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Fans don't mind waiting for Clinton

 

 


By JACK PERRY

 

PROVIDENCE -- Former President Bill Clinton still draws a big crowd.


At 7:36 p.m. yesterday, Clinton admirers began lining up outside the Brown Bookstore for a chance to meet the 

country's 42nd president and have him autograph a copy of his autobiography, My Life.


By about 9:20 this morning, the line stretched along Thayer Steet, wound up onto Meeting Street and was 

estimated at more than 500 by a Providence police officer.


Clinton kept his fans waiting. Scheduled to begin signing at 10:30 a.m., he finally emerged at 11:15 a.m. from 

behind a set of black curtains to a cheer from the crowd now filling the bookstore.


Dressed in a dark blue suit, light blue shirt and pink tie, Clinton didn't waste any time schmoozing with the press 

gathered in a section of the store, but went right to signing.


"He looks good," said a man in a Red Sox cap, straining to catch a glimpse of the 58-year-old, who had heart bypass 

surgery last fall and went back into the hospital early last month to remove fluid and scar tissue that had built up 

after the operation.


Once they reached the front of the line, people who had waited more than a dozen hours to see Clinton were able to 

spend only a few seconds with him.


As if working on an assembly line, the former president wasted no time as he reached out to shake with his right 

hand, signed with his left, exchanged a few words, then moved on to the next person.


Clinton was scheduled to sign for two hours, which would accommodate an estimated 500 books. Later today, he is 

scheduled to deliver a policy speech and speak to a group of College Democrats at the Brown campus. Tickets for 

that speech were only available to the Brown community and are sold out.

Clinton took a break to pose with Brown student Will Perez, carrying a

sign that identified him as the first person in line at 7:36 p.m. 

yesterday. 


(Perez wasn't actually the first person to get Clinton's signature. A 

woman in a wheelchair was moved to the front of the line.)


Perez, 19, said he stayed outside with three fellow students, getting no 

sleep on the chilly night because meeting Clinton was No. 7 on his 

life's to-do list.


"This is my dream to get to meet President Clinton, to have my picture 

taken with him," Perez said while awaiting the former president's 

arrival. "He's one of my heroes."


Perez, in the Class of 2008, says fixing Haiti is No. 1 on his list, which 

includes 19 items.


Paul Deion, 45, of Cranston, also spent the night on Thayer Street. He figures the wind made the temperature feel 

like it was in the 30s. He wore a knit cap and poncho and used a blanket to protect himself against the cold.


Deion did it so his 10-year-old son, Kurt, could meet Clinton. Deion describes his son as a "presidential history 

buff." Kurt developed a fascination with U.S. presidents after his mother bought him a book on presidents when he 

was just 5 years old,* [1] Deion said. The father and son went to Washington, D.C., last year to see former President 

Reagan lying in state. They waited more than five hours, from 9 p.m. until 2:30 a.m., for one minute in the rotunda 

with Reagan. 


They've visited the graves of 18 presidents, the farthest away being Herbert Hoover's in Iowa.


Arriving at about 11 p.m. yesterday, Deion figured he was the ninth person in line, but by about 9:10 this morning, 

he was falling lower in the order. Standing near the entrance of the bookstore as others filed past, Deion was waiting 

for his mother-in-law to bring Kurt to the store.


"I'm slipping quickly," Deion said.


Deion's mother-in-law was running late because she also had to drop off Kurt's sister at school. When Kurt arrived at 

about 9:15, his father pulled him into line with him. Nobody complained.


Kurt, a 5th Grader at Orchard Farms School in Cranston, was hoping Clinton would sign his book on presidents and 

a photo album, along with his father's copy of Clinton's autobiography.* [2]


"I'm very interested in presidents. We've visited many presidents' gravesites," Kurt explained. "I haven't seen any 

living presidents or former presidents yet. This will be my first."




* [1] - I was actually 7 years old when my mother bought me that book.

* [2] - We only had the intent of President Clinton signing his autobiography.

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