Live from New York, it's ... Joe Piscopo


Lori Leibovich
September 2, 2004 6:30PM (UTC)

Comedian Joe Piscopo revived his Frank Sinatra bit from his "SNL" days as host of John McCain's "Wednesday Night Live" gala at the cavernous Cipriani on 42nd Street last night. Piscopo -- recently rumored to be considering a run for New Jersey governor -- serenaded the Arizona senator with a rendition of "John McCain's Way" to the tune of Sinatra's "My Way" before the pair proceeded to perform a duet of "New York, New York."

It wasn't pretty.

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Stumbling over the lyrics, McCain awkwardly clopped his feet and even kicked his legs out in front of him, Rockettes style. The crowd politely cheered. Like most of the Republican events this week, the celebrity quotient was low. Even though "Saturday Night Live" producer Lorne Michaels hosted Wednesday Night Live, the biggest stars in attendance seemed to be Tom Brokaw, NBC newswoman Campbell Brown and senator-turned-"Law and Order" star Fred Thompson. Michaels had at least corralled "SNL's" Darrell Hammond, who took the stage after McCain, looking slightly bored. "I was just listening to the news about all those people down South who lost power tonight," he said deadpan. "The Democrats." Ba dum bum.

After Hammond slinked off the stage the McCain family strolled on. Cindy McCain, the senator's very slender, white-haired wife, encouraged the crowd to "eat, drink and be merry --- but most of all let's reelect George W. Bush!" She handed the mike over to her husband who announced that he had "a very special friend" he wanted to introduce. Someone from the crowd yelled, "Kid Rock?" Not quite. Try Henry Kissinger. The portly former secretary of state lumbered onstage as McCain thanked him "for all that you've done for our country" then pointed to his 92-year-old mother, Roberta, who was in the audience and is apparently a big Kissinger fan. Megan McCain, the senator's daughter and a student at Columbia University, stood by in a black satin dress, her hair in an up-do, looking mortified.

The whole thing had a distinctly bar mitzvah vibe -- from the familial embarrassment to the "In the Midnight Hour"-larded playlist. "I could get used to this," said Jeff Weninger, a 34-year-old delegate from Chandler, Ariz., motioning to his drink and looking around at the heaping trays of food. Asked if he had found the people of New York welcoming, Weninger piled praise on the NYPD and even gave a shout out to the peaceful protesters. "Republicans aren't a bunch of stiff, uptight people. We loosen up, we like to have fun, we curse every once in a while. We're not just sitting around being holier than thou."

Though they are downright reverential when it comes to Old Blue Eyes. The Sinatra theme continued when emcee Piscopo fawningly introduced Rudy Giuliani -- "a great Italian American" -- and his beaming wife, Judy Nathan, before crooning, "That's why Rudy Is a Champ." Sen. McCain heaped accolades on American's mayor, who then responded in kind. "They're being nice to each other now," remarked Weninger. "We'll see how they treat each other in four years."


Lori Leibovich

Lori Leibovich is a contributing editor at Salon and the former editor of the Life section.

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