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Me and the Veep

By RD Heldenfels Published: July 18, 2005

It has been a good day. Also a day when I yelled at a former vice president of the United States. Which wasn't that bad, either.


The good part of the day came early, with visits to the sets of ''Deadwood,'' the lovely HBO western, and ''Over There,'' an effective drama about the war in Iraq, due soon on FX. I expect to do some posts on those later.


The afternoon included a press conference with Tyra Banks, who will have a syndicated talk show this fall. Attendance was modest, though not the worst I've seen, and there was some information to be had.


Then Al Gore arrived. The former veep is now chairman of Current, a cable channel aimed at young adults, which launches Aug. 1. And, since he is actually known to people who have never dreamed of being empowered by Tyra Banks, he drew a much larger crowd than Banks had.


This is where the trouble began. Reporters showed up in force to toss questions at Gore. Gore showed up to promote his cable network. Interests collided.


Dressed in bulk-disguising black, Gore appeared only briefly during the first 20 minutes of the session while others from the network, including its young personalities, talked up various elements and showed tapes.


From anyone else, a 20-minute presentation would lead to teeth-grinding. (ESPN got grumbles with a similar filibuster earlier in this press tour.) With Gore in the wings, it was like sitting through jugglers and clowns before Elvis came onstage.


No, wait. Elvis was Gore's boss.


Anyway, the press conference finally started, and the questions rolled along, although Gore would occasionally pass them over to others in his under-40 posse, and the people distributing microphones in the room were a bit slow.


I sat for more minutes than I remember with my hand up, the blood rushing out of my arm, with no mike in sight. When one finally began to get near me, the mike handler suddenly stopped and made a cutting motion across her throat. The press conference was about to end, with Gore declaring that "I believe we have exhausted the time we have available.''


I had not gotten in my question. Others were still waiting for answers, too. Because of that opening presentation, I figured Gore owed us 20 minutes.


"Excuse me, Mr. Gore," I yelled. (I still didn't have a microphone. Also, I was ticked.)"We sat through your presentation. Could we have some more time for questions?''


''Sure,'' Gore said. "Yeah.''


That got me a microphone, too, although the melodrama was not quite over. After some more talk, someone said, "We have one last question ... " It wasn't mine. "Wait a minute," I said.


And Gore came to the rescue. He agreed to take a question from another reporter, then one from "the person who specially asked to extend'' the press conference.


In other words, me. I knew there was a reason I voted for this guy.


Finally my turn came. I asked my question -- as well as a good one that a reporter sitting next to me had lobbied me to ask. The answers weren't all that great, but they were answers.


Of course, I was also sitting there thinking that I had yelled at a guy who used to be in the top ranks of government. Then I thought that, compared to some of the sharks covering his 2000 campaign, I was a minnow.


All right, a noisy minnow.


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