Monday, August 02, 2010

Notes on a Private Public Wedding

The long-running Clinton soap opera had its finest hour this weekend with a picture-book wedding that, for one octogenarian, evoked admiration for its restrained elegance and stirred half a century of memories.

Chelsea and Marc Mezvinsky were married a few miles down the road from a 1728 stone house in Dutchess County where I spent the first two decades of retirement.

But if the 2008 election had turned out differently, security considerations would have almost surely prompted the first daughter in history of two presidents to take her vows in the White House, where I attended Lynda Bird Johnson's nuptials in 1967.

A White House wedding has its own historical splendor, but as I recall, it was like being in a 3-D version of the TV Evening News, with all official Washington and a fair number of show business people milling around. (An image arises of Carol Channing, the original Broadway star of "Hello Dolly" in bright bloomers, carrying her own food in a plastic container.)

Chelsea Clinton, to her credit, opted for a more private affair, where the most notable celebrity sightings were of Ted Danson, Mary Steenburgen, Vernon Jordan and Madeleine Albright.

On Friday, the father of the bride went to lunch at Gigi Trattoria in Rhinebeck, where I dined every Saturday night for years and was surrounded by friends and family on my 80th birthday to eat Italian food created by Gianni Scapin, whose artistry was on display in the best American food movie ever, Stanley Tucci's 1996 "Big Night."

In this atmosphere, the Mezvinskys were married as privately as possible for a Presidential daughter by a minister and a rabbi, just as I was over 50 years ago to the mother of my children, whose genes come from a grandmother who belonged to the Daughters of the American Revolution and paternal grandparents who escaped the Holocaust by coming here after World War I.

In so many ways, the Chelsea Clinton wedding was a reminder of what Barack Obama unfortunately called "a mongrel people" on "The View" last week but is more rightly seen as an America that was once called "The Melting Pot" for multitudes seeking a better life in the freest country in the world and, despite the current furor over immigration, still is.

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