Reporter's Notebook: Frivolity in Campaign's Final Days With AM-Political Rdp Bjt
Jun. 06, 1988
LOS ANGELES (AP) _ A wave of frivolity has overtaken the Jesse Jackson presidential campaign in the primary season's waning days.
The sometimes goofy atmosphere, with the candidate in a bouyant, playful mood, is typified by a series of silly hand signals between Jackson and the traveling press corps.
It started when Jackson noticed that reporters were mimicking what they said was Nancy Reagan's crowd wave - an outstretched arm with cupped hand wagged parade-style.
At the end of a news conference in the Watts ghetto, reporters gave Jackson the wave. He waved back Nancy-style.
''That's how Mrs. Reagan does it,'' Jackson explained to the bewildered neighborhood onlookers.
The next day, when reporters were doing what they called a Raisa Gorbachev wave - a sternly shaking finger - Jackson did it, too. Then he showed off a new signal: four fingers separated in pairs like Mr. Spock from ''Star Trek.''
The goofiness continued at almost every campaign stop, Jackson waving to the press corps from the stage and car. On Friday he decided to teach a handful of baffled Montana supporters the Spock sign.
One woman wanted to know if a simple handshake wouldn't suffice.
Jackson smiled and kept showing her how to position her fingers.
As his limousine slowly drove away, all that could be seen was his arm poking out from the darkened window in a Nancy wave at the press bus.
His good mood continued in Bakersfield where he shouldered a cameraman's boom mike and sound equipment upon returning to his hotel and mimed the staggering, backward walk that he is accustomed to seing in front of him.
He wouldn't relinquish the equipment until the laughing press corps started shouting ''Action Jackson,'' a slogan that he often gets his audiences to chant.
Back in Los Angeles, before a well-heeled crowd of celebrity supporters, it was clear that Jackson's standard motivational talk - the one he uses to give hope to the downtrodden - wouldn't be quite appropriate.
He usually entreats his listeners not to shrink from doing their best in life, to pursue an education and eschew the downward spiral of drugs and despair. But that message was not exactly relevant for this group of successful black entertainers and business people.
So Jackson tailored the message for them:
''As I become president you can head your studio. As I become president you can be chief surgeon of the hospital.
''As I become president you can distribute records, not just sing on them.
''As I become president you can become the president of a bank. ...
''We can't just play basketball. We got to own some teams,'' he said to cheers.
''Don't just watch me run,'' he said. ''Run with me.''
The fund-raiser was hosted by basketball player Norm Nixon and his wife actress Debbie Allen.
Larry Konner isn't claiming Jackson is a faith healer. All he knows is his wife was in a coma, Jackson visited her and prayed over her, and now she's better.
Konner's wife Ronnie Wenker-Konner is a Hollywood screenwriter who suffered a brain hemorrhage last August. She was paralyzed and in various states of coma for about a month, her husband said.
He was in the lobbby of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center one day, feeling very low, when Jackson came walking through with several aides. He was there to visit the ailing mother of TV star Bill Cosby, said Konner.
Konner, whose wife was a big Jackson supporter, had an idea.
''I said, 'Rev. Jackson, my wife is very ill. She might not make it. I wonder if you could meet her and say a prayer for her.'''
As Konner tells it, Jackson went to the room, put his hand on hers and said 'Ronnie, I'm Jesse Jackson.''' Then, joining hands with Konner, Jackson's son and a nurse around the bed, Jackson prayed for the comatose woman at some length and asked for a miracle to touch her, her husband recalled.
She opened her eyes, which she had also done the day before, but did not respond.
''He hugged me. I cried and cried in his arms,'' Konner said.
In the next few days, she began improving and has improved steadily since, he said. She has regained use of her left side and most of her right side and is preparing to go back to work, said Konner.
Konner says he can't credit Jackson for a miracle, but ''I think he helped.''