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Yeah, I'd F#ck Clinton
By Nancy Cohen

This is something that I used to do every day. KNOCK KNOCK. "Five minutes."

No, I wasn't getting my kids ready for school. Because I don't have kids and I don't believe in school. I used to be a stage-manager-to-the-stars-on-awards-shows. What you do as a stage-manager-to-the-stars-on-awards-shows is knock on a star's dressing room door and then lead him or her to either backstage left or backstage right. Or to backstage center - but only if it's a really big star making a really big entrance. Or if I got confused. Which did happen.

My first leading-a-star-backstage experience was with Snoop, then Doggy Dogg. In downtown Manhattan at the "Source Hip Hop Music Awards," I was assigned to bring Snoop to the backstage left area. Now this was in the early nineties -- at the height of the East coast versus West coast rapper dilemma.

I knocked on his door, "Five Minutes, Snoop." About six minutes later, one of Snoop's posse opened the door -- and a cloud of pot hit that was so big it could've been on the weather channel. Snoop's buddies, who were all sitting around playing cards and drinking gin, eyed me up and down and then went back to their game. I was glad that I appeared harmless, but it would've been nice if at least one of them flirted with me just a little. Anyway, Snoop looked at me and said: "I'll go when East goes." At this moment, the East coast rappers were rehearsing on stage; Puffy, then Puff Daddy, Jay Z., then Jay Z, and Big E. Smalls, may he rest in pizzeace. And Snoop was West coast, as was his buddy Tupac, who had just been shot. My man Snoop was scared. And it was my job to protect him. And to bring him to backstage right. I mean left. See? It's confusing.

I quickly returned to the stage to watch Puffy finish rehearsing his number - an elaborate rap about being shot and buried and then rising from the grave to kill the guy who shot him. This was all very dramatic and incredibly realistic thanks to a hydraulic stage and the fact that the producers were too cheap to rent metal detectors. After Puffy finished, he headed for the backstage exit as I raced upstairs to Snoop's dressing room. I knocked on his door: "Snoop, it's Nancy." He opened the door and looked around anxiously. I whispered: "The stage is clear." Snoop asked: "Yeah?" I answered: "Yeah." And off we went. But as he followed me to the stage, I was a wreck. What if Puffy decided to come back in 'cause he forgot something and saw Snoop and shot him and it was all my fault? What if while I was standing next to Snoop, the bullet that was intended for him went through me? And why didn't I listen to my mother and marry that rich guy whose parents owned all the tire stores?

Anyway, the show went on without a hitch or a bullet. And not only was Snoop a nice guy, but Puffy was pretty neat, too. At one point during the day Puffy and I were at the craft service table at the same time going for a cup of coffee and he let me go first. I kinda see what J-Lo saw in him.

My next assignment was at the "Kennedy Center Honors" in Washington D.C. There, I clogged Lauren Bacall's toilet. That was the day I learned that you can't flush tampax. Although I did start doing it again about a year ago. Tough habit to break. Anyway, as soon as I realized what I'd done, I immediately radioed the janitor to clean things up as quickly as possible. And when Ms. Bacall came back into her dressing room after her rehearsal, she was cool about the bathroom mishap. She didn't point fingers. I think she was happy the janitor thought she still got her period.

But stage managing Bill Clinton's fiftieth birthday at Radio City was the high point of my career. Thanks to Whoopi Goldberg.

Whoopi was hosting the show and she refused to get dressed. So there I was in her dressing room, juggling three clipboards and four walkie-talkies, pleading with her: "The show starts in ten minutes and you have to be dressed, mic'd and backstage before the President enters." Whoopi responded: "Why." I answered: "Because once he comes in there's a freeze on the stage and you're reading the opening announce and it'd be nice if you weren't wearing sweatpants." Whoopi replied: "Fuck him, he's just the President." "Please get dressed," I begged, as I headed for the door. But Whoopi stopped me: "Hold on. Have you ever met the President?" she asked. "No," I answered. Then she said: "Trust me, when you look into those crystal clear blue eyes and see that big, beautiful smile, you. Will want. To fuck him." Suddenly, walkie-talkie number three went off. A PA downstairs was in hysterics because Aretha Franklin wouldn't enter the building with the air conditioning on. FYI, turning off the air conditioning at Radio City is a huge deal. If you ever have to do it, leave at least twenty minutes. I had no time to discuss whether or not I'd fuck the President with Whoopi Goldberg.

While I fled her dressing room to make the situation copasetic for Aretha's vocal cords, the belligerent Ms. Goldberg got dressed, mic'd and led herself backstage right. And the show went on -- and it was flawless. Bernadette Peters danced, Robin Williams told jokes, Fleetwood Mac sang "Don't Stop Thinking about Tomorrow." I didn't say it was good, I said it was flawless.

At the end of the show, everyone sang Happy Birthday to President Clinton as streamers and confetti fell from the rafters. But not as much as on the Last Comic Standing finale. Check it out this summer. They go crazy there.

So after all the confetti and whatnot, the curtains closed and President Clinton came backstage to greet the stars and thank them. Just as I was about to leave, Whoopi Goldberg grabbed my hand and led me out of the wings to stand next to her on stage. And although I had a serious case of headset hair and was sweatier than Ruben Stoddard at a Bikram yoga class, I was excited. President Clinton was now ten feet away from me -- shaking stars' hands as five secret service men followed him in a white male clump. When he got to me, the President shook my hand politely, then moved on to greet Bernadette Peters. But before he could, Whoopi stopped him. "Excuse me, Mr. President." She pointed to me and said: "This woman here is responsible for the entire show. There would be no birthday special for you without Nancy." (Which isn't true, they would've just gotten someone else to do my job.) Anyway, then Bill Clinton looked at me with those crystal clear blue eyes and he released that big, beautiful gleaming smile and said: "Thank you very much, Nancy. I really appreciate it." I responded: "My pleasure. (A LA MARILYN MONROE) Happy birthday, Mr. President." And he thanked me again and moved on. Whoopi then turned to me and asked. "So?" I replied: "Yeah, I'd fuck him." Whoopi gloated, "Told ya." Then she asked me: "Would you fuck Gore?" I said yes. And she laughed as she hugged me and told me that she would, too. Now just for the record, I'm not all that sure I'd fuck Gore, I only said I would 'cause I wanted to continue that bonding moment with Whoopi.

So now I have a picture that the Secret Service took of Bill Clinton shaking my hand, very similar to that Monica Lewinsky photo. And after I get it air-brushed, because my upper arm looks fat, I'm going to hang it up in my office. If I ever get an office again.

Protecting Snoop and imagining sex with the President is all good stuff, but after several years stage-managing was taking its toll on me. It's not particularly challenging, there's tons of traveling and those eighteen-hour days are hell on the legs. Plus, I was single so I didn't want to get varicose veins yet. Cause forget about trying to have a love life on the road -- unless it's with another stage manager. And trust me, sex with headsets on ain't all it's cracked up to be.

Do I miss stage managing now? Sure, sometimes. I miss the excitement before a big show, the mixed exhilaration and relief afterwards, clogging stars' toilets… But ultimately, I'm glad I quit. Because since I'm not putting in those long hours, I now have time to work out my upper arms. This way if I ever meet a president again, I won't have to get the picture air-brushed.

Oh, and by the way, I guess I'd shake Bush's hand, but I am definitely not fucking him.

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