One Southern sibling is a political skyrocket aimed at the White House; the other is a recovering drug addict who calls the first one ”Bubba.” Jimmy and Billy Carter? No siree, Bob, it’s Bill and Roger Clinton.
At the finale of the Democratic convention, the presidential nominee’s baby brother, Roger, 36, stood teary-eyed next to soul singer Jennifer Holliday, coleading the Madison Square Garden crowd rapturously singing ”Circle of Friends.” He held his mom’s 1928 silver dollar for luck (some viewers mistook it for a symbol loosely associated with Alcoholics Anonymous, because Roger was in AA). ”That night,” Roger says, ”I took (the coin) to my brother’s suite and I said, ‘Bubba, let’s grip it.”’
It’s not so long since Roger was singing a different tune — the jail-house blues. A promising R&B singer in his teens, he almost blew it all on cocaine: In his 20s, he was reportedly powdering his nose 16 times a day. A 1984 drug sting got him sentenced to two years and locked up in Arkansas for one. ”I was in AA for a while and in prison some eight years ago,” Roger says, dismissively. ”It’s past news, old. Maybe eight years ago I was a liability. If they want to bring me up, they will. But people don’t vote for me.”
Unlike the ill-starred Billy Carter, though, Roger just might win votes for his bubba. He beat his addiction in prison and attributes his recovery to family values. Bill regularly went to therapy sessions with him (although, as governor, he authorized the bust), as did their mother, Virginia Kelley. ”Without their love and support I never would have made it,” Roger says. ”My brother stuck with me from the first word (of my arrest) to the end. I worship him.”
After rehab, Roger spent three years in Nashville setting up equipment for country great George Jones, who knows a thing or two about bouncing back from substance abuse. Though Roger had been staying off music as well as toot, he impulsively jammed with the band at Bill’s fifth inauguration as governor in 1991. In the audience was Danny Thomason, a Little Rock optometrist whose famous brother, Harry, produces the television hits Designing Women and Evening Shade with his wife, Linda Bloodworth-Thomason. (Harry and Linda are longtime friends of Bill Clinton’s.) ”I didn’t know who in the hell (Harry) was,” recalls Roger, who is now employed as a production assistant by the husband-and-wife team’s company, Mozark Productions, and lives in North Hollywood.
Roger is dating a preschool teacher, who recently moved from St. Louis to & be closer to him, and he is getting back into show biz on his own: He leads an R&B band called Politics. ”It’s not because of my brother,” he says of the name. ”Politics dictates what goes on everywhere.” He describes the music of the group, which plays during set breaks at tapings of Mozark shows, as ”mostly covers that provide an uplifting atmosphere.” Convention partner Holliday says he has ”a nice bluesy voice with a country timbre,” and some record companies have contacted him since the convention. ”If I get a deal, Randy Goodrun (”Circle of Friends” cowriter) will be my collaborator,” says Roger. He thinks his bro will also land a steady gig in November.
”I honestly feel that Bill will be an effective and great leader,” Roger says. ”He’s led our family, then the church, the school, and the state. He’s ready to graduate to the big leagues.” But if Bill makes it to the White House and then fumbles, he won’t get sweet harmony from his bubba. ”He may stink as President,” Roger admits, ”and if he does, I’ll be the first to tell him.”