When Mr Bill came to Birmingham

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When Mr Bill came to Birmingham

My workpal Kuz has a second job working weekends on the front desk of the 4-star Marriott Hotel in Birmingham’s city centre. Having a second job seems to be increasingly commonplace in this 21st Century economy. As I’m planning to reacquaint myself with the property ladder later this year I might have to do it myself. Not this week, though. I’m too knackered.

With Hillary Clinton’s victory in the New Hampshire primary in the news today, I’m reminded of a Birmingham Marriott-related incident from some years’ back involving her illustrious husband Bill. You remember Bill, don’t you? He was very charismatic. He left office with a 65% approval rating, which made him America’s most-popular outgoing president since the end of World War 2. For some strange and peculiar reason, I don’t think the Guinness Book of World Records people will be revising that entry anytime soon.

Anyhow, this was 1998 – long before the Florida Miscount of 2001 – and the Great British City of Birmingham… my city… was hosting the G8 Summit of world leaders. Mr Bill was in attendance, of course, and he proceeded to charm the pants off all the Brummies he met. I can still remember the TV footage: the most powerful man in the world supping warm ale in a pub that overlooked a stretch of canal that had been specially purged of bicycle parts for the event.

He seemed quite comfortable in Birmingham, but in 1998 I imagine he’d have felt quite comfortable anywhere that wasn’t in the United States. This, after all, was the year the Lewinsky scandal broke. He was being accused of having an extra-marital affair with an intern, and press, pundits and political enemies were endlessly scrutinising over every sordid detail of his sexual shenanigans. Mr Bill initially denied any wrong doing by famously saying: “I have never had sexual relations with Monica Lewinsky.” It later turned out that his definition of sexual relations did not include a certain intimate act that’s known in some quarters as a Parisian Mouthwash.

The semantic distinction only came to light after the aforementioned Ms Lewinsky handed over to investigators a famous blue dress. What made the blue dress so famous is that it featured a crusty old stain that later turned out to be fossilised Presidential manjuice. Now I’m no expert on matters of haute couture, but I don’t think that look caught on.

I remember being baffled by the whole thing, and I remain so to this day. Being a simple-minded fool, I’d much rather live in a world with a US President who’s partial to getting blown off than with a US President whose passionate about blowing things up. But that’s just me, and I’m digressing. Let’s get back to Birmingham.

For the duration of the G8 Summit, President Bill Clinton and his entourage block-booked the entire Marriott Hotel. Back then it had 5-stars, not 4. And it wasn’t called The Marriott. No, it had a name that – in light of his troubles back at home – must have had a certain personal resonance with the visiting Commander in Chief.

It was called The Swallow.

I like to think he saw the funny side of it.

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About the Author:

My name is Tom Lennon and I'm a freelance writer who specialises in humour at the geekier end of the pop culture spectrum. I'm based in Birmingham, UK, and my work has recently appeared in BuzzFeed and Time Out.

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