US powerbrokers gather as rumours of Chelsea Clinton wedding increase

It would not be Martha’s Vineyard if it did not have a grapevine. On this millionaires’ playground off the Massachusetts coast the islanders are abuzz with anticipation that Chelsea Clinton may get married here today — and that President Obama could be the surprise guest.

The official denials of the happy event are strenuous, but locals insist that the wedding will bring together a mix of celebrities and power brokers — including the Obama, Clinton and Kennedy families — in a major gathering of the Democratic Party establishment.

Mr Obama is officially due to arrive on the island known as The Rock tomorrow for a week-long holiday with his wife and daughters. But Michelle Obama and the Obama girls, Sasha and Malia, are apparently already here. According to one source, they took a cruise this week in the schooner Alabama, which is for hire from a local harbour.

Mr Obama’s official schedule called for him to fly from Washington to Camp David last night. The White House told the Vineyard Gazette that he and his family would fly to Otis air force base, on nearby Cape Cod, on Sunday aboard Air Force One and transfer to Vineyard by helicopter. But islanders expect Mr Obama to arrive early so that he can attend the wedding, said to be taking place on a secluded estate near where the Obamas are staying. One elected official said that the Secret Service was increasing its presence from 120 yesterday to a full complement of 180 today in preparation for the nuptials. “They will have a president and a former president,” the official said. “We understand Oprah Winfrey is going to come for it.” Another resident claimed that Chelsea Clinton’s wedding was the real reason why the Obamas had chosen to spend their summer holiday on Martha’s Vineyard, a Democratic bastion often derided as elitist.

Hillary Clinton, the US Secretary of State and former First Lady, has flatly denied reports that Chelsea, 29, is getting married this weekend to the Goldman Sachs investment banker Marc Mezvinsky, 31, the son of two former members of Congress. But locals in Martha’s Vineyard say preparations have been under way for months for the wedding, to be held at the home of Cheers TV star Ted Danson and his actress wife Mary Steenburgen.

More sightings and reports have fuelled the rumours. Bill Clinton was seen this week shopping for presents at Midnight Farm, the eclectic island boutique co-owned by the singer Carly Simon. He and Hillary then jetted off to Bermuda — where Chelsea was conceived — on Thursday evening.

But if Sunday comes and Chelsea is still unmarried, the excitement nevertheless conveys the sheer glamour of Marthha’s Vineyard, which sees its year-round population of 15,000 swell to more than 100,000 in the summer.

President Kennedy’s daughter Caroline, who inherited her mother’s waterfront estate on Martha’s Vineyard, usually spends all of August on the island. This season she has been hopping to Hyannisport on Cape Cod to see her uncle, Edward Kennedy, as he battles a brain tumour.

Senator Kennedy has deteriorated to the point that he was unable to attend the funeral of his sister, Eunice Shriver, this month. Mr Obama, who received key backing from the Democratic elder during the presidential campaign, is expected to visit him at the Kennedy compound in Hyannisport during his stay.

Mr Obama will become the tenth US president to visit Martha’s Vineyard. Bill Clinton has made four trips in his eight years in power. “Clinton was such a celebrity that he brought that celebrity to the Vineyard,” said Tina Miller, general manager of Plum TV, a local network. “Some people would say it’s a bad thing. I think it’s a great thing. This place was so poor in the Seventies. It’s a great crowd now. You go to a party with the billionaire and the gardener. Everyone mixes.”

Mr Clinton was known for appearing suddenly around the island — buying ice cream, playing miniature golf, browsing bookshops, and even at one point buying presents for Monica Lewinsky at the Black Dog shop.

Friends say that Mr Obama, who visited twice before becoming President, is seeking a quieter time. He reportedly already has a tee time for a round of golf with the Washington lawyer Vernon Jordan — who played against Mr Clinton this week.

Mr Obama’s few public appearances are expected to include a game of basketball with schoolchildren in Edgartown, the largest town. He may also appear at a fundraiser for his friend and political ally Governor Deval Patrick of Massachusetts. Secret service agents have scouted out several local restaurants, including Deon’s, where he could top up on goat curry. One bar has created the “Obamarita” cocktail, while another is serving a Hawaiian-style pineapple-and-coconut Obama muffin.

Dog-lovers, meanwhile, have organised a parade in honour of Bo, the presidential dog. They are hoping that the Obamas will bring their Portuguese water dog to tomorrow’s dog show at the island’s agricultural fair. Some are even wearing “Bobama” T-shirts.

Martha’s Vineyard voted 75 per cent for Mr Obama and islanders are thrilled to see the Obamas, particularly those among the well-integrated, upper-middle-class black community.

“I met them here two years ago in a private house. They were down to earth. I would expect them to be down to earth again,” said Zita Cousens, who runs an art gallery in the town of Oak Bluffs. “I hope that they have some peace and quiet. I hope that they have some rest,” she said. “For three years he has been pretty busy. He needs to sleep and go swimming.”

The Obamas originally wanted to rent a house in East Chop from a lawyer whose son went to university with Mrs Obama. It would have put them close to the historical black community in Oak Bluffs. But the Secret Service vetoed the idea because the house was too close to a main road.

Charles Ogletree, the black Harvard law professor and Obama friend, is also a fixture of the Vineyard. “He [Mr Obama] is very exhausted,” Mr Ogletree told Plum TV. “I hope, as much as people expect to see him a lot, there won’t be many Bill Clinton moments. He’s not going to be at Mad Martha’s having a sorbet at 11.30 at night. I don’t think that’s going to happen.

“Knowing Barack Obama, the antsiness [nervousness] for about three or four days will have him not just out on the golf course but maybe out doing some fishing . . . I don’t know how the fish will bite with 30 Secret Service agents with AK47s. The bass will say, ‘Oh my God, they’re bringing guns now’.”


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