DENVER — Sitting at the bar on the rooftop patio of a swanky nightclub here as the moonlight shrouded the mountains, a 20-something woman leaned close to her friend. Hung on a lanyard around her neck, a floor credential for the Democratic National Convention dangled over her black dress.
“I’m not making out with him,” she hissed. “I’m not doing it. I’m sorry.”
It was Sunday, Aug. 24, at the kickoff party for under-35 delegates at the DNC, which began the next day. “The young voter revolution is happening at Bar Standard,” fliers for the party proclaimed.
Like any good revolution, it began with getting trashed.
While some might imagine a political convention as an event when erudite minds come together to craft party platforms and chart the course for American politics over the next four years, a better description might be a television infomercial by day and an endless, lobbyist-fueled conflagration of alcohol and political gossip by night. Think Spring Fling, except attendees wear $2,000 suits, and Wolf Blitzer makes a cameo.
It’s clear that some delegates go to the convention with parties as their primary pursuit. And why not? There are boundless celebrities. Concerts — by Dave Matthews, Fall Out Boy, the Black Eyed Peas, Kanye West and Moby, just to name a few — take place every night. And best of all, Washington lobbyists foot the bill. (After all, since Obama won’t take their campaign contributions, what else do they have to do with their money?)
David Broockman ’11, who attended the convention as a delegate from Texas, said it was no secret that many of his fellow delegates were “excited” about the parties, to put it mildly. On the first night of festivities, he and other delegates were feted by Union Pacific railroad.
“What do they think I’m going to do, call them the next time I have to have gravel shipped?” he said during a stroll downtown on the second day of the convention.
A few minutes later, Broockman and a few companions ran into a young Congressional staff member they knew. She did not exactly look spry. “Going to the whiskey distillers’ lobby party,” she admitted, “was probably not a very good life choice.”
But the staffer was undeterred. “Text me about tonight!” she hollered as she walked away.
Indeed, the parties — and their “Great Gatsby-esque excess,” as Broockman put it — were hard to ignore. “It’s like when you’re a freshman and you go to the Freshman Barbecue and you say, ‘Oh my God, they’re serving lobster bisque at college! What is this?’ ” he said.
And it wasn’t just the youngsters here in Denver who partied the night away. Rep. Patrick Kennedy of Rhode Island, for instance, “engaged in a deep tonguing session with a young lady” as John Legend performed at a bash for the Democratic Leadership Council, according to The Washington Post.
In all, there were dozens of parties nightly, ranging from the cleverly named (“Barack the Night Away”) to the embarrassing (a College Democrats party featuring a D-lister from “The Real World: Denver” as the headliner) to the downright shameless (the aforementioned party thrown by the Distilled Spirits Council, whose spokesman told BusinessWeek that throwing bash was a veritable “civic duty”).
Indeed, aside from the made-for-television moments at the Pepsi Center and Invesco Field, it is safe to describe last week — as one Post columnist aptly put it — as a “round-the-clock, celebrity-infused boozy bash.”
At least, that’s what it felt like at Bar Standard, where sweaty dancing consumed all three levels of the Art Deco-themed nightclub, with its antique chandeliers, intimate leather booths and DJ spinning re-mixed hip-hop all night long. (“Keep an eye out for Anderson Cooper,” one delegate whispered.)
Shortly after 11 p.m., the pounding of Flo Rida came to a temporary halt as the head of the Young Democrats of America grabbed a microphone to address the throbbing entanglement of debauched delegates. “I might strip if you throw in a few hundreds,” he yelled to the crowd.
Then Representative Kendrick Meek of Florida — introduced as “the coolest congressman in the United States” — took the stage.
“I want you to have a great time,” he began, “and to make sure Barack Obama makes it to the presidency.”
You know, priorities.