EXCLUSIVE BOOK EXCERPT: The Chief! Presidential Days and Nights of Bill Clinton
In Hope, Arkansas , there was no postwar boom. Nearby Little Rock at least had its nice little rocks. In Hope, children created makeshift rocks from chunks of garbage. Families were splitting up, and many of the quaint mom-and-pop stores in Hope's shopping district were operated by single parents. The leading occupation in town: tying shoes.
There was little hope in Hope. Until a mysterious stranger arrived.
No one knew where William Jefferson Clinton Senior had come from. He wasn’t sure himself. But with his rugged good looks – a thin Clark Gable moustache and a Clark Gable-style sleeveless t-shirt that made him resemble Clark Gable - he made quick friends. Clinton moved into the attic of a house at the edge of town on LaFayette Street. Downstairs he ran a store selling chewing tobacco. When the store mysteriously caught fire and went up in smoke, he reopened as a smoke shop. When he neglected to pay suppliers, and they cut off his inventory, he opened a second-hand-smoke shop, selling butts from “pre-owned" cigars and cigarettes. Clinton Senior had a strange quality about him – no matter what he did, folks used to say, you always wanted him to do it again.
Around this time a local beauty named Hope Jefferson wandered into Clinton’s shop. It was serendipity, really. She had been looking for the bake shop. Two weeks later, she found the bake shop, where she ordered their wedding cake.
Their son, William Jefferson Clinton Jr., was precocious and daring. According to family legend, at age two, when a doctor was giving him a dose of castor oil, he stood in his crib and announced: "Man is the only animal that takes medicine -- or needs it." Then he pointed at the doctor. Baby Bill's parents took such pride in him, they often displayed him on the mantelpiece. At age nine, he and younger brother Roger were sledding at a lake near their house when the ice cracked. Roger fell through into the icy water. Bill dashed over to save Roger from sure death. He also saved the sled, which was taken away from the boys and put in a large warehouse, never to be seen again, to their lifelong regret.
As a teenager, Clinton spent hours practicing the saxophone, in the hopes of someday playing on a record with his idol, Elvis Presley. Presley was so popular during the Fifties that even the B-sides of his records sold well, often better than the A-sides. One day, the great rock 'n' roller paid a visit to Hope High, where Clinton was an honor student. After Elvis and his band played, they invited Clinton on stage to jam. His performance was so stunning that band member Marvin Berry telephoned his cousin Chuck to say: "You know that sound you've been looking for? Listen to this!"