There’s never a dull news day in Cincinnati during Ohio Early Voting season; but for once it wasn’t about Newt, Mitt, Ron or Rick. First Lady, Michelle Obama and Grammy Award Winner, Patti LaBelle, were coming to town. No, they didn’t have plans to belt out a lunchtime duo on Fountain Square; although that would have been really cool. Each lady was to arrive with her own entourage. Each would be bringing a wave of excitement to captive audiences in two different parts of town. I intended to be there for both arrivals.
11:00 a.m. Downtown Cincinnati: Waiting for the First Lady
I could have seen Michelle Obama up close and personal as she delivered her remarks at a Cincinnati DNC fundraiser at the Westin. The 250 dollar minimum contribution was too steep for a tight budget like mine, but I decided I would be thrilled with even a passing glimpse. I hopped on a bus, headed to town and walked to the Vine Street side of the Westin Hotel. I watched and waited a while; and when nothing happened, I wondered if I’d missed her. By then my son had arrived with his camera ready to roll.
There were TV news cameras in the street, passersby gathering and a lunchtime stream of pedestrians peering down from the sky walk. Police arrived on horseback and walking with dogs. Bomb sniffers, a stranger and I decided. Then I saw the Cincinnati Hat Man’s “Rejoice First Lady..” message, and I knew I was in the right place and it was the right time.
I happened quickly. I heard the sirens, then saw the flashing lights as the First Lady’s police escort rolled into view. Within seconds her car was passing a few feet in front of me. I admit, I didn’t actually see her. I was peering through my camera lens, trying to capture the moment. “There she is,” I heard one lady say. Several people waved at the boxy beige Suburban that could easily have belonged to a Cincinnati soccer mom. Police cars, Michelle Obama’s car and another beige SUV filled with men in black, turned into the drive and disappeared down a ramp into the bowels of the Westin Hotel.
I took a deep breath, turned off my camera and smiled. I wanted to stand there enjoying that fleeting moment, but I had to go see Patti LaBelle.
1:30 p.m.: Waiting for Patti Lady Marmalade on Aisle 17
I’d heard Patti LaBelle’s voice overhead in my local Kroger grocery store. She urged shoppers to “Step up for Black History” and was a first class example of words in action. Patti made her own history as a Grammy Award winning singer with a legendary fashion sense. This was her second day and second visit to a Cincinnati area Kroger store to introduce her Lady Marmalade line of sauces, seasonings and marinades made in the heart of Amish country. She was also signing her most recent cook book.
My son made it to Norwood Kroger in less than 20 minutes. It would be my second day of trying to get close enough to really see Ms LaBelle, but the line began forming on Aisle 17 while I was waiting for the First Lady to arrive. Patti would be there for one hour only and the grocery aisles already swelled with hundreds of excited fans. I knew I’d never make it to the front of the line, so I walked away from the crowd and down aisle 18 to the back of the store. When a Kroger manager pointed to a spot in the crowd gathering near the deli case, I slipped right into place.
The store came to life as Patti LaBelle entered. She walked within inches of my camera; and I could have called out “Hello, Patti,” like some people did; but I was trying to get good close-up of “Lady Marmalade” as she walked toward me. She passed quickly, though not quite as fast as Michelle Obama in her SUV. Still I got my video moment and listened to the crowd cheer as she moved into aisle 17 to greet them. I felt like paparazzi, but not quite as cool. It took every bit of will power I had to stop myself from breaking into a chorus of “..Voulez-vous coucher avec moi ce soir?”
I witnessed the first African American First Lady’s arrival in Cincinnati and stood within touching distance of a Grammy Award winning diva; and I captured them both with my camera. It was the closing days of Black History Month. Women’s History Month was mere days away, and I felt like I was holding a little bit of each in the palm of my hand.