Palin’s "Going Rogue" in vogue

Colorado Springs goes all out for Sarah Palin

By Leslie Jorgensen
THE COLORADO STATESMAN

COLORADO SPRINGS — Folks shivering in frigid, snowy weather outside Borders bookstore before dawn Tuesday looked more like a line for advance ticket sales of a rock concert than a political book-signing event. But instead of John Lennon, who once declared the Beatles “bigger than Jesus,” they were waiting as many as 14 hours to see Sarah Palin, the author of “Going Rogue: An American Life,” who is hailed as a Joan of Arc heroine by her fans.

Sarah Palin greets a devoted fan at the book-signing for “Going Rogue” in Colorado Springs as her husband, Todd, waits his turn for a handshake.
Photo by Tatianna Gruen/The Colorado Statesman

And some of them argue that Palin was nearly burned at the stake by the news media and GOP campaign gurus during her vice presidential bid last year, after U.S. Sen. John McCain, the GOP presidential candidate, plucked the Alaska governor out of obscurity.

“She’s one of us — not one of them,” declared Ruth Cordova, whose “them” was aimed at Republican and Democratic career politicians.

“Last year, at the age of 62, I registered to vote for the first time because of her,” Cordova confessed.

She and her husband, Art Cordova, sat in lawn chairs and read excerpts of “Going Rogue,” as they waited among more than 800 fans who had paid $30 for Palin’s chronicle of her life and rebellion against the establishment.

The Cordovas, who were celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary, had arrived before Chapel Hills Mall opened at 6:30 a.m. Several hours later, the bookstore doled out first-come, first-served wrist bands that were color coded to divide folks into four lines for the book signing scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. The first 300 people were guaranteed to get autographs, but chances were slim for those in the last group.

Palin arrived ahead of schedule, before 5:30 p.m., with her husband, former Alaska “First Dude” Todd Palin, and several family members. They were swiftly escorted from a mall employees’ entrance to the staged book-signing area on the second floor of the store.

The entourage was unnoticed by the crowd of fans and reporters and photographers huddled around the store’s first floor entrances.

Wearing a red scarf casually tied over a black fur vested jacket and her trademark glasses, Palin was greeted by El Paso County GOP Chair Kay Rendleman. An hour or so into the book-signing event, Colorado Springs Mayor Lionel Rivera and his wife, Lynn Rivera, hustled upstairs to welcome Palin.

Cecilia Thompson, of Grand Junction, seized her 15 minutes of fame as a Sarah Palin impersonator — an entertainment for the media photogs and hundreds of folks waiting in line.
Photo by Tatianna Gruen/The Colorado Statesman

Before the crowds filed upstairs, Palin met privately with Chris and Lynette Stratton and their children — Maddie, Will, Caroline and Jackie. Chris Stratton, now stationed at the U.S. Air Force Academy, had served at Elmendorf Air Force Base near Anchorage, Alaska, from 2003 to 2006.

Palin was most interested in meeting young Caroline, a cancer survivor, to whom she’d sent a get-well note last year during her vice presidential campaign. The young girl showed it to Palin, who added another message on the back of the formal Governor Sarah Palin-engraved notecard.

“Caroline, so glad to see you — I love you!” wrote Palin.

The timing of their meeting couldn’t have been more meaningful — on the following day, Wednesday, Caroline Stratton would complete chemotherapy treatment, then celebrate her 10th birthday on Thursday.

“It was wonderful!” said a teary-eyed Lynn Stratton, who added that the family has also met Palin’s husband, her parents, Sarah and Charles Heath, and a Palin aunt, Katie Johnson.

Downstairs in the bookstore, the first 300 or so folks lined up to have their books autographed by Palin. At a counter beneath signs of “Rock & Pop” and “Jazz,” they showed their red “guaranteed-autograph” wristbands to mall security guards and handed over jackets, purses, phones, cameras and paraphernalia to the bookstore staff, who placed the items in boxes.

“Can we get a claim check, please?” asked one woman.

“No, just tell us your name afterward,” said one of the staffers, who scribbled each person’s last name in permanent marker on their box of belongings.

The rules were clearly posted. Palin “will only sign copies of ‘Going Rogue’ — she will NOT sign any memorabilia. She will sign her signature only — no personalization. There will be no posed photographs.”

The autograph seekers weren’t allowed to carry their copies of “Going Rogue” upstairs — bookstore staffers delivered them to Palin. A few folks managed to sneak in flyers promoting Palin for president in 2012 and asked her to autograph them.

“Palinistas” Pauline Olvera, of Denver, Gretchen Lewis and Janice Bobo, of Colorado Springs, sang the praises of former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as they waited hours in line to have their “Going Rogue” books autographed.
Photo by Tatianna Gruen/The Colorado Statesman

The red, white and blue flyers had been distributed to hundreds waiting in line at Chapel Hills Mall. The push-for-Palin flyers played on the letters that spelled the former governor’s name.

“Strong, Anti-Socialist, Rogue, American Heroine. Patriotic American Leader Igniting Nationalism. America needs her courage and common sense solutions.”

The rules were stricter for the media. Photographers were allowed to take pictures upstairs for only five minutes. Reporters were confined to the first floor — out of earshot and viewing of Palin.

In the red-wristband group was Robin Coran and her teenage daughter, Mary Coran, who had left their home in southern El Paso County at 4 a.m. The usual 20-minute drive took well over an hour because of the snow and icy roads.

“I spent several hours handing out Ken Buck for U.S. Senate campaign flyers to people waiting in line,” said Robin Coran, who is Buck’s county coordinator. “I handed out at least 250 before the mall security stopped me.”

Mary Coran asked Palin if her son, Track Palin, who is serving in the U.S. Army, is available.

“Oh he is! He is!” exclaimed Palin with a laugh.

Palin asked about Coran’s high school and college plans for next year. Hearing that Coran had been accepted to Michigan’s conservative Hillsdale College, Palin enthused, “You can’t get any better than that!”

Meanwhile, hundreds of folks wearing blue, silver and neon yellow wristbands waited in lines that snaked around the bookstore and deep into the mall — and remained hopeful of having their books autographed.

The Stratton family was granted a private visit with Palin and her husband, Todd Palin, before the book-signing event in Colorado Springs. Waiting for that special moment were Maddie, 15, mom Lynette and dad Chris holding Jackie, 6, and Will, 12. Daughter Caroline, 10, while suffering cancer over the past year had received a get-well card from Palin during her vice presidential campaign last year. During the visit, Palin added a postscript to Caroline’s get-well card; “So glad to see you. I love you!”
Photo by Tatianna Gruen/The Colorado Statesman

The Palin fans bonded with strangers who shared their conservative ideals and a healthy distrust of government. They were entertained by a Palin-impersonator, Cecilia Thompson of Grand Junction, who camped before the crowd and camera crews. And they were treated to trays of free Chic-Fil-A samples.

Robert Delany, of Denver, and his friend, Marilyn Tafoya, of Greenwood Village, reminisced about seeing their heroine at several McCain-Palin campaign rallies last year.

Asked if they would encourage Palin to run for president in 2012, Tafoya quipped, “You betcha!”

“I’m not going to ask her — I’m going to order her to run!” declared Delany, who wore a shirt peppered with pro-Palin campaign buttons.

Like most folks, Delany and Tafoya , who was a McCain-Palin campaign volunteer, described Palin as the best hope for America’s future because of her “outsider” status and candor.

Karen Weeks-Bustos said, “I’m a big fan and real supporter. I hope she
runs in 2012, and that she has tough skin.”

Weeks-Bustos, who moved from Palin’s hometown of Wasilla to Colorado Springs in 1991, said that she hoped to send an autographed copy of “Going Rogue” to her son, Justin Weeks, a West Point cadet.

Several fans credited Palin for stirring conservative political activism across the country — from voting to participating in “Tea Party” rallies.

“I think she’s popular because her ideas make economic sense,” said Pauline Olvera, of Denver, who expressed dismay over the election of Democratic President Barack Obama.

“His policies are socialistic!” charged Olvera.

Glenn Frontin said he was among those who voted for the Republican presidential ticket last year because of Palin — despite his objections to McCain.

“I’m reluctantly a Republican because I could never be a Democrat,” said Frontin, who dreams of a Palin for president ticket, but doubts it will happen.

“The only chance of Sarah Palin being elected president is if voters are fed up with the politics in both parties,” said Frontin, a Christian book author from Colorado Springs.

Leslie@coloradostatesman.com