in this year's election."
"I'm not a minor. If you want to check my ID, I am of age."
"No, I didn't mean to say you were a minor. But that your party is a minor party."
"I’ll have you know that my party, the Party Party, does not allow minors as members. You have to prove you're over 21."
"That's not what I meant."
"I know. I'm belaboring the point because it's impolitic to in any way encourage children to drink. The purpose of the Party Party is drinking after all." Will's voice betrayed his characteristic smirk.
"Of course, but you can't be seriously suggesting that your candidacy is to promote drinking."
"Heavens, no. My candidacy is to promote a single huge nationwide party four years from now. If I can get just 5% of the vote, I'll get money from the Federal Government that I'll spend on a honkin' huge party four years from now."
"But that's a misuse of federal funds."
"The Party Party's convention four years from now will be a valid political campaign expense. And it'll be an even bigger party if I get more than 5%."
"But that's irresponsible."
"Not necessarily, we'll hold the party on my Uncle's farm and everyone will have to park several miles away to be bussed in. They'll hand their keys to the bus driver and nobody will get his keys back until a breath-alizer says he's sober enough to drive."
"What about the issues?"
"What about them."
"I don't have one. It's someone else's problem."
"What about taxes?"
"Ask someone who wants to actually get elected. It'll be his problem."
"Are you suggesting you don't… you don't want to win the election?"
"Of course not! Do you think I'm crazy? If I won the election, I'd have to worry about Social Security and taxes. I don't want anything to do with that kind of stuff."
"What if you're elected?"
"That won't happen. I'm just going for 5% of the vote. Maybe I'll get more. But in order to get my first electoral vote, I'll need 51% of the votes in some state or another. That's why there are exactly two major parties. If I get any electoral votes, I'll give them to charity."
"You're making a mockery of the electoral process."
"Come on. I'm a piker next to you guys in the press. All I want is to have a party four years from now. You guys want to save the world. Don't you dare call me irresponsible."
"But… but… but… you're asking people to throw their votes away."
"No, I'm asking citizens to me give their votes in exchange for a party."
"That's bribery. You're offering to buy votes."
"And that would be different if I offered voters a subsidy, or tax break, or an entitlement. Not everyone in the country can qualify for a Mohair subsidy or a Helium depletion allowance, but everyone can enjoy a party."
"How will you do that?"
"On the day after the election, I'll figure out how much money I'll get from the Feds and announce the date of the Party Party's convention. Everyone who can prove he's a registered voter shows up at my Uncle's farm and we drink twelve million dollars worth of booze."
"We'll get soft drinks, too."
"Think of what you're doing to the electoral process."
"From what you guys tell me, most people don't vote. And from you guys tell me, well over 5% of the electorate remains undecided right now. If you haven't decided who you want to vote for by now, you really don't care for politics. So, you might as well cast your vote for something you do care about."
"Well, you've certainly given us something to think about. Thank you for your time, Mr. Jefferson."
You've probably heard the rest. The bit about Howard Stern hearing the interview on NPR and calling Will the next morning. How Rush Limbaugh got on the air all hot and bothered and then Will called Rush promising there'd be cigars at the party. A few days later, there was Will sitting next to Larry King shining that coprophagous smirk at America.
Anyhow, be sure to bring one of those plastic parkas in case it rains Saturday. I'm working crowd control, so I'll probably be busy. Hope you enjoy the Party.