Sunday, August 20, 2006

I Was Karl Rove's Bartender

Austin is weird, but this Saturday night I encountered the Loony Left in person. Karl Rove came to speak at a $1,000 a plate Republican fundraiser that was held at my hotel, and I was his bartender. Outside in the atrium, we had 3 before-dinner bars set up near the main ballroom, while I was covering the private Meet Karl event in a smaller room off to the side. I'm guessing you had to throw down something more than the grand entry fee to get to my event.

As I was setting up, I heard noises, but thought it was the video crew...then I looked outside and saw about six Code Pink types and another dozen or so hippies with signs chanting. As I went back to start serving, I saw a bunch of them rush inside. Turns out a group had actually rented rooms so that they couldn't be not allowed in.

The Statesman article quoted below is fairly accurate, so I'll fill in the behind-the-scenes eyewitness details you won't get from any reputable news source...insider info after all the pics:

First, after they entered the hotel, they actually didn't do a whole hell of a lot for at least an hour. My bar was only on for about an hour and a half. The protestors rushed the front door while I was setting up, and then just stood around in the lobby. These are pics I snapped with my cell phone:

It was more "Smelly people standing around the lobby with signs while Republicans drink" than a real protest at this point. I would've taken more pics, but the hotel security guys scolded me for doing so while in uniform.

Finally, something starts. A group on the 6th or 7th floor who rented a room dropped a huge banner:

Chants of "Treason", etc. start. Our security guys went up to make them remove it, and basically had to cut it down and run off with it as they tried to assault him. They were kicked out of the hotel shortly thereafter.

Cindy must have shown up about then, because they finally got started, right about the time the Republicans were sitting down for dinner:

Really, all that's holding them back is a velvet rope across the lobby, and a few security guards. So they try to cut around through the restaurant (a mostly open-to-the-lobby affair) and get into the reception area/ballroom that way. In the process, they trampled a little Mexican banquet server girl, and one of Cindy's friends fell:

Here's one of my fellow bartenders body checking Cindy Sheehan:

She was officially logged in our event journal later as "Crazy Lady".

So what do you get for a grand a plate? Grilled grouper with capers, a sweet-potato quiche, and creme brulee. Yes, of course I snagged one! It was good, but for a thou I'm expecting cow and lobster.

What do Republicans drink at an open bar? Not a whole helluva lot. For my room of about 75 to 100 people, I made a lot of gin-and-tonics and Dewars on the rocks. A whopping two beers, both domestic. They drank through almost all of my coke and OJ, though they did manage to kill most of the Chardonnay.

Tips? One guy tipped me a $20, and one guy (who was only drinking Coke) gave me a dollar and a "Come to Jesus" pamphlet. Overall, about average for an event like this. The hoi polloi in the main areas tipped OK, most of the other guys made decent tips for a hotel bar.

And Karl? Didn't order a damn thing.

Quote of the night:
After we get done 'tending, we all go to Fridays across the street to drink. Apparently most of the protestors went there to get dinner before the event. Right about the time their food came out, one of them comes in with "the call"--'Karl's here! Time to go!' At which point one of them looked at his untouched plate and said, "Dammit! I wanted to get dinner before I went to jail!" (He got neither.)

The Statesman article:
After protesters allied with anti-war demonstrator Cindy Sheehan rushed the ballroom doors and scuffled with police, senior White House adviser Karl Rove roused Republicans Saturday in Austin by suggesting that a strong economy and President Bush's course abroad will lead GOP candidates to November wins.
Saying Democrats are pro-taxation, pro-spending and wrongly committed to cutting and unning from Iraq, the chief White House political adviser said: "We are right, and they are wrong."
One protester managed to slip inside the event, which attracted more than 300 guests and raised an estimated $250,000 for the Associated Republicans of Texas.
Shouting objections, including "men and women are dying," the woman was escorted from the ballroom of the Renaissance Austin Hotel. Laughter came after Rove said: "I don't question the patriotism of our critics. Many are hard-working public servants who are doing the best they can. Some of them are people looking for a free meal." [which I got, thankyouverymuch! - Ed.]
Rove also posed an unanswered query to Pat Robbins, the GOP group's executive director: "Pat, did you get her check before she left?"
Protesters began gathering outside the hotel well before Rove slipped in through a side door for a pre-dinner private reception. [this was my bar- Ed.] Waving handwritten signs, about 50 hanted, "Get out of town, Karl. Get out, get out."
Several dozen protesters entered the hotel and briefly unfurled a pink banner from a balcony that read "Rove v. Truth No Contest. Pink Slip Rove."
After GOP supporters entered the ballroom to dine and hear Rove, protesters surged to within several feet of the room's doors, which hotel employees held shut. One protester momentarily entered the ballroom and yelled, "Karl Rove is a war criminal!" She was hauled out. Outside the room, police demanded that protesters leave the hotel. Scuffling between protesters and Austin police led Sheehan's sister, DeDe Miller, to fall backward to the carpeted floor. One protester was arrested, Austin police said.
Cindy Sheehan also read aloud "war crimes" charges against Rove, including a charge that Rove was responsible for her son's 2004 death as an Army specialist in Iraq. After each charge, protesters yelled, "Citizens arrest."
Police detained Tiffany Burns of Los Angeles, who has been Sheehan's press representative. Burns said she was handcuffed after she asked officers to arrest Rove.
Inside the ballroom, Rove said Democratic leaders in Congress have not come to terms with the necessity of continuing the conflict in Iraq. "Democrats cannot support the goal of victory while opposing the means necessary to achieve it. And it is fiction and fantasy to pretend otherwise," he said. "If leading Democrats have their way, their policies would make our nation weaker and the enemies of our nation would be stronger. That is a stark fact of modern life, and it is the issue on which the forthcoming election should center," Rove said.
Among the protesters was Linda Foley of Azle near Fort Worth. "This is just one more thing we do when we're trying to change administration policy," she said. Foley, who wore peace-sign earrings and a Veterans for Peace shirt, said she and others had caravaned from Camp Casey near President Bush's ranch outside Crawford south of Waco. The camp is named after Sheehan's late son, Casey.
Several dozen protesters remained on the street outside the hotel.


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