Politics & Policy

Friends of Tsar Bill

Our national Ex gets party coverage (or lack thereof).

Haven’t you noticed there have been a lot of photos of Bill Clinton in the papers lately? Bill in a sports shirt with George H. W. Bush in the tsunami zone, for example. Or with Hill, holding hands and looking somber, walking through the bomb-ravaged hotels in Jordan? And there was a genial one just the other day of him at the opening of the Muhammad Ali Center in Louisville. And at Rosa Parks’s funeral, too. Why it seems hardly a day goes by without the emergence of a photo of our Ex looking kindly and concerned, along with a story about his latest appearance or good deed, or his wise words on some issue.

But, funny, there was a doozy of a photo of our Bill in the London Sunday Mail this weekend that somehow just didn’t make it into any of our papers of record. [You get the idea here.]

It showed Bill wearing a black velvet military jacket heavily embroidered with gold braid, finished off with a high gold and crimson collar. It was supposed to be a costume of a “Napoleonic military hero,” but it made our 42nd president look more like Harold Hill, The Music Man. But then Bill thought he would never look right in a military uniform, now didn’t he?

So what was he doing in this outlandish get-up? (His Secret Service men, it was also reported, were dressed as Cossacks. Wonder how the American taxpayers feel about that?)

Well, he was at a lavish ball in the Catherine Palace in St. Petersburg, probably the most lavish ball held there since Catherine was feeling really great. Now, I don’t know exactly how the Clinton family spent Thanksgiving Day, but on Saturday of that family weekend, Bill wasn’t eating leftover turkey and pumpkin pie, and watching football. No, he was scarfing Beluga caviar and beef stroganoff washed down with champagne. According to the Sunday Mail, the display “offered scenes of opulence unrivalled since the days of the Tsars.” Don’t you just love the turn of phrase that British tabloids tend to employ?

Well, footmen in Napoleonic dress lined the palace’s driveway, and dancers in powdered wigs and frock coats stood by. And the ball was just part of a lavish three-day weekend that included private jets, rooms at the five-star Grand Hotel Europe, and a concert at the Yusupov Palace. It was all arranged by Richard Caring, a millionaire British-clothing tycoon. Caring says he and his family nearly died last year in the Maldives during the tsunami. Once extremely secretive, since then he has come out, so to speak, buying some of London’s trendiest restaurants and giving lavishly to charities. The weekend in St. Petersburg raised money for a children’s charity. It cost him about eleven million dollars to raise a few million more.

Who else attended besides Bill? Well, the 450 regular guests paid about $7,000 each for the various festivities. But the draw was the celebs, which included some of the usual suspects–Tina Turner, Elton John, Elizabeth Hurley, and Sting.

Elton and Tina entertained. Elton sang a special ten-minute version of “Rocket Man” in honor of Caring. Last year the British tycoon had paid about $250,000 at a charity auction just to have dinner with Elton. And guess what? Bill serenaded the guests on his saxophone. Was it spontaneous? Who knows? But Elton and Tina were probably paid to provide the entertainment. One can only wonder if Bill was paid, too.

Look, I’m not against Bill Clinton going to a heckuva ball in St. Petersburg. We all know he likes a party and this does sound like quite a party. Without question, it must have been more fun than hanging around Chappaqua with Hillary, figuring out how she could be both for and against the war in Iraq at the very same time. My only complaint is if our papers cover all the good deeds that Bill does in such respectful detail, how come not one, at least as far as I can see, published a photo of him in his goofy gold-braided splendor? Just asking.

Myrna Blyth, former long-time editor of Ladies’ Home Journal and founding editor of More, is author of Spin Sisters: How the Women of the Media Sell Unhappiness–and Liberalism–to the Women of America. Blyth is also an NRO contributor.

Myrna BlythMyrna Blyth is senior vice president and editorial director of AARP Media. She is the former editor-in-chief and publishing director of Ladies’ Home Journal. She was the founding editor and ...

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