Sometimes, you don’t know who you’ve met, even after you’ve met them.   In early August 2000, I was detailed to The First Family in Martha’s Vineyard where the Clinton’s were vacationing. Most of the week included leisurely activities. However, one scheduled event of importance was a fundraiser for Hillary Clinton’s senate campaign hosted at the home of Harvey Weinstein, producer and co-founder of Miramax Films. The $15,000 per couple catered dinner would be attended by ‘A- list’ celebrities and entertainers.  The setting was on the back lawn of Weinstein’s estate which was nestled in a forested area and backed up to his own small private beach.

After bomb sweeps were completed, agents were given their posts.   I was assigned to Weinstein’s private beach located directly beyond the back lawn where the event was to take place.  There was an abrupt 3 to 4 feet drop-off from the back lawn to the beach.  My assignment was to maintain the integrity of the beach area, ensuring that no unauthorized persons entered the event from the water or beach.  A no-fly zone (routine wherever the president is located), a marine craft, and water activity restriction were also in effect.  A Coast Guard vessel was positioned about 150 yards off shore, and local law enforcement vessels were also present on the water to help enforce this restriction.

The First Family was scheduled to arrive at 5:30 P.M. and depart at 9:30 P.M. We were notified via the Command Post that the First Family was running late and that their actual arrival time was now unknown. Guests mingled in the backyard after having gone through security checks, apparently not bothered by the delay.

One of the guests, a male wearing a gray sports coat and jeans, walked to the edge of the lawn, and stood at the top of the stairs overlooking the beach. I was about 70 feet from the stairs and noticed him looking at me at times. However, whenever we made eye contact, he would quickly look away. This went on for a couple of minutes. Finally, he said in a somewhat timid voice, “Excuse me, uh, is it okay to come down here?”

“Sure,” I said.

“Okay, thanks” and came down the steps to the beach. He acted a little fidgety and nervous. He would walk around a bit, look down, move sand around with his feet, then look over at me. When I made eye contact, he would immediately look down again and pick up a shell or two (the small beach was loaded with scallop shells. I had a few in my pocket that I was bringing home to my 2-year old son). Then he would stand back up, mosey around some more, slide more sand around, look at me, then immediately look down and pick up more shells.  Slowly, he made his way a little closer to where I was standing. Who is this guy? I had the feeling he wanted to talk to me or ask a question, but maybe was uncertain if it was okay.  Sure enough, when he was maybe 20 feet from me he asked, in an almost apologetic manner, “Excuse me, I don’t mean to bother you, but can I ask you a question?”

It was kind of funny but I could appreciate his uncertainty. I smiled, “Sure. I’m just standing here making sure a dolphin doesn’t jump out of the water and attack somebody. What’s up?”

I guess he figured I didn’t bite so he walked over and started talking rather excitedly. “Man this is cool. I see your guys all over the place, even out in the trees. I’ll bet you have guys in the water, huh?”

I pointed to the Coast Guard vessel and told him we had agents onboard. He replied, “Cool. I’ll bet you have sensors in the water that detect motion.”

I didn’t reply to that one.  He then extended his right hand and said, “Hey, I’m John.”

“Nice to meet you, John.” I introduced myself and shook his hand. John told me he was tired because he had just flown in from Chicago where he had been filming nightly from 6:00 P.M. to 6:00 A.M. He said Harvey Weinstein called him and invited him to the event saying he would have a good time.  For the life of me I couldn’t figure out who this guy was.  He had to be a “somebody” in the entertainment business to have been personally invited by Weinstein.  He said he was from Chicago, but currently lived in Los Angeles.  His wide-eyed curiosity and timid demeanor threw me. I figured he must work behind the camera. John asked me several questions about my job and how I liked it. I told him I loved the job but that it was tough being away from my 2-year old son.


photo by Alan White

We visited for about 5 minutes, when a very attractive young woman walked from the party over to the beach steps. She looked over at us, and like John before her, seemed unsure if she was allowed on the beach. John asked me if it would be okay if she came down. I told him the beach was open to the guests.

She came down and walked over to us wearing a simple, yet classy dress.  She did not appear to be wearing makeup, except maybe very soft lipstick.  I was struck at how naturally pretty and wholesome she looked. I thought I recognized her, but when John introduced her to me as “Annette” I realized I didn’t know who she was either.  She too was very friendly, unpretentious.  The three of us continued to visit for a few more minutes before saying our goodbyes. John and Annette then walked away to rejoin the party.  Me, I remained at my post on the beach.

Finally, at 7:00 P.M., the presidential motorcade arrived. None of the party goers seemed the least bit upset that the President and First Lady were an hour-and-a-half late to their own $15,000 per couple party/fundraiser. From a security standpoint, the event went off without a hitch. The President and First lady both spoke and thanked everyone for their support.  Carly Simon and Jimmy Buffet sang.  At one point, The President accompanied Buffet on the saxophone.

The Clintons didn’t leave the party until almost 1:00 A.M. As I was leaving, I saw John talking to other guests.  I hit him on the back as I walked past and said, “Hey John, nice talking with you. Take care.”

He turned, called me by name, and said, “Nice talking with you. Thanks. Be safe, man.”  Nice guy, whoever he is, I thought.

On the drive back to our hotel, the other agents and I debriefed, discussing the night’s event. Other than the late arrival and very late departure, things went smoothly.  I mentioned that only two party goers, some guy named John and an attractive girl named Annette, ever came down to my area on the beach. One of the agents asked me if the guy was wearing a gray sports coat. I said he was.

The agent then said, “Dude, that was John Cusack and Neve Campbell!”

“No way.” Then it dawned on me that although I had heard of John Cusack, up until that time, I hadn’t seen him in a movie and didn’t know what he looked like (after this it seemed as if I saw him all the time in magazines and movie trailers, including the one for the movie he was filming in Chicago, called “High Fidelity”).   I told the guys I recognized the girl as Neve Campbell, but when Cusack introduced her to me it sounded like he said her name was Annette. Then I realized that he must have said, “This is, uh, Neve.” (which, with an earpiece in one ear, sound to me like Annette.).

By the time we got back to our hotel, showered, prepped our gear, and got to bed, most of us were lucky if we got three hours of sleep before having to get up, dress, grab a Power Bar and/or some fruit, and catch a private boat at 6:00 A.M. en route to Nantucket for further Clinton assignments. That’s the way the entire week long detail went; late arrivals, late departures, little sleep.

The following week, I was in Los Angeles working an intelligence assignment at the 2000 Democratic National Convention. During some down time, a couple agents and I, along with our LAPD counterparts, went into Japantown for a quick dinner. Across the street from our restaurant, Pamela Anderson was filming a scene for her film Barb Wire. One of the officers told Anderson’s security who we were. Anderson stopped filming and came over and took some pictures with us. Okay, I didn’t recognize Cusack and wasn’t 100% sure about Neve Campbell. But believe me, I had no absolutely no doubt about Pamela Anderson. But, that’s another story.