boston.com your connection to The Boston Globe

Vineyard welcomes another Clinton

Some were more 'electrified' for former president

Former president Bill Clinton sat with Senator Hillary Clinton and daughter Chelsea during a fund-raiser yesterday in Oak Bluffs on Martha's Vineyard. Former president Bill Clinton sat with Senator Hillary Clinton and daughter Chelsea during a fund-raiser yesterday in Oak Bluffs on Martha's Vineyard. (Lisa Poole/Associated Press)

OAK BLUFFS -- Once again, the rich, the famous, and the powerful converged yesterday on the summer hideaway of Martha's Vineyard to meet with a Clinton. Only this time, the name at the top of the billing was Hillary, not Bill.

The senator from New York, who is vying for the Democratic nomination for president, headed to the island yesterday for a fund-raising reception at the Tabernacle in Oak Bluffs, where more than 2,100 paid $50 for an event where Carly Simon sang and actors Ted Danson and Mary Steenburgen were masters of ceremony. Scores more sat in lawn chairs outside the pavilion, where the campaign sold Hillary Clinton T-shirts, bumper stickers, and posters.

"I just love the Clintons," gushed Diane Pineau, 66, a retired postal worker from Weymouth. Pineau and her friend, Gladys Shaheen, were wearing identical "Vote Hillary for President 2008" T-shirts, on sale for $8.95 at a store in Vineyard Haven.

"If you ask my grandkids, 'Who's Nana's boyfriend?' " Shaheen said, "they say, 'Bill.' " She then removed from her canvas tote bag a postcard-sized photo of her and Hillary Clinton, taken during a book tour in 1996.

"This is an overwhelming homecoming in a way," Clinton told the crowd at the start of her 30-minute speech. "We have been coming to this magical island as a family for 14 years. No matter what was going on in the world, we felt so welcomed, so embraced, and so supported."

But under a cloudless sky on an 85-degree day, many people on the island were more concerned with unmooring their boats or how their day would be altered by the 30-minute wait for breakfast at Linda Jean's. For them, the latest presidential candidate to come calling for campaign cash was not worthy of undue attention, even if her last name is Clinton.

"I don't think people are as electrified as when Bill was here," said Ken Gilbert, 56, who was wearing a red "Bill Clinton for President" T-shirt, vintage 1992. Gilbert was riding his red Schwinn bicycle to Farm Neck Golf Club in Oak Bluffs, hoping to spy Bill Clinton squeezing in a round (which the former president reportedly did, later in the day, with former advisers Sandy Berger and Vernon Jordan). "You have all three candidates around at once, and people have mixed feelings about who to support. Everybody wants a bit of the new, and Hillary is not necessarily new."

Yesterday, there were few outward signs of support for Hillary Clinton on the island. Bookstores sandwiched her autobiography, "Living History," between volumes on local history and Buddhism. Four hours before she was to take the stage, the only bumper sticker on the cars lining the perimeter of the Tabernacle was for Barack Obama. There were no lawn or window signs for her, even on nearby Clinton Avenue.

Part of the reason, several natives said, was that in years past, while Bill Clinton played a prominent role on their vacations, Hillary Clinton largely stayed out of the public eye. In addition, this Democratic enclave is heavily divided among the candidates. John Edwards, the former senator from North Carolina, was in town Friday night for a fund-raiser, and Obama is scheduled to attend a fund-raiser this week. Former governor Mitt Romney was also in Oak Bluffs last week.

"Hillary doesn't energize," said Ernest Hardaway II, a retired surgeon from Chicago who is supporting Obama. "She just doesn't do it well. Now Bubba, he does it naturally."

Bill Clinton came to the island numerous times during his presidency, scarfing down scoopfuls of mango ice cream at Mad Martha's in Vineyard Haven, dropping by Bickerton & Ripley Books in Edgartown, and sailing in Menemsha Harbor with US Senator Edward M. Kennedy.

Hundreds would line the tarmac at Martha's Vineyard Airport, waiting for Air Force One to land. His visits brought massive motorcades and throngs of White House staff, and locals loved having their sandbox for the stars become a presidential playground.

"In the '90s, there was a lot of hoop-de-la," said Alan Schweikert, 61, a real estate developer who has lived on the island for 35 years. "It was like Germany in World War II. There were all these motorcycles riding around, and you always knew when [Bill Clinton] was jogging and where he was eating. The whole place just shut down. It was a lot more exciting."

The Clintons' latest visit to Martha's Vineyard capped a two-day fund-raising tour of the Cape and Islands. On Friday, they stopped for lunch at the Osterville home of longtime friends Elaine and Gerald Schuster. After spending Friday night at a Nantucket fund-raiser hosted by Elizabeth Frawley Bagley, a former ambassador in the Clinton administration, and her husband, Smith Bagley, they came to Martha's Vineyard. After the public event at The Tabernacle, the Clintons went to a $1,000-a-person reception at the Edgartown home of former Viacom chief executive Frank Biondi and his wife, Carol. Among those expected to attend were designer Kenneth Cole, Boston philanthropist Barbara Lee, and Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg.

Matt Viser can be reached at maviser@globe.com.

Related articles on Boston.com

SEARCH THE ARCHIVES