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Bill Clinton

By Anthony Petriello

The streets of downtown Huntington were buzzing the morning of June 28 as readers and fans alike waited patiently for a chance to meet former President Bill Clinton (D) and author James Patterson.

Security was tight at Book Revue, an independently-owned bookstore on New York Avenue, and excitement was in the air. A long line stretched around the corner Main Street before taking a turn onto Wall Street as patrons began lining up as early as 9 a.m. for the 11 a.m. event.

“I’m a big supporter of his,” said Chris Jones, who said he was elated to meet Clinton. “It’s not every day you get the opportunity to meet a U.S. President.”

Clinton and Patterson were signing copies of their latest joint novel, “The President is Missing,” which was released June 4. The thriller takes place in contemporary America, wherein the president goes missing only to become a suspect in a looming attack.

“It’s not every day you get the opportunity to meet a U.S. President.”
– Chris Jones

“As the novel opens, a threat looms. Enemies are planning an attack of unprecedented scale on America,” reads Patterson’s description of the plot posted on his website. “Uncertainty and fear grip Washington. There are whispers of cyberterror and espionage and a traitor in the cabinet. The President himself becomes a suspect, and then goes missing.”

The book signing attracted a wide variety of people. Among the younger audience in attendance was Ryan McInnes, who was standing in line with his father.

“He’s inspirational to young people in this country,” McInnes said.

The president and Patterson were not available for comment at the event, but those who purchased tickets and waited patiently had the opportunity to meet the co-authors and have their copy of the novel signed.
This was Clinton’s second time appearing at Book Revue, which was founded in 1977 and is now one of the largest independent bookstores in the United States. The store has hosted many notable figures in the past including Hoda Kotb, Anderson Cooper and Bill Nye, among others.

Book Revue Owner Richard Klein was appreciative of Clinton’s cooperation.

“He is very personable, and we were happy to have him,” Klein said. “The event went very smoothly and we were happy to serve our customers and see everyone having a good time.”

Book Revue has several copies of “The President is Missing” that were signed by Patterson and made available for purchase after the event. The store is located at 313 New York Avenue in Huntington.

Michael Tessler, far left, at the Icon Oscars at Walt Disney's Hollywood Studios in Orlando, Florida. Photo from Michael Tessler


[Movie trailer voice] In a world, on an island … a long island, there is a man, a curly-haired man, on a bold and courageous journey to create the best column ever written. Will this Jonah-Hill-looking fellow overcome his childhood lisp, will he make audiences laugh, find out in the next exciting chapter of OPEN MIKE: The Column.

To quote the late great Robin Williams, “I do voices.”  What does that even mean? [Yoda voice] Ermm, master of voices I am, make you laugh I shall [Yoda laugh]. This fascination of mine first manifested itself at the young age of 5, shortly after my youngest sister was born, leaving me with a horrendous case of middle child syndrome. My parents literally learned to tune out my voice, leaving me with no option but to invent and discover new ones.

My first real character voice was an impersonation of my Uncle Jean Pierre. His thick Parisian accent was like nothing I had ever heard before. So I began to replicate it. Weeks later and after a few thousand attempts, I figured it out. My face scrunched upward, my nose lunged toward the sky, and his voice came out of mouth — (in heavy French accent) [French laughter] “Bonjour my name Jean Pierre, and I am proud Frenchman!” this caricature version of my uncle became a hit at family parties.

From then on my range of voices grew 10-fold. Every movie I watched, every video game I played, every foreign accent I heard, I absorbed and replicated. Character voices became an outlet for this otherwise socially awkward child. There’s no better feeling than brightening a room and having the power to produce laughter. No matter your age there’s no way not to laugh at the dueling Michael Myers characters Shrek/Fat Bastard bursting into a room shouting: “Get in my belly, you stupid fat donkey!”

Voices weren’t always for an audience though. Most of the time they were just for me. One year while re-watching the  “Muppet’s Christmas Carol” (arguably the greatest film ever made), I became obsessed with learning the Muppet voices — starting with Kermit, Fozzie Bear, Beaker, Dr. Bunsen Honeydew, and inevitably Miss Piggy. Learning Miss Piggy was the first time I ever made the connection between voices and voice actors. Frank Oz, who famously gave life to Master Yoda in “The Empire Strikes Back” also played the sassy frog-loving pig we know and loathe. [In Yoda voice, then Miss Piggy voice] “Ermm, pigs, pigs lead to pork, pork leads to bacon, and bacon leads to the dark side, Kermie, don’t you love mwah?” How stunning, to hear how the voices connect to one another.

  But truthfully with time and practice anybody can do a line or two. What distinguishes professionals from amateurs is the ability to carry out any kind of dialogue, conveying any kind of emotions, and being able to do so without a second thought. Rehearsing this looks like pure insanity but is beyond rewarding. My favorite example is of Andy Serkis, who played the dual personalities of Gollum in “Lord of the Rings.” “Frodo’s our friend! Yes Yes! GOLLUM! GOLLUM! Stupid fat Hobbit(es)!” After hearing his voice, I knew I needed to up my game.

There’s literally voice recordings on my phone of every character you can possibly imagine, communicating with one another! That’s my favorite part honesty, having great historical figures and pop culture icons interacting with one another. For example:

Richard Nixon: I don’t know Bill, that wife Hillary of yours strikes me as a real crook.

Bill Clinton: Oh Rich Nixon you are so funny. If candidates were metaphorical fast food items, my wife Hillary would be a Big Mac.

Jack Kennedy: Do you mind if I chime in here? Rich you look like you sweating again.

Richard Nixon: I bet you think you’re SO hysterical Jack Kennedy.

Fozzie Bear: Wakka Wakka!

Richard Nixon: Why is there a Muppet in this scene!

Kermit: Sorry about that everybody, wrong sketch! Although while we’re here, I’d lobby you about an issue I’m passionate about, it’s not easy green!

Bernie Sanders: Hello, adorable green frog. My name Senator Bernard Senators and the top 1 percent of mammals are being treated better than 99% percent of all amphibians. I like to wave my arms in the air like an inflatable tube man at a used car dealership.

… scene!

In my life I’ve been blessed to have performed in front of thousands of people. One of the most rewarding experiences was performing a musical parody of Disney characters on a stage once graced by Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker, The Joker), Billy Dee Williams (Lando Calrissian, Harvey Dent), Jim Cummings (Winnie the Pooh, Tigger), Warwick Davis (Wicket, Professor Flitwick) and so many other vocal greats. There is nothing more magical than the look in a child’s eyes when they hear their favorite character speak to them, calling them by name. One can only hope it inspires them the same way my [in accent] French Uncle Jean Pierre did!

So, as my former employer Mickey Mouse would always say, “Thanks folks, see ya real soon! Buh-bye!”

TBR Interactive: This column is the first in our interactive series. Hear the column come to life by scanning the QR code or use the link featured below.

Trump's diet has been brought to the forefront during this election year.

By David Dunaief, M.D.

Donald Trump could learn a thing or two from Bill Clinton. No, we are not talking about politics; we are talking about health. Trump is a public persona, and his diet has been brought to the forefront. As was Clinton’s when he was the United States’ 42nd president. An Aug. 8 New York Times article discussed Trump’s love for fast food and his ironic obsession with cleanliness (1).

Trump’s approach to diet seems to be eerily similar to the standard American diet — with the added detriment of fast food. Though he likes the cleanliness of fast food chains, his arteries may not like the “dirtying” effect of atherosclerosis, or arterial plaques.

Admittedly, I don’t know anything about his family history, including whether or not cardiovascular disease is an issue; nor his blood chemistries, such as cholesterol levels; nor whether or not he has high blood pressure. However, one thing is clear: He is overweight with a significant amount of visceral fat, or belly fat. This type of body fat is considered the most dangerous because it surrounds the internal organs such as the heart (2). This promotes potential cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

For a long time, Bill Clinton also had a love for fast food and the standard American diet. However, this resulted in atherosclerosis, which caused significant blockage of coronary arteries and resulted in coronary artery bypass surgery involving four arteries in 2004. Since then, he has been on a mission to reform his diet. Through the influence of physicians like Drs. Dean Ornish and Caldwell Esselstyn, both advocates of plant-based diets, Clinton has done much better and lost significant weight, as well.

Thus, this is more about the standard American diet, with its high saturated fat, high sugar, refined grains, processed meats and elevated salt versus the nutrient-dense, more likely plant-based, approach with fruits, vegetables and whole grains and their respective effects on cardiovascular disease, atherosclerosis and even mortality.

These type of plant-based diets include the Mediterranean-type diet, the DASH diet, the Ornish diet and the Esselstyn diet.

If we look solely at the differences between saturated fats and unsaturated fats, a recent study involving over 120,000 participants showed that when just 5 percent of pure saturated fats in the diet were replaced with unsaturated fats, this resulted in a significant reduction in all-cause mortality of up to 27 percent over 32 years (3). For more details on this study analysis, see my recent article, “Let the dietary fat wars begin,” which can be found online at www.tbrnewsmedia.com.

I am a firm believer in leading by example. I think it is a powerful way to get patients to follow through with lifestyle changes, especially diet and exercise. That is why the dietary changes I ask my patients to make, I also have been following for years.

Data on cardiovascular disease

Recently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released data about cardiovascular disease that is downright depressing. From 2000 to 2010, the risk of dying from this disease was decreasing by almost 4 percent a year in both men and women (4). However, from 2010 to 2014, this decrease slowed precipitously to 0.23 percent in men and 1.17 percent in women. The reason for this slowdown is that we may have reached a ceiling in the effectiveness of traditional medical interventions. The suggestions are that we concentrate more efforts on lifestyle modifications, specifically diet, physical activity and not smoking.

At the same time, 2011-2012 NHANES data showed a significant increase in obesity and diabetes (5). The bad news is we have not changed our lifestyles enough, especially diet. The good news is that there is a large upside for change and progress!

Reversing heart disease

This research includes both Ornish and Esselstyn. Both physicians have shown it is possible, through a plant-based approach, to have a significant impact on cardiovascular disease, reversing atherosclerosis and preventing a cardiovascular event such as a heart attack.

Esselstyn’s research includes a small study with 24 of his own patients (6). Of these, 18 patients completed the five-year study. These 18 patients had experienced 49 cardiovascular events in the previous eight years. Results show that with a plant-based diet, none of the 18 had a cardiovascular event. Eleven patients chose to have angiographic analysis to determine stenosis, or blockage. None of the 11 progressed; in fact, eight showed regression in atherosclerosis.

Though this was a small study with no control group, the duration, the reversal of atherosclerosis at the study end point and the severity of cardiovascular disease prior to the study make these results intriguing and impressive.

This study was extended to 12 years with similar results and only one additional patient dropping out. Interestingly, those who discontinued the study had a subsequent total of 13 cardiovascular events. One of the key study markers was keeping total cholesterol to lower than 150 mg/dL. The diet emphasized fruits, vegetables, beans, legumes and whole grains.

Then, Esselstyn’s group looked at 198 patients with cardiovascular disease (7). The results were similar to the smaller initial study, with those in the adherent group following a nutrient-dense, plant-based diet experiencing a most astonishing cardiovascular event rate of only 0.6 percent, while the 21 who were nonadherent (the unbeknownst control group, per se) experienced an event rate of 62 percent over 3.7 years.

What about Ornish’s research? Not surprisingly, the results were very similar to Esselstyn’s. In the Ornish study, results showed a reversal in atherosclerosis of 7.9 percent in the treatment group compared to baseline, whereas those in the control arm over the same period showed a 27.7 percent increase in atherosclerosis or plaques in the arteries (8). Also, the control group experienced more than two times as many cardiovascular events as seen in the treatment group. The patients in the treatment group were on a plant-based diet.

There were 48 patients with moderate to severe cardiovascular disease at the beginning of the study, with 28 patients in the treatment group and 20 assigned to the control arm. Of these patients about 75 percent in each group completed the study. The duration of the study was five years. Again, these results are intriguing, and each study reinforces the others.

A clinical example

In my practice, I recently had a 69-year-old white male patient with cardiovascular disease and an extensive family history of the disease, who went to the cardiologist prior to working with me. The initial carotid Doppler (sonogram of the neck arteries) showed a 16 to 50 percent blockage in both carotid arteries. After a year, the carotid Doppler results had been reduced to between 1 and 15 percent blockages in both carotid arteries. The patient’s total cholesterol had dropped to 146 mg/dL, and this result included discontinuing his cholesterol medication, though it was not a statin. Of course, this is anecdotal, but it is consistent with the results mentioned in the studies above.

In conclusion, now you see why Bill Clinton followed the advice of at least two very wise physicians after his quadruple bypass surgery. Lifestyle with a nutrient-dense, plant-based diet not only can prevent cardiovascular disease but may be able to arrest and even reverse plaques in the arteries. Trump would be wise to follow suit and focus on cleanliness of his arteries rather than just cleanliness of the restaurant, as we all would.

References: (1) NYTimes.com. (2) Crit Pathw Cardiol. 2007;6(2):51-59. (3) JAMA Intern Med. 2016;176(8):1134-1145. (4) JAMA Cardiol. online June 29, 2016. (5) cdc.gov/nchs/nhanes. (6) J Fam Pract. 1995;41(6):560-568. (7) J Fam Pract. 2014;63(7):356-364b. (8) JAMA. 1998;280(23):2001-2007.

Dr. Dunaief is a speaker, author and local lifestyle medicine physician focusing on the integration of medicine, nutrition, fitness and stress management. For further information, visit www.medicalcompassmd.com or consult your personal physician.