Paul Simon: a Chris Dodd Roadie
No question who America's new national treasure, Paul Simon, is supporting for president. The most conspicuous V.I.P. audience member at last night's three-hour concert at which Simon was awarded the Library of Congress's Gershwin Prize for Popular Song was Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.).
Mid-way through the show at the Warner Theater, Dodd and his wife, would-be first lady Jackie Clegg Dodd, were summoned down to the "Queen's Box" to sit with Simon's dear old friend and neighbor, Lorne Michaels, creator of "Saturday Night Live." From there, they watched Simon welcome his "dear friend and partner in arguments," Art Garfunkel (whose hair only gets crazier with time), on stage to sing - what else? - a tear-inducing (no matter your generation or its aversion to the nails-on-chalkboard sound of folk music) rendition of "Bridge Over Troubled Water." It was - hear us now, make fun of us later - a beautiful thing. (The incredible line-up included performances by Lyle Lovett, James Taylor, Alison Krauss, Shawn Colvin and Stevie Wonder, among others.)
Dodd, it turns out, is a big fan and old pal of Simon, as we learned at the after-party at the uber Euro-shwanky Mandarin Oriental hotel. (We crashed the party, and no one seemed to mind).
Somehow, we were welcomed into the V.I.P. section, where Simon told the Sleuth, "I love Chris Dodd. I did a fundraiser for him in March."
And Dodd, who stayed out past 1:00 a.m., told us that Simon will be his roadie in Iowa and New Hampshire. "If he wants me to, I'm there," Simon confirmed.
Simon and Dodd were hanging out with Michaels and TV sports god Bob Costas, who emceed some of the evening - most notably a tribute to Simon's "Mrs. Robinson," which of course immortalized Joltin' Joe DiMaggio. Simon, Dodd and Michaels talked about the time they all went to Czechoslovakia for the inauguration of
Vaklav Havel. (Simon said they were "observers.")
Costas at one point declared to Michaels that if Al Gore had only gone on "Saturday Night Live," he'd be "the freaking president right now!" Simon and Michaels talked about being neighbors. And poet Billy Collins, a two-term former poet laureate, remarked that his neighbor is Lou Reed. "What am I going to say to him - 'Hi, Lou, may I borrow a cup of heroin?'" Collins said.
Collins performed on stage with the Dixie Hummingbirds, reciting his poem about driving down the road on Sunday morning listening to gospel on the radio and being "lifted into the air by nightingales." Collins was actually listening not to the Dixie Hummingbirds that morning, but to another gospel group, the Sensational Nightingales. In fact, the name of his poem is "Sunday Morning with the Sensational Nightingales," but, being poet laureate and all, and since he references the Dixie Hummingbirds in the poem, he made the cut to perform with them. And it was, in our humble opinion, the single best performance of the entire night, or second best.
Others at the after-party included Bob Marley's son, Stephen Marley, who definitely looked like he was feelin' ire. (Marley sang a Reggae version of "Mother and Child Reunion" at the concert.) Also there: Paul Simon's wife, Edie Brickell, Garfunkel and Reps. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) - who left early - and Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) of Memphis - who stayed out late. (One partygoer, Mark Neuman, an international trade advisor, remarked, "They probably should have invited [Sen.] Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), since he is the most talented songwriter in the Senate - and he is the biggest defender of the music industry.")
The night ended in the V.I.P. room around 1:30 a.m. with Simon, 65, looking a little tired. He told us he'd better go get some sleep because his youngest son had a little league baseball game scheduled for today.
And Simon is the coach of his son's team.
Mary Ann Akers
May 24, 2007; 11:35 AM ET
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