The most famous Vineyard visitor we never recognize.
I have my own Chelsea story but I’ll save it for last because . . . because it’s embarrassing, that’s why. It’s an “Oh God, I can’t believe I did that!” kind of riff, like tales about the time the hook wrapped around one's teen neck for shoplifting do-dads.
So Chelsea has vacayed on our Island many times, virtually every summer with her parents, whether her father was a sitting president or a standing and schmoozing one. This is a girl who since the age of four has possessed the potential to be blazingly famous. Instead she’s the anti-Paris Hilton; a young lady in a kingpin position – or perhaps princesspin is more apt – so ingeniously protected from the spotlight, you would fail to recognize her if she stepped right up to you and kissed you on both cheeks.
Much of the credit goes to advanced skills of the secret service guys assigned to protect our first families.
Some examples of security stints of masterful disguise: While Chelsea attended Stanford (her dorm room had bullet-proof glass), her minders dressed like students in torn jeans, hoodies and flip-flops. When Chelsea spent a summer waitressing at Fish Bones on the Oak Bluffs docks, her knights in shining Ray-Bans triangulated themselves at 50-yard distances, all of them posing as young dudesters in Comme des Garçons shirts; they must have spent most of their time fending off pretty girls in low blouses and high shorts.
It’s reassuring to think Chelsea was encouraged to do more than hang around the homestead down on Oyster Pond, listening to Pussycat Dolls and working on her tan. On the other side of the café table, however, imagine a diner’s surprise to have Chelsea Clinton popping up to ask, “Do you need a little more time?”
Not that the diner would know this waitress. How many of us could pick Chelsea Clinton out of a line-up of the other hundred million blondish, round-cheeked not-short-not-tall young ladies in our country?
At Fish Bones the waitstaff has a tradition. When a waitress leaves for the summer, she’s grabbed by her hands and her feet and flung into the bay. And let me tell you, there’s a lot of seaweed and other gooey strands of stuff ‘n scum that gets pulled up with the sopping alum.
For reasons we would need to analyze with a team of psychiatrists, all the Fish Bones staff, from chef to kitchen slaves to waitstaff – all were eager to plunge the super-nice young Chels into the bay.
They were also aware that the secret service fellahs, much as they’d tried to act like ordinary summer doofuses– bopping their heads as if their earbuds poured out Eminem instead of, “Base to section 3; we need coordinates for Energy?” (Energy was Chelsea’s code name) -- these warriors would have their Glocks out of their swim trunk wedgies faster than you could say “Energy’s a pretty lame name for a president’s daughter.”
So how to toss young Clinton into the drink without getting shot up with more holes than Butch Cassidy, the Sundance Kid and Bonnie and Clyde combined?
The stunt was passed up the spook chain to HQ where the Chelsea dip-and-dunk was cleared, then sent back down to the boots on the ground. Some minutes later a poor blond, round-cheeked set-to-retire waitress was lifted up bodily and flung into Davy Jones Locker. Splish! Splash!
The first people to jump in after her were the guys on her protection squad.
And now I’d fiddled and faddled around long enough where I’m forced to tell my own Chelsea story.
The scene is set in a Vineyard bookstore. It’s a sunny July day in 2007, so the store is deserted because everyone is, duh, at the beach. The store owner consoles herself with the thought that all those happy vacationers have loaded up with thrillers and chick lit and other assorted beach-reads purchased at her shop.
She does retain a lone customer, a slim young lady with brown hair pulled back in a barrette. She’s dressed like a deb-turned-exec, in a grey skirt, low heels, and a white silk blouse; no jewelry, or at least nothing that attracts notice.
This girl is a dedicated browser. The bookseller starts to wonder if an actual sale will materialize, or if this customer is biding her time inspecting everything except sci fi and children’s books, to forestall a mad ice cream binge or something equally deranged.
A guy from the tee shirt shop, Jellyfish, stops in to shoot the sheist with the bookseller. She confides that business is slow. He says people need to resign themselves to the fact that the Clinton years are over.
The bookseller supports Clinton politics, but she thinks all the hoopla Bill and Hillary inadvertently brought with them back in the 90s had all been a bit, well, darling, a bit trop.
She says, “Well, gol-ly! we wouldn’t want the Clinton years back again!”
The Jellyfish guy suddenly looks like an actual jelly has wrapped itself around his head. He flees the shop.
Meanwhile, every few minutes another young man enters the store to confer with the browser. The bookseller is out of earshot and, frankly, none too interested, but she gathers the young woman requires in-depth discussion before she decides on her reading pleasure.
The man also purveys a young exec look in pleated slacks and button down shirt. He has dark hair, is noticeably handsome, and wears brown-rimmed, Harry Potter glasses which give him a certain extra lovability quotient. On his last trip into the store, the two confer again, she hands him a book, exits herself, while the man steps up to pay.
It is, after those endless deliberations, Wind-Up Bird Chronicles by Haruki Murakami.
Later when the store is void of everyone but the inobservant bookseller, the Jellyfish guy returns. “You know who that was, don’t you? Standing behind you? When you made that crack about the Clintons?”
After a new set of back-and-forths of “NO!”s and "GET-OUT!"s and “UH-HUH!”s and "IT WAS!"s, with the bookseller vowing to the heavens she would never again speak an unkind word, she finally asks, “So who was that guy who waited on her hand and foot? Boyfriend? Security detail?”
He waggles his head. “Whatever he is, he’s her bitch.”
Chelsea will surely visit the Island again, but still we won’t know who the heck she is. Recent photos in Vogueshow a slim young woman with long, silky blond hair and wide-set eyes, perhaps hazel?, rather pretty. She looks like a million other young women in this country with long silky blond hair, wide-set eyes, rather pretty.
She also bears no resemblance to the president’s daughter who obsessed over which $14.95 trade paperback to buy in an Oak Bluffs bookstore.
But that woman, with the cute guy in the Harry Potter glasses to do her bidding, certainly acted like a president’s daughter.