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No Dinner Date With Clinton? There Are Other Ways To Catch His Eye

August 22, 1993

EDGARTOWN, Mass. (AP) _ Martha’s Vineyard was supposed to be an island unfazed by people of power, privilege or prominence. A place where Jackie O - no full name needed - can shop for groceries undisturbed, sans sunglasses.

Forget all that talk about staid, understated Martha’s Vineyard.

This island has been positively palpitating, salivating over every detail of the Presidential Vacation. Itching for invitations to invitation-only dinners with the nation’s Top Tourist. Buying up Clinton T-shirts in bulk.

″They are blase,″ longtime islander Harvey Ewing says of his fellow Vineyarders, as they’re called. ″But they are excited, too.″

Innkeeper Carl Buder seconds that.

″We’ve had a lot of folks who are the power elite lurking about here for years, but there’s something about the president of the United States that makes everyone stand up and notice,″ he said. ″That’s something that goes beyond just celebrity.″

Gaggles of gawkers hang out on roadsides, hoping to catch a glimpse of the beige van that is serving as the presidential limousine. Hundreds lurk along the golf links where Clinton is rumored to be teeing up.

And then there are the parties. Well, they’re another matter.

Most year-round residents don’t even hope for an invitation to one of the exclusive soirees where Clinton has been holding court.

″It is out of their realm,″ Ewing says matter-of-factly. ″The parties are put on by what we call ‘summer people,’ ... by people of prominence.″

That would be the subculture of media and power elite who descend seasonally - everyone from humorist Art Buchwald and Washington Post Co. Chairman Katharine Graham to author William Styron and former ambassador Henry Grunwald.

The movers and shakers - at least those lucky enough to make the final cut on the guest lists - have been hobnobbing nightly with Clinton in the opening phase of his 11-day vacation.

″There’s a lot of jockeying among the rich and famous as to who’s been invited and who hasn’t and who do you talk to to get an invitation,″ said Peggy Eastman, political writer for the Cape Cod Times. ″It is unusual to see this kind of hoopla.″

Just about every night brings a new challenge:

Thursday was the big Clinton birthday bash at the home of presidential adviser Vernon Jordan. Biggest name on the guest list: Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. She caused a minor stir by leaving the island earlier Thursday, but was back in time for the inaugural event of the Clinton vacation.

Friday night was the exclusive dinner thrown by Graham. Her spokeswoman discreetly refused to release the guest list, but big names that leaked out included Pulitizer Prize-winning author David McCullough, singer Carly Simon and former Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger.

Saturday night, the party moved to the home of Lucy and Sheldon Hackney - she a longtime friend of Hillary Rodham Clinton, he the incoming chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

After a one-night respite from the party circuit on Sunday, Clinton was headed back to Graham’s for another soiree on Monday, and rumored to be visiting Onassis - perhaps on her yacht - on Tuesday.

Styron, one sought-after dinner guest, admitted he was skipping some events and predicted that even the most party-hearty would start to poop out soon.

″I think he’ll spend the rest of the week relaxing,″ Styron said of Clinton. ″He’s wonderfully relaxed and he’s having a great time.″

For those who haven’t had luck snagging a dinner invitation or even catching up with Clinton on a street corner, all is not lost. There are other means of communication.

A local radio station is running taped messages from townspeople. And cable TV is scrolling through written messages from all comers.

Given Clinton’s penchant for channel-surfing, that just may hold the best promise for a response.

″You want to come fishing with me and my father on Thursday?″ wrote one hopeful islander.

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