If Betty White makes an appearance at the Democratic National Convention tonight, you can thank Peter Slutsky. The director of platform services for WordPress VIP took advantage of timing and technology to spur a counter-story to one of the defining media narratives of the Republican National Convention.
Clint Eastwood’s bizarre speech to an empty chair last week was characterized by many as the work of a rambling old man. Slutsky takes issue with the “old” part. Soon after Eastwood’s speech, the New Yorker started a petition on Change.org in an effort to elevate his favorite Golden Girl into a prime-time position at the convention: introducing the President. (Conveniently, Slutsky’s twin brother Matthew is head of partnerships at Change.org.)
At one of many booze-fuelled receptions in Charlotte yesterday, Slutsky shouted over the noise of clinking glasses and moshing suits to tell me that the petition started off as a bit of fun but has turned into something more serious.
If he were a senior citizen, he would have felt alienated when the pundits talked about Eastwood being old. “I would say ‘Give me the microphone!’ and I would go up there and be hysterical,” Slutsky said. “Betty White speaks to that, because her entire career she’s been old. When I was a kid she was old on ‘The Golden Girls’. Now she’s like the oldest person ever to walk the Earth, but she’s still funny as shit.”
For the first two days of the petition, hardly anyone paid attention. Slutsky started by Tweeting at Obama, and the 90-year-old White but got nothing back. Friday passed, and then Saturday. But on Sunday, the number of signatures started ticking into the thousands. Before getting on a plane to Charlotte on Monday, he put a message on his Facebook wall telling people it had gone viral, and then the thing took off. A companion Facebook group attracted tens of thousands of fans. The media started noticing. As of this morning, the petition has been covered by USA Today, the New York Daily News, CNN, and the Washington Post, among others. It has nearly 13,500 signatures.
“It was like this really cool moment that I’m like, ‘This is really working’,” said Slutsky. “A little Facebook, a little Tumblr, a little Change.org, Twitter, and it’s all coming together and people are seeing what we’re doing, and it was awesome.”
Slutsky knows from his contacts inside Obama’s campaign that news of the petition has reached the very top of the organization, but he doesn’t know if White is going to have a role tonight. The actor’s agent told Entertainment Weekly that she probably can’t attend the convention, but Slutsky is hoping she might make an appearance via video. Perhaps it could be a Google Hangout.