Shakin' All Over
June 2003

by David Friend

We all saw the photograph this week: President George Bush, at a waterfront podium in Jordan, placing his palms on the backsides of the Israeli and Palestinian heads of state, as a prelude to their shaking hands. The image transported many of us to another instant bristling with historical import and expectation: the moment on the White House lawn in 1993, when, as a sign of commitment to the Oslo Peace Accords, President Bill Clinton nudged Yitzhak Rabin (assassinated two years later) and Yassir Arafat (his power now diminished) toward a similar gesture of promise and compromise.

But there was something else in the air this week. Gestures of peace and good will, in fact, have been breaking out all over. The news photo of the Aqaba handshake was just a prelude. Consider the following.

Since the beginning of June, Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas and his Israeli counterpart, Ariel Sharon, took steps to forge a comprehensive peace plan; Microsoft and AOL formed a watershed alliance, ending one of corporate America's most contentious rivalries; and New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner lampooned his recent feud with shortstop Derek Jeter, appearing with Jeter in a Visa credit-card commercial. In what appears to be a more widespread trend, several other parties made movements toward détente in the past seven days, in developments that went largely unreported:

--In an unexpected gesture of cooperation, ex-Beatle Paul McCartney and artist-singer Yoko Ono issued a joint statement last Friday, agreeing to "let it be, after all these years," outlining plans to explore several collaborative projects, including a rock operetta and a line of children's books.

--The Boston Chamber of Commerce, hoping to put aside "two decades of fan rancor," unveiled a proposal to hold a tickertape parade this October to honor former Red Sox first-baseman Bill Buckner, marking the anniversary of his error in Game Six of the 1986 World Series.

--A CNN spokesman, with little fanfare, admitted that negotiations were continuing between the network and long-time correspondent Peter Arnett, who parted ways with NBC during the Gulf War; on the agenda, according to sources in Atlanta, are a line of Arnett-emblazoned bush- and flak-jackets, and a prime-time interview program to be co-hosted by Arnett and former Kennedy aide Pierre Salinger.

--Last Monday, at power positions along the far wall of Michael's restaurant in midtown Manhattan, former special prosecutor Kenneth Starr was spotted breaking bread with New York Senator Hillary Clinton, New York Post Page Six columnist Richard Johnson shared a laugh--and a dry martini--with agent Ed Limato, and Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., held an intimate conversation with director Oliver Stone.

--On the dance floor of an unnamed Miami nightspot, revelers were startled to see vacationers Al Gore and his wife, Tipper, engaged in what one eyewitness termed "an oddly contorted Lambada-menage" with one-time Florida Secretary of State Kathryn Harris.

--As part of a fund-raising event for New York's Apollo Theater, Senator Strom Thurmond, the 100-year-old South Carolina Republican, was invited to perform as a guest baritone alongside the Boys Choir of Harlem.

--On June 6, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer hinted to reporters aboard Air Force One that schedulers were trying to squeeze in a side-trip during the president's Mideast sojourn so that he could confer with deposed Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz (currently in allied custody); Fleischer remarked that the pair "might even get in a game of liar's poker"--one of Aziz's well-known passions--using a deck of Iraqi-regime playing cards.

--Filmmaker George Lucas, at a Marin County press conference, divulged that he was considering an additional installment to his six-part "Star Wars" epic, signalling that in episode seven a resurrected Darth Vader would join forces with the Rebel Alliance, in an effort to reverse provisions of the newly signed tax-cut bill.

© David Friend

David Friend is Vanity Fair's editor of creative development.


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