Let the Bill Blitz begin.
Former President Bill Clinton has embarked on his newest incarnation: a weighty author plugging “My Life,” his even weightier, 992-page memoir. Mr. Clinton received a $10 million advance for the book, which goes on sale June 22 and includes 32 pages of photographs.
Last night, Mr. Clinton took to the stage at Book Expo America, the nation’s premier book convention — appearing before a crowd of 2,000 authors, publishers, agents and retailers at the Chicago event, which was closed to the press.
“Wow. Better be careful treating me this way,” Mr. Clinton told his audience after applause. “You’ll have me thinking I’m president again.”
His speech is only the first volley in a publicity showdown that culminates with the opening of the massive Clinton Presidential Center down in Little Rock, Ark., in mid-November.
The outreach underscores, in no uncertain terms, a new and improved Clinton brand name.
“I think Mr. Clinton has been strategically storing up all this pent-up energy for the release of this book,” said Peter Montoya, a California-based publicity consultant and editor of “Personal Branding” magazine, a journal for high-profile folks intent on shaping public perceptions of their personalities and abilities.
“And while former presidents can end up as has-beens, the Clinton ‘brand’ is still intriguing. But personal brands can be polarizing. They can both attract and repel people, that’s part of it,” Mr. Montoya said.
“Consequently, Republicans will still insist Mr. Clinton is lying scum or whale poop, while Democrats would say he’s a rock ‘n’ roll statesman with a youthful edge,” he said.
The hubbub surrounding the book’s release has garnered the attention of C-SPAN2, which will rebroadcast Mr. Clinton’s speech tomorrow, along with an author’s luncheon showcasing a spectrum of ideologies. The table will include Linda Chavez, Donna Brazile, P.J. O’Rourke, Ron Suskind and the New York Times’ Maureen Dowd, out to promote her new book “Bushworld: Enter at Your Own Risk.”
Mr. Clinton’s literary debut, meanwhile, is already awash with breathless superlatives.
The book is described as “strikingly candid” and “one of the most eagerly awaited books of recent time” by his publisher, Alfred A. Knopf.
“It is a riveting personal drama,” and “the most nuanced account of a presidency ever written,” according to Knopf editor in chief Sonny Mehta.
The publicity has been categorized as “the mother and father of all roll-outs,” Robert Barnett, Mr. Clinton’s D.C.-based literary agent, told the Associated Press.
But this is just the beginning.
“There’s no doubt that the shadow looming over the media landscape belongs to Bubba,” the New York Daily News said yesterday.
The book’s release was a source of worry for Democratic Party officials earlier this year, who fretted that it could “overshadow” John Kerry’s presidential campaign, according to press reports. Mr. Clinton “promised” he’d complete his oeuvre well before the Democratic Convention in late July in Boston.
He has additional broadcast backup: CBS’ Dan Rather will interview Mr. Clinton two days before the book is released and CNN’s Larry King will do the same two days after it goes on sale.
Mr. Clinton will go on an international book-signing tour, but will join his wife, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton — New York Democrat and author of “Living History,” her own 2003 memoirs — at a joint book signing during the Democratic Convention.
But the former president will garner additional buzz from the theatrical debut of “The Hunting of the President,” an 89-minute documentary by longtime Friend-of-Bill and Hollywood producer Harry Thomason, who also made the film “The Man from Hope” for Mr. Clinton’s 1992 presidential campaign.
The documentary, based on a book by Arkansas Democrat-Gazette columnist Gene Lyons and Manhattan-based writer Joe Conason, will be screened at New York’s Angelika Film Center on Wednesday and released to the public June 23.
According to production notes, it offers “shocking revelations” and “a gallery of defeated politicians, disappointed office seekers, right-wing pamphleteers, wealthy eccentrics, zany private detectives, religious fanatics and die-hard segregationalists.”
Amid all this ruckus, former White House intern Monica Lewinsky emerged briefly yesterday to tell the Daily News that she doesn’t plan to make a movie about her affair with Mr. Clinton that broke six years ago.
“I am a pretty modest girl,” she told the paper.