The Magazine

The Dinner Party

Matt Labash’s dine and dash

Feb 20, 2012, Vol. 17, No. 22 • By MATT LABASH
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When I think about the American-postcard moments of my life—-Fourth of July fireworks, Veterans’ Day parades, watching American Chopper reruns—there is none so emblematic as the evening I just spent in the flat-screened glow of the Super Bowl, having a few pops and making chitchat with my new comrades from the Weather Underground.

Cartoon of Bill Ayers pointing to his watch

mark anderson

Everyone celebrates America in his own peculiar way. Before becoming acclaimed educators, citizen activists, and the notorious friends of Barack Obama, Bill Ayers and his wife, Bernardine Dohrn, used to celebrate their America by bombing the Capitol, bombing the Pentagon, and aspiring to bomb a dancehall full of soldiers at Fort Dix, if only their late comrades hadn’t accidentally blown themselves up first. That was what acclaimed-educator types call a “teachable moment”: Stick with basic property destruction, because it’s all ho-ho-Ho-Chi-Minh until someone puts his eyes out with a nail bomb.

This Mad Hatter’s dinner party takes place at the swank Chicago penthouse of a friend of the former Weather-persons. Bill and Bernardine had auctioned off a dinner—to be cooked by them—to raise funds for a humanities council. The lucky high bidder was my friend, former colleague, and Daily Caller editor Tucker Carlson, not renowned as a patron of the arts. His hobbies run to wing-shooting, fly fishing, and causing unrepentant Commies discomfort for sport. 

Tucker had invited several guests— me, his brother, Daily Caller reporter Jamie Weinstein, a contest winner, and provocateur Andrew Breitbart, aka the most aggressive man on the Internet. (Breitbart once asked me to teach him to fish as a much-needed de-stresser, then thought better of it, “since every time I see a tree, I just want to kick its ass.”) Our Weatherpatrons greet us like old family, surrounded by their own smiling friends/decoys, who are there to “wait on” us and otherwise deflect uncomfortable lines of inquiry. Pointing to bottles of wine, one chirps, “What’s your poison?” 

Ayers, in skullcap and earrings, shows us to an elaborate spread overlooking the city. We’ve entered a parody of a multimillion-dollar liberal lair. Unidentifiable abstract sculptures snake about the floor. Framed epigrams from Louise Bourgeois installations (“The Hour Is Devoted To Revenge”) line the wall. Cutouts representing the duality of the American spirit, from Thoreau and Rosa Parks (good), to Dick Cheney and Sarah Palin (evil), festoon our plates. Tofu and quinoa—pinko food—is among the seven savory courses served. 

Apart from shuffling off to the kitchen or catching a few minutes of the game while avoiding awkward conversations about their past, the Weather-hosts couldn’t be nicer. They ask us about our backgrounds, which they already seem familiar with (thanks, Wikipedia!). They plump us with falling-off-the-bone hoisin ribs and fluff us with apple pie and Ameri-Cone Dream ice cream. “This is the bomb, Bill,” says Breitbart, after sampling the farmhouse cheeses. “It has explosive flavor,” I chime in.

They’re positively conciliatory—playing radical rope-a-dope. Dohrn has tired altogether of politics, she claims, now preferring to listen to sports radio. Bill facetiously admits that, as suspected, he wrote Obama’s Dreams from My Father—“The second book isn’t as good,” he apologizes. When reminded of his past, after saying unradical things to us like, “There’s no reason not to be nice to each other” (Ayers once distilled the Weathermen’s philosophy as “kill all the rich people”—though presumably not those serving the carrot ginger soup), Bill looks pained. “You’re thinking 40 years ago. Read something contemporary.” Asked about the “smash monogamy” ethos that led Weathernymphos to engage in orgies (in the belief that an army that ruts together, fights together), Bernardine demurs, “We have to know each other better first.”

We have harder questions, left mostly in our pockets. It’s difficult to rough people up when they’re trilling things at you like, “Enjoy the pecan raisin crisps!” Our pregame strategy is to take it gently at dinner, then go for broke in the second half. Except there isn’t one. We are shown the door before halftime, under the sudden and lame excuse that the apartment owner needs to pick up her kids. In a mad swirl of group photos, goodie bags (complete with Hershey’s Kisses), and curt invitations to scoot from a formerly smiling, now pinched-faced Ayers friend, we are deposited in the hallway after less than two hours.

“They took my ribs before I finished them. .  .  . I only had one beer. .  .  . I didn’t even get to see Madonna,” the contest winner complains. 

“What happened?” I ask an equally gobsmacked Breitbart. “I think we just got rolled.” 

“No,” he says, deflated. “We got community organized.”

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