Ed Rendell and His Bitches

Why is the most important Philadelphian of the past 25 years eating microwave dinners at home alone with his golden retrievers? Because a man’s life changes. That’s why

A FEW MINUTES AFTER nine o’clock, Dave pulls the Crown Vic up in front of Michael’s, the well-known eatery on 55th Street. Ed’s appearance on Morning Joe, during which he valiantly defended the Obama administration’s actions in Libya, was strong—so strong that after the show, Mike Barnicle, a regular panelist, pulled out his smartphone and showed Ed an e-mail he’d just gotten from longtime GE head Jack Welch raving about Ed’s performance.

Ed’s next appointment is at a bond market conference sponsored by Bloomberg Media. The organizers have requested that all speakers arrive an hour early, but Ed—who would rather poke himself in the eye with a fork than sit around doing nothing for an hour—has nixed that idea. “That’s an NFW,” he proclaims. “No fucking way.

As we wait for a table, I pick up a copy of Newsweek that someone has left behind and wonder aloud how Tina Brown, who’s now the editor, will change the magazine. This gets Ed’s attention—he didn’t know about Tina—and he takes the magazine from me, no doubt in part because later in the week he’s scheduled to fly to L.A. to be on Bill Maher’s HBO show with her.

That Ed doesn’t know about Tina Brown is not particularly surprising, since it’s actually hard to figure out how Ed knows as much as he does—and he knows a lot—about what’s happening in the world. For instance, the former governor of the sixth most populous state in the country not only doesn’t surf the Internet for news; he doesn’t even own a computer. Well, all right, he did recently get an iPad, but he doesn’t know how to use it, and honestly, he isn’t quite sure where it is. He also doesn’t use e-mail. Instead, a big chunk of his communication is done via the new RAZR flip phone he just bought—one call after another, along with countless texts from people in his office.

As with transportation and food, the fact that Ed has not fully embraced 21st-century technology creates some logistical issues. As we sit down at our table, he pulls out a draft of the column he’s done for tomorrow’s Daily News. He wrote the piece—a response to GQ naming Eagles and Phillies fans the worst in America—longhand on a legal pad last night, then early this morning had someone at MSNBC scan it and e-mail it to Kirstin Snow. Her job is to type the column, edit it and send it off—presuming she can decipher Ed’s scrawl. “I’m sure we’ll be getting frantic e-mails all day because even Kirstin, who’s been with me six, seven years, cannot read my handwriting,” Ed laughs. I look at the hieroglyphics on the page. “Even my wife has—had—trouble with my handwriting.”

Ed looks around the restaurant. He first came to Michael’s a few months ago with his new TV and book agent, and he is noticeably captivated by the mix of media, entertainment and business types who frequent the place. “That woman in the black-and-white dress”—Ed glances at a striking young brunette a few tables away—“I wonder what she is? Could be a producer, could be an editor.”

Suddenly, Ed is on his feet. “I think I see one of my friends, one of my biggest contributors,” he says, and he’s gone—off to shake the hand of some older fellow having breakfast on the other side of the room. Three minutes later, he’s back.

“People always ask me, ‘What do you do for your contributors?’” he says. “The press is always saying, ‘Oh, you give your contributors contracts.’” He rolls his eyes. “I have never given a contract out—shoot me with sodium pentothal—to a contributor who didn’t earn it. But what I do for my contributors is, I go to bar mitzvahs, I go to weddings.” And says hello to them in restaurants—30 seconds of Ed time is a powerful thing.

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  • Amanda

    A story about Ed Rendell is usually not appealing to me. The title and first few sentences drew me in and I couldn’t stop reading. Although it’s not Shakespeare, I loved every word of it it…especially the title!

  • Diana

    That picture is the most disturbing thig I’ve ever seen.

  • Mandy May

    I loved reading this story. The writer managed to turn an article which would normally be boring into something funny and intriguing. After reading the story I have a new perspective on Ed Rendell…and his bitches!