At the Republican convention in Philadelphia in 2000 I hung out with Dave Barry and his cartoonist posse (Mike Luckovich, Walt Handlesman, Chip Bok, and Rob Rogers). The thing about hanging out with Dave Barry is that he’s (a) famous and (b) innately likeable, and as a result you end up in some really odd situations. For instance: we were sitting in a hotel bar when we were introduced to Jack Valenti, who invited us to a party he was co-hosting with Mark Foley (yes, that Mark Foley). When we got there, we had some trouble getting in — since our convention credentials clearly marked us as “media” we were immediately corralled into a little media pen outside the party where we would be allowed to watch actual partygoers walk into the actual party. Mark Foley (yes, that Mark Foley) eventually intervened and we made it into the party — where we then realized we had just spent a lot of time and energy trying to get into a loud boring party full of Republicans. The party was divided into two rooms between which there was a connecting section with a small platform, maybe a foot up off the ground, some sort of DJ thing that wasn’t being used. I suggested we commandeer it and declare it our own VIP area, off limits to the hoi polloi. There was a handy orange traffic cone in the room for some reason, so we snagged that as a further indicator of the exclusivity of the cartoonists’ VIP platform, and stood up there, arms outstretched with palms out, announcing to befuddled Republicans, “Sorry, VIP room, no admittance.” At first they mostly ignored us, but the strange thing was that after awhile, they started playing along, coming up and begging for admission onto the platform. During the course of the night on our exclusive VIP platform we hosted (among others) Valenti (who I should note was not a Republican himself, but acting that night in his role as music movie industry lobbyist), David Horowitz (who told me his kids were “big fans”), Asa Hutchinson (who seemed rather uncomfortable with the entire experience), and Dick Armey (who made an off-color joke about his name involving Barney Frank, an incident that caused a minor media brouhaha a day or two later — possibly the only unscripted news to emerge from that convention).

It was my finest, and only, public work of performance art, the unwitting patron of which passed away yesterday at the age of 85.

(The photo above is from the hotel bar — Franken was there but didn’t tag along for the real fun of the evening).