Janet Reno gets her groove on

By Ken Thomas
Published July 20, 2002 2:32PM (EDT)

Under flashing lights and a disco ball, Janet Reno put on her dancing shoes Friday night, energizing her campaign with a dance party.

Reno welcomed fans and voters to "Janet Reno's Dance Party" at a trendy nightclub, reliving the famous "Saturday Night Live" skit that parodied her days as attorney general.

"We have got to fight hard -- fight hard for all of the people and not some of the people," she said.

Wearing a simple black dress, Reno danced with club co-owner Gerry Kelly as red and white balloons bounced on their heads. The party was based on her January 2001 appearance on NBC's "Saturday Night Live."

Her cameo with comedian Will Ferrell, who portrayed her in drag, was memorable. Wearing a royal blue dress and pearls, Reno broke through a fake brick wall, danced the twist and shouted: "It's Reno time!"

The fund-raiser was billed as a way to attract young people in her campaign to unseat Republican Gov. Jeb Bush. Polls show Reno leading Tampa lawyer Bill McBride in the Democratic primary but trailing the president's brother by double-digits.

"It's an example that people can come together -- young and old," Reno said to a cheering crowd that waived blue campaign placards.

Reno, who prefers country icons Johnny Cash and Hank Williams to house music, often talks about the SNL skit in speeches. Campaign supporters say it shows that Reno is a down-to-earth person who doesn't take herself too seriously.

The $25-per-person event was held at Level, a popular hangout for celebrities and the assorted mix of youth and glamour who converge on Miami's South Beach to party.

Kelly said the response was overwhelming. The number of media outlets that covered the party forced police to close off a street for satellite trucks, and Kelly fielded calls from television and radio stations in Germany, Australia, Colombia and Venezuela.

"The buzz is amazing," Kelly said.

Outside the nightclub, Reno campaign staffers sold "Janet Reno Dance Party" T-shirts for $25 while supporters lined up near her campaign truck.

Across the street, four protesters held white placards. One read, "Enter only if you are foolhardy." Another had a picture of Elian Gonzalez next to the words "Reno es communista."

The club, decorated with red, white and blue balloons and bunting, has opened its doors in recent months to celebrities like Britney Spears and Jack Nicholson.

Officials said 1,500 tickets were sold, just shy of a capacity crowd.

Reno's main opponent in the primary dismissed the dance party.

"We have a weekly Friday night dance here at the headquarters," said McBride spokesman Alan Stonecipher. "That's good enough for us."

Bush campaign spokesman Todd Harris said the party was unique -- to say the least.

"Most candidates have to hustle to raise money," Harris said. "But this is the first time I have ever heard of someone actually doing the Hustle to raise money."

Ken Thomas

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