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Thursday, November 20, 2008

The National Press Club's Book Fair

It must have been Antonin Scalia and his seven bodyguards.

Or maybe it was the “Triple Crown” (as one of his adoring fans called him) winning wrestler Bret “The Hit Man” Hart, author of, hmmm, “Hitman.”

Whatever! They were big draws at the National Press Club’s annual Book Fair where nonclub members had to fork over $5 to get in and then have the chance to talk with favorite authors and get books signed and have a drink or two.

One author served martinis; some chef authors served up delicacies from their cookbooks. I don’t know if Neil Connolly, the Kennedy family chef and co- author of In the Kennedy Kitchen, had any food to dispense since there was none around his table when I reached him, but he’s grown to even look like the Kennedys which, he said, several people had observed, too. (You know, like in a long marriage you grow to….and you even begin to resemble your dog after a while, or is it vice-versa?) His book was beautifully designed with many color photographs.

The crowd never slowed. Or thinned. A fan of Hitman’s told me he waited a hour in line to get in and drove from West Virginia for the sole purpose of obtaining Hitman’s autograph. The lad was aghast at Metro’s fares.

Most of the wrestler’s fans, I would guess in my stereotypical way, had never attended a book fair. They were mostly in their 20s, male, in the gear you’d expect, and very courteous. “Hitman’s” addition to the Fair was fortuitous!

At times it was difficult to maneuver the floor which made it more fun (and desirable). I only drank beer, a martini (which a mystery writer supplied at her table), red wine (another author supplied) and munched on sweets which waiters brought around occasionally.

I heard Scalia sold out. I didn’t hear one thing positive the whole night from anyone about the man’s decisions on the Supreme Court, so who was buying? The lawyers who plead their cases in his courtroom?

The Press Club’s own centennial book about itself sold a healthy three copies (before I left), but who’s got $39.95 these days for a coffee table book? At least, that’s what I term it.

Roger Mudd looks a lot younger and healthier than you might imagine since he broadcast for CBS about 50 years ago, it seems (actually, it's not far from 50). He has a new book out all about it, The Place to Be.

Helen Thomas was there reigning supreme with cartoonist Chip Bok promoting their new children’s book, The Great White House Breakout.

Russell Baker, now age 83 (!), looked fit and selling David Halberstam’s book(s) for the family, someone told me. Where was Chuck Hagel?

Congresswoman Barbara Lee gave a t-shirt to each buyer of her book, Renegade for Peace and Justice, but being sandwiched between the wrestler’s long line of fans in one direction, and I think it was Scalia’s “fans” in the other, she was, like, holding her head out of water. “My” author (I was a volunteer) told me he felt sorry for her, and I went over and promptly bought her book.

The evening began with a wonderful reception for authors, their guests, and volunteers. I was horrified to hear the volunteer assigned to Helen Thomas wonder who she was.

Funds raised at the fair are designated for the Press Club’s Eric Friedheim National Journalism Library, certainly a worthy endeavor. So much to do! So little time.

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