Monsoon leaned over the monitor shaking his head like a bulldog confronting a marzipan bone. His whole dejected posture mimed the word, “Why?????” What he said out loud was a variation, “He must be out of his ever-loving mind.”
Rodney, his AV guy was careful not to touch any controls and piss the network guy off again, but pointed to the monitor, drew a nod, watched deft fingers on the sliders remove the offending dazzle from the host microphone. Giving a commiserating glance at Monsoon he said, “Could have been way worse. He actually wanted to film live from the real Oval Office.”
“Why am I not surprised.” Monsoon muttered. “Aghast, but hardly surprised.”
“It’s not easy working for a guy who thinks being out of the envelope is a winning virtue in itself.” He caught a glare from Monsoon and hastened to say, “Hey, I’m telling you, right? We have envelopes for a purpose.”
“So you built him a fake Oval Office set.” Monsoon eyed the set with obvious loathing. There was an arch of lights over head, but the camera showed only a reproduction of the Presidential office, complete with a mockup of the desk with authentic seal, the national colors behind the chair, even the window with a fake outside view. Except there was a couch next to the desk. For guests and his second banana. Disgusting.
“Which was a pain in the butt to do here in the studio, considering there must be a dozen copies and replicas of the Oval around town. Not to mention back sets at Warner Brothers and such. We could have picked up the old West Wing flats for peanuts, I’ll bet.”
“They’d have made you take Martin Sheen in the deal.”
“Careful, you’re talking about a rainmaker and contributor.”
Monsoon snorted. “I heard they’re going to start that series back up with Will Smith playing the President.”
Rodney smiled, “That must be why he changed his name to Akbar.”
“Okaaaay, readddddy…” the network guy said into his headset mike. “And… cue.”
“Here it goes,” Rodney said, excitement of an historic moment replacing his cynical pose.”
“Fucking bloody wonderful,” Monsoon groaned, “The Presidency’s finest hour.”
The theme music blasted out, instantly igniting feverish applause in the studio audience. Live studio audience, Monsoon winced. Great idea. We should charge extra for assassins. I thought Stevie Wonder wrote the theme, he was thinking. This sounds like the Pointer Sisters meet K-Mart ad. But then an announcer’s voice rode over the whole works:
“And now… Give it up for…”
He didn’t really say ‘give it up’, did he, Monsoon grumped silently.
“The hardest-running Chief of State in show biz today…”
Oh. My. GAWD! Monsoon thought. Or perhaps screamed unheard.
“Numero Uno… THE man… Heeeeere’s Barack!“
The music jounced into a very jazzy version of “Hail To The Chief” before coming down under the wild applause. And the President of the United States stepped into a spotlight, holding a microphone, and smiled while waiting relative calm to begin his monologue in the first ever television show hosted by a President. The audience was going out of their minds. The network people were floating on their own brand of weird event adrenaline. Barack Obama was smiling serenely and giving a sort of crypto-black-power salute. Monsoon was about to be sick.
“Thank you, thank you, America,” the President said. And the applause rose another notch.
“Thanks so much, for so much,” he went on after a pause. “This is really humbling.”
Oh sure it is, Monsoon thought darkly. But The Man was a step ahead of him once again.
“And humbling me isn’t that easy,” Obama said to a blitzkrieg of laughter. He turned and pointed into the darkness to the right of the set, where Stevie Wonder sat a piano in front of a cheap boombox on a stool. “Now lemme have one for my band leader… Stevie Wonder!”
Stevie reached to turn a knob on the ghetto blaster and the theme faded out. He beamed in his sunglasses, tinkling a few notes of the “Hail to the Chief” variation.
“That’s “Hail to the Chief, right, Stevie? Not “Inhale to the Chief?”
The applause drowned out Monsoon, who stared chanting, “No, no, no, oh sweet Jesus freakin’ Christ almighty, no.”
Stevie smiled wider and leaned to his mike, “It’s all good, Barry. All good.”
“I was going to sing the National Anthem,” Obama went on. “But as soon as I said, ‘Oh, say, can you see?” Stevie took a break. What was it your said, Stevie?”
“I said, ‘If I could see, I’d know you cheap suckahs didn’t really hire me a band, wouldn’t I?”
“Pretty hard to pull the wool over Stevie’s eyes,” Obama went on. “Those budget cuts have to start somewhere.”
He squinted out into the house, shading his eyes. “Great crowd tonight. Not a single vacant seat.”
He gave a beat, then said. “And too bad, because Rod Blagojevich could use the money.”
Monsoon staggered back from the console and collapsed into a metal folding chair, shaking his head in horror. He had to get this guy re-elected in less than three years. The horror, he thought, Oh, the horror.”
On stage, though, the Prez had them in the palm of his hand. “It’s nice being in the presidential ‘honeymoon’ period, so far.”
On the couch, Joe Biden, who had slipped in quietly to take the Ed McMahon spot, piped up.
“Is it like a real honeymoon, Barry?”
“Not really. They don’t screw you until the honeymoon’s over.”
There was an intake of breath in the audience, then a slam of laughter. The Prez gave it the perfect timing pause, then said. “And you don’t suck until later.”
“Maybe we just call it a ‘transitional period’,” Biden said from the couch.
“Exactly. I’m still getting on top of it. Like for one thing, the term White House is going to be pretty passé as soon as I can get any non-union painters to return my calls.”
There was a brief shock on that one, too, but shorter. They’re figuring out he’s not your parent’s prexy, Monsoon thought.
Obama moved around the spot like a pro. “Oh, they’re giving me a new Cadillac, by the way.” He gave a veiled look and said, “No stereotypes around here.”
This time there was no pause, just laughter.
“The good news is, it’s bulletproof, bomb proof, completely invulnerable. A creampuff, one-owner car.”
The waited out his beat, expectantly. He said, “The bad new is, the previous owner was Tupac Shakur.”
Monsoon watched in fascinated repulsion as the monologue ensued.
–“Looks like I have to get some Foreign Affairs experience. Hope Michelle doesn’t find about it. She told me I may be the Black Kennedy, but only up to a point.”
–“Seems there are all these nuclear weapons out there in the wrong hands: Iran, Korea, Pakistan. Well, I think I’ve proved I can get nukes out of the hands of insane dictators. Three months ago the Republicans had The Bomb.”
“Good luck getting bombs away from Bill Ayers,” Biden quipped and the POTUS cringed playfully, bombarded with laughter.
–“We’ve got some good guests for you tonight, folks. And it wasn’t easy. We tried to have Hillary and John Edwards, but they got in a big fight over who had to prettiest hair. Then we lined up Evangelical pastor Ted Haggard, but he said he couldn’t make it. But a dozen teenaged hustlers in Colorado said he can make it, but only if you chew gum and talk dirty.”
–“But seriously people, we’re proud to welcome a very special guest tonight: Camelot Carpetbagger Caroline Kennedy!”
Monsoon lurched out of the chair and dashed into the wings, scattering Democrat hotshots and television techs as he plowed for the door, fresh air, and a really stiff drink.