By Liz Premo, Atlantic News Staff Writer
Atlantic News, Friday, December 7, 2007
[The following article is courtesy of Atlantic News ]
[Atlantic News Photo by Liz Premo]
HAMPTON -- He was more than an hour late for his induction to the Royal Society Bridge Club at Widow Fletcher's Tavern, but Sen. Joe Biden was still heartily welcomed by members as well as patrons when he finally arrived for the ceremony, held last Thursday evening.
A friendly greeting at the door by Sandy Lally, applause and cheers from the standing-room-only crowd, and introductions by Jerry Dignam and Sen. Bob Preston accompanied the Democratic senator from Delaware as he took his place under the club's familiar three-dimensional sign near the bar.
Fresh from a prolonged presidential campaign stop at Pease Tradeport where he engaged in intense public dialogue about the war in Iraq, a laid-back Biden was all smiles as Widow Fletcher's owner, Parker Ryan, administered the oath to officially induct him into the club -- but not before the obviously amused host made sure the members were willing to overlook Biden's untimely faux pas.
No problem. The gang roared their approval and the ceremony went on as planned.
The comic solemnity of the oath-taking was followed by lighthearted remarks delivered by the club's newest member, who marveled at how his opponent and fellow Senator, Hillary Clinton, had recently commented that "he would make a good president" and others think he'd make "a good secretary of state."
Sen. Biden also commented on the numerous instances where people in the political arena have agreed with his stance on various issues. Because of this, laughed Biden, his campaign would start issuing bumper stickers bearing the phrase, "Joe is Right." After he completed his comments, Biden worked the room, exchanging hugs and handshakes and taking time for one-on-one chat.
That personal interaction didn't escape the notice of Parker Ryan, who estimated there was "about 125 people" present at his Hampton establishment.
"He was a great speaker," Ryan said of Biden, "but more than that, he spent the time individually talking to almost every person attending the event."
The Royal Society Bridge Club, added Ryan, "once again was happy to have such a distinguished member of the Senate become a member." Indeed, Biden now joins the ranks of such notables as Sen. John Kerry who have taken the same oath.
Like it was for the others before him, induction into the Royal Society Bridge Club was carefully considered even before the invitation was extended.
"We're very impressed with Biden, and had previously offered a possibility for membership," Ryan explained. "Biden's people responded, we set the day, and inducted him into the Bridge Club."
There may be more opportunities for public oath-taking by deserving inductees.
"We've extended the Bridge Club hand out to Rudy Giuliani and Barack Obama, and we fully expect to hear if they will also be looking for membership to the Bridge Club," said Ryan, acknowledging that "We have certainly inducted more Democrats than Republicans." Sports figures, television personalities, business people and civic leaders have also raised their right hand to solemnly swear.
Naturally, such gatherings are big hits with the regs at Widow's, as well as members of the Royal Society Bridge Club themselves.
"Politicians seem to bring us the most attention particularly during the primaries, and probably create some of the enthusiasm because their membership into the Bridge Club is noted by the press," Ryan said. "And the Bridge Club has never been shy or hesitant of that notoriety."
Of course, by the time Biden bid good-bye and hit the campaign trail once again, his earlier tardiness appeared to be forgiven and forgotten.
"He had a group of a couple hundred people before us [at Pease]; he saw it necessary to stay and get into the issues with them," said Ryan. "And with the time constraints they (candidates) have with scheduling and the number of stops they make, it's very impressive that he would take that time to include all those people."
When all was said and done, though, having to wait at the Widow Fletcher's for Biden to arrive really didn't seem to matter. "We were in a much more comfortable environment than other people," observed Ryan. "As anxious as we were to see him, I can't think of a much better place [to wait] than here."