From the Fleet Center lockdown to the Four Seasons

Published July 30, 2004 8:03AM (EDT)

John Kerry has many reasons to be relieved his convention speech was so tremendous, but one of them is that it overshadowed the shutdown of the Fleet Center Thursday night, which left hundreds of credentialed convention-goers (and many more wannabe attendees) out on the street. Hundreds more were inside but exiled from the convention floor (reportedly by the fire marshal), milling around in the hallways of the basketball arena, patronizing the Dunkin' Donuts and hot dog shops, much like any Boston Celtics fan with nosebleed seats trying to sneak down. Except when War Room tried to move up to the nosebleed seats (having left the press platform at the wrong time and gotten locked out), we were turned away there, too.

Whatever the back story, we weren't alone among the exiles. Bill Clinton biographer David Maraniss was milling about the halls amiably. New York Sen. Charles Schumer and Rep. Charlie Rangel got shut out of their delegation. So did triumphant Kerry strategist Bob Shrum, at least for a while. A jubilant Shrum, who retired to the bar at the Four Seasons Hotel Thursday night, confirmed to War Room that he was trying to get down to see Kerry but got locked out for a while, until "a sensible Secret Service agent" radioed to the right people and let Shrum back in so he could see his man give the speech of his life.

We'd retired to the Four Seasons ourselves after being exiled from the convention floor, to see whether well-heeled Kerry supporters or other luminaries had been locked out. We saw Kerry contributors Joe and Victoria Cotchett, America Coming Together's Harold Ickes and the New York Daily News' Lloyd Grove. Peter Ragone, press secretary to the 2000 convention in Los Angeles and now to San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, was there too, and so was Newsom's father, Judge Bill Newsom. Two staffers to former Sen. Max Cleland had been kept out as well, and they wept standing at the mirrored bar watching their wronged boss avenge himself by offering a moving introduction to Kerry. Laudably the Four Seasons Democrats gave Kerry one of his biggest cheers when he pledged to raise taxes on those who make more than $200,000 a year.

After the big speech ended, those who'd landed a seat inside the Fleet Center began to show up at the Four Seasons as well. There were anchormen Tom Brokaw, Dan Rather and Brian Williams, plus PBS's Charlie Rose; actors Anna Deavere Smith, Chris Cooper and Alfre Woodard, and liberal Hollywood don, Rob Reiner. Reiner was ebullient, jumping up to hug well-wishers every couple of minutes for over an hour, telling all of them how successfully Kerry had won over the American people. Meanwhile, those wishing to greet Shrum literally got down on their knees as he sat and drank and talked at a crowded window table. "It was a great convention," Shrum said, looking dazed and even a little surprised.

By Joan Walsh

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