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My Buddy

Close Encounters in Bean Town.

8:30 PM, Jul 27, 2004 • By MATTHEW CONTINETTI
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Boston

The chic clothier Louis Boston is inside a large brick mansion at the corner of Newbury and Berkeley Streets here, near the Commons. It is quite a store. Inside you find level after level of pricey clothes, knick knacks, furnishings, jewelry, suits, and scents. In the back of the mansion is a restaurant, and on Tuesday afternoon the restaurant was the site of a reception for the delegation from Pennsylvania, a well-appointed group of about 60 men and women who, dressed in pin stripes and pant suits, spent about an hour hobnobbing and pressing the flesh. Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell stopped by, as did John Kerry's stepsons, Chris and Andre Heinz. The former, who is 31, was named one of People magazine's most eligible bachelors recently. The latter, who is 34, spends most of his time in Europe, but is known mainly for his stylings on the campaign trail during the primary season, where he "entertained" crowds with his less than impressive impersonations of American political figures like California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and Presidents Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush.

If John Kerry wins in November, Chris and Andre, their adolescence long behind them, will nonetheless be elevated to the status of "presidential children," and accorded all the attention and celebrity requisite to that august post. The press will be all over them, in other words. In order to get a jump start on the feeding frenzy, I walked over to Louis Boston on Tuesday, ready to meet "the boys," as they are called, and maybe find out what Pennsylvania Democrats are thinking about, too.

No such luck. I was stopped at the door by a young man named Grant Garcia, who told me the party was closed to the media.

I protested as kindly as I could and said, "The Kerry campaign says it's open."

Grant looked nervous. Delegates shuttled past us. "Come back in a half hour," he said.

So I waited outside. Not knowing what to do in the intervening thirty minutes, I walked aimlessly around Louis Boston's parking lot, reading the paper and watching delegates and hangers-on pass by. Forlorn, I wondered whether Andre Heinz's impressions were worth the wait. I moved closer to the entryway, like Icarus towards the sun, ready to give it one last shot. I could feel the wings melting already.

That's when Buddy showed up. Buddy is 64 years old. All of those years were spent in Massachusetts. He is a wizened man, bald, a few lonely strands of gray hair strewn about his scalp, and he has a healthy paunch, too, which complements the perpetually bemused expression on his face. Buddy has a wife, Cass, married 34 years yesterday, and several kids, all grown now. He and his wife live near the New Hampshire border, but they drive into town frequently so that Cass can shop and Buddy can talk to people. Like me.

"What's going on?" Buddy asked.

Kerry's stepsons are here, I said.
"That right?" Buddy said. He smiled and showed his crooked teeth. "I hope they're not like their mother."

As it turns out, Buddy is not a political person. He doesn't vote. He doesn't pay much attention to politics at all, actually. But he has spent the last 20 years of his life as a constituent of John Kerry's, and he has, suffice it to say, a jaundiced view of his junior senator.

"He's as phony as a $3 bill," Buddy said, as he waited for his wife to come back from across the street, where she was shopping at Brooks Brothers. When Buddy drives Cass to the city, they always park in the lot at Louis Boston, or as Buddy says, "Louie's." They eat lunch together, and then Cass shops. "She spends the money," Buddy continued. "Thirty-four years, you learn not to complain. I don't even look at the receipts. 'A great deal,' she says. The same with my daughter. 'Dad, it's a great deal.' Yeah, I say. A great deal of my money."

I asked Buddy again about Kerry. He waved his hand dismissively. "The guy slept in a car," he said. "Come on."

Every few minutes a limousine or town car would pull up and disgorge its passengers, and every few minutes Buddy would ask me if this or that passenger was a Heinz, and every few minutes I told him no, it wasn't. These were all Pennsylvania delegates.

"Look at how they dress," Buddy said. "Dressed to the nines. Every one of them. Suits and blazers." Buddy wore a polo and golf shorts. "Everybody thinks they're important."

Someone wearing a "VIP" badge stopped to ask whether he was at the correct entrance. Buddy said, "Sure you are." Then he was silent, his eyes narrowed, contemplative, as he waited for the VIP to walk away.

"It's all a show," Buddy went on. "All a show. I can't imagine what these guys' everyday life is like." He paused. "Who's that?" he asked softly. He was looking at a man wearing red shoes.

"That's Tony Podesta."

"He important?"

"His brother was Clinton's chief of staff."