If you’ve turned on TV you know it’s politics as usual time again. I was once a part of that politics and it often comes back to me when I remember an event in New Hampshire in 1975. It remains vivid in my memory for many reasons not the least being everything in the room was blue and tasteless. It was hard to work to be diplomatic and keep a straight face. My colleague Mark, was much better at it then I. All I could think about was Lekish - the imaginary character my mother and her sisters referred us too whenever we had a request or a complaint. Like "Mommy, I need a new Tiny Tears. Mine doesn't wet the way it’s supposed too". "Go tell Lekish", she would respond.
I spent all my growing up years trying to figure out who Lekish was and where I would find him. But now, standing here in this maze of blue I finally knew. I was Lekish. I spent most of my time alone and talking to myself or with Mark, who was negotiating entrances and exits with the man in charge of the blue. Mark, who symbolically represented the campaign for my family, had come to be known as the Moodle. Seth, then four years old son could not say Mo Udall. He had never seen Mo Udall. All he knew was that I was always on the road with Mo Udall. He knew Mark, and it seemed I was always going somewhere with Mark. He assumed Mark was also called Mo Udall- or as Seth could only say, Moodle. "Mommy is away with the Moodle".
"I'd like to use a different back drop", I heard Mark saying. "That particular shade of green just doesn't look good on camera. Maybe we could use an American flag behind the podium." We had done this a million times. Look around. Ask questions. Give Advice. Make final Decisions. Sometimes it was more fun then other times but usually the Advance was pretty much the same. Find out everything. The how, what, when, and where of the candidates trip and make it newsworthy.
An event doesn't just happen. It is the Advance person or team that do all the work once the decision is made to create an event. And in 1975 Lekish and the Moodle, were creating an event that would be campaign and media worthy.
"I love the blue plates and the blue table cloths, and the blue napkins, and the blue plastic flowers. I just don't like the pea soup green of the backdrop"... Moodle was still trying to create an adequate visual. I knew we would do it, even if it meant appearing ten minutes before the candidate and changing it ourselves but he was still trying the diplomatic route. I remember feeling like I forgot something. Have I got everything I need?" I asked Lekish silently. Advance people are always doing mental check lists. "Do an equipment check", Lekish responded in my head.
l. Soap... incase something like a goose neck mike or a podium chair squeeks. Also good for washing clothes in the hotel bathtub when you don't have time to send them out or go to the Laundromat.
2. A candle... in case the fuses blow at the event the candle will help you to find the fuse box. Also very useful for greasing a mike or a chair if you forget the soap.
3. Gaffers Tape... preferably at room temperature so it sticks better. 4. Swiss Army knife... (which you can longer take on a plane). It should have as many attachments as possible, but especially a scissor, corkscrew and can-opener. You will inevitably need one of them and will impress many people with the mere act of having it readily accessible.
"No, green is my favorite color. I heard Moodle say. “I don't like the blue and green combined but that's personal preference, I just don't think it looks well behind the speaker. Mo is terrible in green and it's probably the same for most of the other candidates."
I remember mentally sketching out the entrance we would use for Mo. The one close to the press or close to the VIP table? What do you think Lekish? When would he do one-on-one interviews, before or after he spoke? Got any suggestions Lekish? Should we feed him before he arrived or after. He'd probably want to eat so he could have a drink and socialize afterward. Do you agree Lek?
"I'm glad you see it my way", Mark was finishing. Yes We'll rent the flag. It will be great." I remember how happy we were that there would be no issues. “Are you ready Lekish"? Mark asked. "I sure am Moodle. We've got lots of things to do today. Let's get on the road." And so it went for too many years to remember. But I find in everything I do, the Lekish lives. We’re just sayin...