Former President Bill Clinton is a busy man. Hardly one to hide in the shadows, Bill has been a notable presence on the front of almost all paramount news events in the 11 years since he left office. A photo from 2005 shows him aiding Hurricane Katrina victims in a ravaged New Orleans, a certain youthful looking then-Illinois senator standing cross-armed behind him, a man whom Clinton would campaign ferociously for in the next two presidential elections. With Hillary fulfilling equally impressive aspirations, the Clintons have not receded to Chappaqua, but have instead become, arguably, the most influential political family of the past 20 years. Recently, it was announced that Martin Scorsese will direct a documentary for HBO on the life of Clinton—perhaps the only biographical endeavor that could trump the success of Bill's hugely popular 2004 memoir, My Life, which has sold upwards of 2.5 million copies.
We dug around the archives to find this snippet from the August 1992 issue of Interview. Bill was campaigning for what would be his first presidential win in November of the same year, and the American public was becoming acquainted with the handsome, gregarious Arkansas governor. A precursor to much of Clinton's career, scandal ran amok wherever Bill went, and 1992 was no exception. Oklahoman Gennifer Flowers had recently come forward with the information that she had sustained a 12-year relationship with the Democratic candidate, and, though Clinton was (at the time) denying the allegations, Flowers held nothing back when answering what she thought would make the president happy on his 46th birthday. Other voices chimed in as well, giving us an entertaining portrait of the American view, 20 years back, of everyone's favorite saxophone-playing, enchilada-lovin', pre-veganism Bubba.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY: BILL CLINTON
By Jeffrey Slonim
What comes once a year on August 19th? Bill Clinton's birthday. Other than the presidency, what do you give an Arkansas politico who's had it all?
Ann McCoy, the Arkansas Governor's Mansion administrator and person in charge of its menus and fêtes, described the typical Bill Clinton birthday celebration. "We have the formal dining room here at the mansion decorated with balloons," she says. "His daughter, Chelsea, who's 12, always helps decorate. We have the meal family style. If they want to have a picnic, they might even do that. Governor Clinton pretty much likes all foods—he's not real particular. He has some favorites, however: chicken enchiladas, and he always likes a good steak and a baked potato. And pound cake, because he doesn't eat chocolate."
Even if the Clintons do opt for the picnic with enchiladas this year, these birthday plans sound pretty quiet for a Democratic Party presidential nominee, so we thought we'd add a few birthday messages from his heavy-hitting peers. We called Mike Dukakis, who with his assistant at Northeastern University offered this proclamation. "Best wishes on your birthday. Next year we celebrate in the East Room. —Mike Dukakis." Torie Clarke, the Bush-Quayle press secretary, sent a few pointed birthday regards: "We'd give him a clue, a message, home-baked cookies, a lifetime supply of Slim-Fast, phone-sex lessons, a toll-free number for Domino's Pizza, and a one-way airplane ticket to Arkansas." And Merel Bonger of the Perot Petition Committee dispatched those 100 percent Perot bons mots: "Hope you have a happy birthday, from all of us here." Of course, birthday regards are always more intimate when you say it with flowers. Gennifer Flowers.
JEFFREY SLONIM: Any special message for the Governor on his birthday?
GENNIFER FLOWERS: I would just like to say, "Happy Birthday, Darling, from Pookie." He'll understand, believe me.
SLONIM: Is there any birthday present you think Governor Clinton would really want?
FLOWERS: He loves clothes. And he has a lot of special interests. And there were things that I would love to have given him. I gave him flowers on occasion.
SLONIM: If you could have given him a special present, what would it be?
FLOWERS: I probably might have a portrait made of the two of us together, for his office or for home. A painting, you know—something that he could keep and treasure forever.
SLONIM: Any cakes?
FLOWERS: I don't spend my time baking cakes.
THIS ARTICLE ORIGINALLY APPEARED IN THE AUGUST 1992 ISSUE OF INTERVIEW.
For more New Again, click here.