Sunday, June 21, 2009

Portrait of Roy Blunt, getting his Mormon schmooze on

Last September, Gladys Knight's new Mormon choir, Saints Unified Voices, performed at a stake in Hazelwood as part of a missionary service. My wife and I attended, on the invite of a Latter Day Saints friend, and to occupy my mind I spent the service sketching faces from the choir.

Since this was part of a worship service, held in a stake (LDS name for church), my sketches were the only visual record of the performance; photographs were not allowed. There also was a growing public awareness that the former Pip had converted to this somewhat exotic faith and was leading a choir. These two factors combined made my sketches of Gladys Knight's Mormon choir on this blog something of a modest internet sensation.

Last night the same friend extended a VIP invitation for us to see The Mormon Tabernacle Choir in its first St. Louis performance since 1958. She urged me, "Bring your sketchbook!" so I did, but it was an altogether different scene. The choir performed on the floor of what is typically a big hockey rink, not in a cozy stake, and camera flashes were popping from all corners. Not complaining here, our seats were just fine, but I also wasn't close enough to sketch any faces.

The VIP reception beforehand was a different story, however. It was attended by the Missouri Republican elite. Latter Day Saints are understood to be a reliable bloc of deeply conservative voters with a tradition of volunteerism - Republican red meat.

Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder was getting out of his truck as we were crossing the parking garage, and former U.S. Sen. Jim Talent sat near us. U.S. Rep. Roy Blunt, the GOP's current senatorial aspirant, held court at the reception, and I sketched him in this act, gesturing with his left hand like someone giving orders or making an emphatic point.

My schtick is to ask people to sign my sketches of them. As the VIP reception was breaking up for the concert proper, I approached Blunt, thinking to get his John Hancock. In fact, I would have been getting a John Ashcroft, for it was the former U.S. Attorney General and not Roy Blunt whom I was bumrushing, as I realized at the very last moment.

What can I say? They part their hair on the same side. And they all - by this, I mean every politician, and for that matter almost every man at the reception - dress in the same outfit.

The concert was great, by the way. Ashcroft - described a little ridiculously as "General Ashcroft" - was invited to conduct the finale, which seemed to have been the ride of his life. I could have done without it. But it was their party, and they can honor whomever they want to.

Mayor Francis G. Slay, a Democrat by name, was in the house (sat with his wife directly behind my wife and me during the concert, as a matter of fact) and seemed very comfortable in this crowd. I was trying to grant the man some privacy on a night out with his wife, and I'm not very interested in him personally, though I think that was him and another man from his group who stood behind us and very enthusiastically applauded Ashcroft on the bandstand, complete with hoots and hollers.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

the church you refer to as a "stake" was likely a "stake center".
a stake is an administrative unit composed of multiple congregations. A stake is approximately comparable to a diocese in the Catholic Church.
a ward is a single congregation.
a church is a church, some churches are stake centers too.