We will say it again — Page Belting notwithstanding, every week, Howard Dean goes to events that are filled with more energy and the feel of "specialness" than most of the other candidates have enjoyed all campaign.
The Howard Dean event Saturday night at the Limelight, sorry, Avalon, in Chelsea was just such an event, and it kicked off with a haunting medley of seminal '80s tunes, courtesy of the vinyl-happy DJ, who seemed unwilling to succumb to the club's name and vibe change. Pulling LPs and 45s from a battered box, he allowed the murky space to once more echo with A-Ha's "Take On Me," "If You Leave" by Orchestral Maneuvres in the Dark, and "Don't You Want Me" by the Human League, which must have been a thrill for those with lingering memories of dancing to Culture Club, resplendent in rubber bracelets, parachute pants and Fiorucci glitter.
The crowd consisted of earnest Gen-Y volunteers ("I graduated in 2001." "High school?" "Yeah." "Me too!"), a few of whom panicked when asked to perform simple tasks ("But I don't know how to do anything!"); cranky thirty-somethings who griped about the muddy audio ("I paid $75 for this ticket-I want to hear Al Franken!") and demanded drinks from the fetchingly-attired waitresses (little black dresses, boots, fishnets); and mellow Boomers, who, having paid $500 apiece, good-naturedly moseyed from catwalks to VIP zones, escorted by hyper helpers ("Where do we put the 'Very Important People?'"), as other volunteers attempted with minimal success to prevent small mishaps on the dimly-lit stairways or explain away the persistent audio problems.
The program began with a stream of local performers and politicians, including Note neighbor Richard Gottfried, then launched into the entertainment portion, with usual-suspect celebrities taking turns to plug Dean and make bitter "Bush is stupid" jokes.
Petite, platinum-mulleted Janeanne Garafalo served as emcee of sorts.
The well-received Al Franken seemed to be in a, ahem, celebratory mood, perhaps due to the success of his latest book, a copy of which he held aloft after cussing out Brit Hume and using expressions not suitable for this modest publication.
A sparkly-attired Gloria Gaynor took the stage to belt out a few classics ("Never Can Say Goodbye"), then made way for movie-sitcom-talkshow-gameshow-star Whoopi Goldberg, who declared it "too easy to run down Bush" (yet proceeded to do just that), poked some fun at Republicans in California ("They're trying to elect Arnold, child!"), used some blue-ish language about the administration's policies, anticipated an Osama-related October Surprise, and introduced the Doctor himself, who accepted the mike with his trademark rolled-up sleeves and resolute demeanor.
Dean took care of some business, reminding the crowd of New York's deadline to register to vote as a Democrat in the March primary, then went into his crowd-pleasing stump speech, with plenty of mentions (total of three) of "Ken Lay and the Boys" thrown in for good measure, all of which was met with enthusiastic cheers and ovations. Gloria Gaynor returned to sing "I Will Survive," with the talent piling on stage to serve as ersatz back-up singers and dancers, while a jubilant Governor Dean grabbed Whoopi Goldberg for a jaw-dropping, vigorous, twirly spin around center stage.