WEST TISBURY - Deep-fried Twinkies, clam chowder, a merry-go-round, and teams of Norwegian draught horses pulling 3,600-pound slabs of concrete. The only thing missing yesterday at the annual agricultural fair? President Obama.
Despite a rumor that the vacationing commander-in-chief might take his wife and two daughters to enjoy the fair’s many amusements – there’s nothing like an old fashioned skillet toss - the first family was a no-show at the fair yesterday, and that was just fine with a lot of folks.
A police officer seated outside the exhibition hall told us Obama is a pleasure to deal with precisely because he doesn’t make impromptu appearances that require roadblocks and a heavy police presence.
“He’s easier than Clinton ever was,” said the officer, who declined to give us his name. “If Clinton was here - and he always came when he was on the island - he’d be shaking everyone’s hand.”
Instead, Obama, who arrived on Martha’s Vineyard Thursday and leaves Aug. 29, kept a low profile yesterday. In the morning, he and daughters Malia and Sasha dropped by Bunch of Grapes Bookstore in Vineyard Haven, where he bought the Jonathan Franzen novel, “Freedom,” and, according to a store employee, "To Kill a Mockingbird" by Harper Lee and "The Red Pony" by John Steinbeck.
The Steinbeck book piqued our interest because, quite coincidentally, there’s an oil painting at the Granary Gallery in West Tisbury that depicts Obama clutching a copy of Steinbeck’s “Grapes of Wrath.” The portrait, by Barry Rockwell, is for sale for $2,400, though Gallery owner Christopher Morse might come down on the price for the president
Later in the day, Obama hit the links, emerging from his Blue Heron Farm hideaway to play 18 hole at the Vineyard Golf Club. Except for the glimpse of his daughters at the bookstore, the president’s family has so far remained out of sight.
It was not clear if the Obamas planned to watch the annual fireworks display last night in Oak Bluffs. But we did, and we also managed to score invites to two private viewing parties, one hosted by Peter Norton, creator of the popular anti-virus software that bears his name, and the other hosted by funny filmmaker Peter Farrelly. (The guest list for Farrelly’s function, which was held at the Portugese-American Club, included the likes of nightlife nabob Patrick Lyons and Sox vice chairman David Ginsberg.)
After the fireworks, guests from both parties said they were headed to Nectar’s – formerly Hot Tin Roof, the club once owned by Carly Simon – to see buzzed-about reggae singer Tarrus Riley. Obama did not make the scene.
In our pursuit of the president yesterday, we also dropped by Trader Fred’s in Edgartown to pick up some sturdier shoes. There at the register, chatting with owner Fred Mascolo, was “Ultimate Warrior,” the professional wrestler who used to tame Hulk Hogan with a move he called the gorilla press.
Now 72, “Ultimate Warrior” – not his real name – lives in Dover and works as a contractor. He told us he’s renting his house in Vineyard Haven to the Secret Service this week - for $10,000.
“I hope Obama comes to the Vineyard every year,” he said.
And tonight, we’re off to the Cousen Rose Gallery for the opening of artist Glenn Tunstull’s show. The reception is expected a draw a crowd of muckety-mucks because Tunstull’s friends - and occasional subjects - include celebrated entertainment attorney Amy Goldson as well as Patricia Hayling Price, the former soap opera actress who now runs a leadership development firm.
Asked if he scheduled the opening to coincide with the president’s vacation, Tunstull laughed.
“I’d love to say (Obama) suggested it, but he didn’t,” said the artist. “I guess my timing’s just good.”
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