Ojai resident "House' guest
By Kelly Feser Eells
Ed Sullivan would have called
it a "really big shew," perhaps even a "really,
really big shew." And it was.
Just ask local talent, or rather, talent agent, Bill Monot of
Paradise Artists - he produced it. And though Monot has produced
a lot of shows over the years - including shows for the U.S.
Embassy in Beijing, even when "everyone was still wearing
black Mao suits" - the show he produced for the White House's
annual congressional picnic, held June 20, was a personal favorite.
"We had 'em all dancing in the aisles," Monot laughed.
"The president, everyone; it was a blast."
The picnic, Monot explained, is a White House tradition. "It's
the administration's way of thanking Congress for all their hard
work, a fun way for the president and first lady to honor the
congressmen (and women) and their families, who don't get to
see much of them when Congress is in session."
This year's picnic was actually a barbecue, down to the red-checkered
tablecloths on every table and Texan-sized portions on every
plate. But the music was Motown, not country.
Indeed, "we got a call in early June from an aide of the
First Lady, a Texas debutante" familiar with Paradise Artists
and Dennis Edwards, "original voice from The Temptations"
and longtime Paradise client.
"This year," said Monot, "they wanted the Motown
sound," which Paradise Artists all but specialized in when
producing shows at foreign embassies. "It gives a little
flavor of home," he said, smiling. "We had Mary Wilson
(former Supremes singer), for example, for the show we did for
the diplomats in Vatican City; everyone loved that.
"Motown," he noted, "is the music of joy, and
with all the stuff going on in the world, well, we need it."
Monot also noted that "everyone loved Edwards and his band
- he calls it The Temptation Review" - and they were all
given an almost royal welcome.
"The White House gave us great access," he said, "arranging
for a private tour and everything. It was kind of a surreal feeling,
walking along the halls and looking at the Lincolns' china and
Since the Sept. 11 attacks, "the Secret Service has to bring
you into the White House now," and public access to it is
limited - a sad fact that, Monot indicated, the current administration
is all too aware of.
"The president said it best," Monot said, describing
his first encounter with 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.'s current occupant.
"He said, 'Welcome to the People's House.'" Monot added
that later, "when he was chatting with us, asking us how
we liked the tour, complimenting us on the show, etc., I said,
'Mr. President, Dennis has been here before.'"
"Yeah," Dennis said, "I was here for Tricia Nixon's
And the president just smiled at him and said, "Man, you
hide your age well."
The Ojai Valley News
to the news
Monot, of the Ojai-based Paradise Artists, with President George
W. Bush at the White House.