Barack’s Mar-a-Vineyard birthday extravaganza

by MATTHEW STEVENSON

With Michelle seated behind him, and fresh flowers on the table, Obama was surrounded by friends and family at Beach Road restaurant in Martha’s Vineyard PHOTO/Daily Mail

“There was nothing, it seemed, that grew stale so soon as pleasure.”

– F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Beautiful and the Damned

Come this weekend—about the time you are rummaging through your glove compartment searching for that old mask, the one you use to wear to Little League and Home Depot—Barack Obama’s closest friends and retainers will be heading to Martha’s Vineyard, off the coast of Massachusetts, to celebrate the former president’s sixtieth birthday.

In addition to the usual satraps and placemen who like to win friends and influence people in high places, the guest list includes Oprah Winfrey, Tom Hanks, Steven Spielberg, and George Clooney, hangers-on from the 55th birthday bash that attracted the likes of Beyoncé, Jay Z, and George Lucas. President Joe Biden sent his regrets.

Pearl Jam is providing the show tunes, although I would not be shocked if Obama’s podcast co-host Bruce Springsteen (who should know better) provides a surprise cameo and a “Born in the U.S.A.” encore (the only uplifting American ballad that has the words: “I’ve got nowhere to run and nowhere to go…”)

Unless Richard Branson charters one of his own Virgin jumbo jets to ferry in the guests, I am guessing that the transportation of choice to the luau will either be Gulfstreams (“The G550 executes your perfect work-life design with bespoke craftsmanship, allowing room for various tactical configurations…”) or NetJets, so that by the time the wait staff at the party is passing around ecologically sensitive, Ottolenghi-inspired hors d’oeuvres, Martha’s Vineyard Airport will resemble one of those Pearl Harbor photographs showing plane squadrons parked wing-to-wing…just before the Japanese arrived.

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Normally an August birthday on the Vineyard would be filled out with Kennedys and Clintons, but perhaps for both presidential families the Vineyard doesn’t recall especially happy memories.

On his 1997 presidential vacation there Bill bought for his girlfriend Monica Lewinsky a t-shirt at the Black Dog Tavern (appropriately, its motto is: “Life off the Leash”), a souvenir that remains impounded in the archives of the Senate impeachment trial.

And it was in 1969, after another booze-fueled summer party on Chappaquiddick Island (adjacent to Martha’s Vineyard), that Senator Ted Kennedy, on the far side of midnight, drove his car off a beachside wooden bridge, killing Mary Jo Kopechne and whatever chances the last Kennedy brother might have had to become president.

Not all parties on the Vineyard end with Barack and Michelle handing out favor bags (all 1216 pages of their memoirs and maybe some non-animal-tested skin cream?) at the end of their long driveway.

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The gathering of so many guests and staff (more when you add in all the security personnel, chauffeurs, and food tasters) on a small summer island has provoked endless sniping in the illiberal press at what is being called a superspreader event, an environmentally-sensitive variation on a Trump rally where those in attendance, instead of chanting “Lock her up,” will be saying: “We saw Bill and Hillary in East Hampton, and both were looking fabulous.”

Party planners for the Obamas are saying that all the A-listers will have been vaccinated and tested, and I guess if anyone wants to do contact tracing they can consult the Style section of the Washington Post or watch The Oprah Winfrey Show on Monday.

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