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Time crawls at Big Wangs in Hollywood, a utilitarian sports bar a block from the CNN West headquarters on Sunset. At 5 p.m. on Election Day, the dozens are sipping their pints and biding their time. The electoral score is 8-3 McCain, the Arizona senator having taken Kentucky to Obama’s Vermont. It’s a bit of a snoozer, actually, and half the bar is watching Best Sports Bloopers on a competing screen. They’re at the clip in which the male Olympic gymnast slams into a pommel horse at full stride. John and Cindy McCain are on another screen, a tape of them voting. ESPN-HD is showing Obama playing basketball on another TV.
The place has maybe three dozen TVs of varying sizes, the biggest of which can barely contain Wolf Blitzer’s stride as he walks across his stage to and fro, moving from jumbo electoral map to holographic projection to political analyst like he’s the host of Let’s Make a Deal. A clock in a corner of the screen counts down to the next batch of poll closings, and you halfway expect Blitzer to signal for a timeout.
Here in the belly of Godless Elite Hollywood, people gnaw on buffalo wings and laugh at bloopers — just like Real Americans. We like drinking beer while we watch tonight’s sport of choice, presidential politics, and though the oddsmakers closed the book on this election a few weeks ago, the drama is real at the beginning of the night.
You can tell that it’s real a block away at the CNN West high-rise by the way the people crowd around the outdoor TV sets. As Blitzer calls Pennsylvania for Obama, the high-fives pop and a passing car honks horn patterns.
Driving west down Sunset Boulevard toward the California Obama for America victory party, National Public Radio confirms a new reality. States are tipping. The entire northeast is for Obama. South Carolina’s gone red. Virginia’s too close to call but teetering toward Obama. North Carolina is neck and neck. And what of Ohio?
“It’s becoming ever apparent that the numbers are not going to add up for John McCain,” the anchorman says.
The Hyatt Regency Century Plaza hotel is on Avenue of the Stars in Century City, directly across the street from the new Creative Artists Agency headquarters — known to Angelenos as the Death Star. Makeshift merchandisers hawk Obama buttons and T-shirts to the lines of revelers headed inside. A guy walks along the sidewalk and screams, “They just called Florida for Obama!” to hugs and hollers. Inside the lobby is every Huckabee’s nightmare: Thousands of Hollywood liberals shoulder-to-shoulder, smiling and gliding down escalators toward their victory party in Gomorrah.
In the main room, which plays host to awards shows on other nights, DJ Jeremy Sole pumps a Stevie Wonder big-beat remix to the shoulder-to-shoulder thousands. A net of red, white and blue balloons competes with the crystal chandeliers for overhead attention.
“You can feel it all over,” Stevie sings. (Later, Sole will tell me he picked songs from across the globe for his set, wanting to deliver to the revelers “the universal rhythm.”)
Wolf Blitzer’s on an even bigger screen here, and he’s talking to a holographic image of Black Eyed Peas producer will.i.am. A line of Latino women threads through the ballroom, all of them wearing T-shirts that boast, “700,000 Calls.” Fifty-five percent of Obama’s phone-bank efforts originated in California.
When the victory announcement arrives, the thousands scream and hug and kiss and do what giddy people do. That part of the night can’t be put into words. One of the huggers, a woman, captures President-Elect Obama’s — and America’s — most pressing question: “Now what?” she wonders to no one in particular, and a few people smile and nod.
Across town, a half-hour later, at the Echoplex dance club in Echo Park, DJ Diplo holds court on the turntables before a vast conspiracy of 20-somethings — the youngsters who helped to deliver victory to President-Elect Obama. It feels like New Year’s Eve, and as he drops M.I.A.’s horn-heavy anthem “XR2,” the rhythm hits like a train: “Where were you in ’92?” rhymes M.I.A. Unlike at the Century, the joy here is sexualized. Couples are full-body hugging and making out. It feels like that iconic photo of soldiers returning from World War II, a sailor getting wet kisses from a nurse in New York City. Every contact feels extrahonest, like we’ve just been through such an ordeal that we long for real comfort. Diplo screams into the mike along to the rhythm: “O-bam-a! Oh my god! O-bam-a! Oh my god!”
Damn, it feels good to be an American.