Bill Clinton's brother hits Hollywood -- Despite failed attempts in music, TV, and books, Roger Clinton keeps shooting for fame

By Tim Appelo
Updated June 04, 1993 at 04:00 AM EDT

Bill Clinton recently logged 100 much-analyzed days on the job, but few have scrutinized the first 100 days of First Brother Roger, who has been pursuing his own agenda for decades. A performer since age 4, when he flashed the teenage Bill and his girlfriend, and a musician since he first crooned ”Red Roses for a Blue Lady” to his swooning mama, Roger, 37, has spent his months as sibling-in-the-spotlight relentlessly chasing his dream: to become the baby-boom reincarnation of the family idol, Elvis.

While Roger has yet to attain Elvis’ superstar status, it’s not because he hasn’t tried just about every possible path to the spotlight. Nor has he avoided red-blooded, Presleyesque responses to insults, as his recent scuffle at a New York Knicks game attests. But such antics are fast taking the luster off Clinton’s formerly rising star. Once-vocal Clinton backers have fallen conspicuously silent in recent weeks. Here’s a rundown on the First Bro’s show-biz career to date:

TV Player Before his performance at the Democratic Convention last July launched his singing career, Roger Clinton had a day job as a production assistant at Mozark, the Hollywood company that produced the recently canceled Designing Women. Mozark cofounder Linda Bloodworth-Thomason, a longtime Little Rock pal of both Clintons, hired Roger two years ago to do odd jobs: answering phones, fetching coffee, singing to studio audiences during shooting breaks. Current Status: Clinton quit Mozark in March.

Bar Rocker Clinton’s most recent live gig — with his band, Politics — was May 11 at the Palace in Manhattan; his most conspicuous was April 24 at Farm Aid, during which he belted his own composition ”Nothin’ Comes Easy.” Current Status: Lollapalooza ’93 needn’t fear losing venues to Clinton’s band; his only scheduled concerts are June 10 at the Concord hotel in the Catskills and next month in South Korea.

Recording Artist Elizabeth Kaye, a writer who covered the Democratic Convention last summer, was so taken by Roger’s musical talent that she persuaded six friends to put up $250 apiece for a trip to Nashville for him. Last August, Clinton recorded four songs, including blues-rockers called ”Brother Brother” and ”Smoke-Filled Rooms,” at A Cut Above Studio. His studio band was the Memphis Boys, who backed Elvis on his 1969 comeback smash, ”Suspicious Minds” — a dream come true for Clinton. And Elvis’ onetime cohorts were impressed: ”He was no novice,” insists Memphis Boys bassist Mike Leech, 51. ”He had kind of — how do I say this without making him mad? — a nasally, funky voice. He hit all the high notes.”

The demo also impressed Atlantic Records, which signed Clinton for a reported $200,000. Clinton sang the bluesy ”A Change Is Gonna Come” at the Jan. 21 MTV inaugural ball with his new labelmates En Vogue; together they taped a video of the tune, which has not yet aired. At the time, his manager, ex-Black Oak Arkansas honcho Butch Stone, predicted a $4 million, six-album follow-up deal. Current Status: MTV did not return calls regarding the video. Atlantic is mum, too, referring all questions about Clinton’s debut album — to have been titled Red Roses for a Blue Lady — to manager Stone, who says, sounding blue, ”Everything’s kind of on hold.” Kaye, who got the whole ball rolling, however, feels more than a little used: ”I wouldn’t say the investors were idiots, but they signed the wrong guy,” she says of her friends. ”Roger never said thank you.” For his part, Mike Leech remains fond of Clinton. ”Backstage at Farm Aid,” he says, ”we hugged each other’s necks.”

Memoirist In January, The Washington Post reported that Stone was expecting as much as $500,000 for a forthcoming Roger Clinton as-told-to book; the agent was to have been Morton Janklow. Stone now says the report was ”Bulls—.” Current Status: All Janklow will say is that he does not represent Roger Clinton.

Inspirational Speaker Last December, Clinton signed with the Greater Talent Network, an agency that represents speakers, reportedly in hopes of doing as many as 40 lectures a year for up to $10,000 a pop. Stone brassily predicted that Roger’s monthly take would soon exceed Bill Clinton’s annual income. Current Status: Roger is said to have received $4,000 to open trout season at the Willowemoc River in Roscoe, N.Y., on April Fools’ Day. The Greater Talent Network did not return calls.

The New John Belushi Stone boasted in January that Dan Aykroyd was interested in reviving the Blues Brothers, with Clinton replacing late brother-in-blues Belushi. Current Status: Unknown, but not promising; Aykroyd’s representative would not return phone calls about Clinton.

The New Sean Penn While no one has caught Clinton blasting any TV screens with a handgun, he has demonstrated an Elvis-like penchant for extreme behavior. At a Knicks game in Madison Square Garden on May 12, stockbroker Devin Arkison said Clinton throttled him for quipping, ”Bill’s outta here in three years — and your 15 minutes are almost up.” Asked the next day by Entertainment Weekly for a Clinton interview, Stone stonewalled. ”Everything’s got to be cleared by the White House,” he said. ”It’s been a bad day, man — a bad day.” (Requests for interviews with Roger Clinton are handled by Hillary Rodham Clinton’s office at the White House.)

In fact, in the days since the incident, Roger Clinton’s once-voracious publicity machine has all but stalled, with Clinton himself uncharacteristically silent. But he may already have had his say, on his Nashville demo: ”He can’t find a job,” Roger sobs on ”Brother Brother,” ”No, he can’t live a life/ It’s all he can do just to survive/ Brother, brother, do you understand?… Where will they go from here? The answer is still unclear.”