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"You know, my first-ever gig was with a country-and-western band. I made 10 pounds."

-- Edge

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From Politics to Hollywood, the Stars Aligned in Little Rock

Boston Globe, November 19, 2004
By: By Kelvin Galvin


LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- The Clinton Library dedication was as tightly scripted as a state funeral, but when your star power rivals that of the four presidents on the adjoining stage, you don't think twice about improvising.

Bono and the Edge of the Irish rock band U2 played off the elements at the start of their tribute to Bill Clinton yesterday when they took the stage in a steady rain and launched into an impromptu verse of the Beatles' tune "Rain," complete with modulating harmonies and a made-up line that marveled "we've got four presidents out of bed!"

The pair launched into the U2 hit "Sunday Bloody Sunday" after Bono paid tribute to Clinton and "what this man did for the peace that is nearly there in Northern Ireland."

Even before they took the stage, Little Rock was star-struck by the dozens of foreign dignitaries, media types, and A-list Hollywood celebrities who flocked to this unlikely destination to honor the former president.

Diva Barbra Streisand, actor Kevin Spacey, and comedian Robin Williams were among the notables who huddled under umbrellas at the main event that also drew former Clinton Cabinet members James Lee Witt, Rodney Slater, Madeleine Albright, and others.

Wesley Clark, the former NATO commander and Arkansan who briefly ran for the presidency this year, halted as he entered the seating area when the Air Force band on stage struck up "The Army Fight Song." "I have to stand at attention," he said.

Massachusetts luminaries in attendance included Senator Edward M. Kennedy, and his wife, Victoria Reggie Kennedy, as well as Senator John F. Kerry and his wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry. Lawrence Summers, the Harvard president and former Treasury secretary, attended, as did Representative Martin Meehan, Democrat of Lowell; hotelier Richard Friedman; Democratic fund-raiser Alan Solomont; and Ian Bowles of MassInc.

Former prime minister Shimon Peres of Israel, former presidents Ernesto Zedillo of Mexico and Andres Pastrana of Colombia, as well as ambassadors and mayors from a couple dozen other nations were also in attendance.

The evening before the event, Ted Danson and Mary Steenburgen hosted a party at a restaurant called NU, while the bar at the Peabody Hotel looked like the floor of the Democratic National Convention. Joining scores of former Clinton staff members was former White House press secretary Joe Lockhart, former Environmental Protection Agency administrator Carol Browner, former Commerce secretary William Daley, former national security adviser Samuel R. Berger, 9/11 commissioner Tim Roehmer, and the Rev. Jesse Jackson.

People hoping to glimpse a little glamour crowded the lobby late into the night, shaking the building with cheers when anyone they recognized ventured by. They weren't disappointed, but they may not have been very hard to please. It seemed that everyone received equal applause, from actors Ed Begley Jr. and Chris Tucker to journalist Geraldo Rivera.

© Globe Newspaper Company, 2004.

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