Chelsea's just one of the gang at Sidwell Friends

May 10, 1993|By Bob Dart | Bob Dart,Cox News Service

Washington -- At the ice cream truck parked outside the Sidwell Friends School on a sunny May afternoon, Chelsea Clinton's classmates giggled as they told how the presidential daughter portrayed a fortune-teller at a school carnival.

"She was reading palms," recalled Sarah Sommerkamp. "She said I had a long life line. Then she said I would marry early and my husband would have affairs."

"She's funny," chimed in Annie Hurwitz. "There were these fifth-graders just staring at her one time and she stuck out her hand and said, 'Here, you can touch me. I'm real.' It was sooooo funny."

The consensus in the Good Humor poll was that 13-year-old Chelsea fits in fine at Sidwell Friends and that her presence had meant little change for the school or her eighth-grade class.

"She's just a normal person," said Caidie Whiting, who is in Chelsea's homeroom. "She's like everybody else."

The New Yorker reported last week that before Chelsea's arrival Jan. 25, the principal at the private school (annual middle school tuition: $10,400) had asked students and faculty not to talk about her. There was some early resentment of such restrictions.

"All the classroom doors had to be locked from the inside to shut strangers out," a middle school student told the magazine. "We were mad about that, and as a joke, we made up passwords like 'Swordfish' or used expressions like 'Have the lambs stopped crying?' -- from the movie 'The Silence of the Lambs.' "

However, the students said this security measure was soon eased. The classroom doors were unlocked and Secret Service agents began to discreetly maintain their watch from outside.

Officials at the Quaker school still aren't talking about Chelsea. But some students figure Chelsea is just one of the gang now, and apparently have rejected any notion of a code of silence.

"She's in my homeroom. She's not stuck-up at all," said Rosanna Choi.

"She's just normal," added Molly Whitehead, who is in the musical theater club with Chelsea.

"She's a good actress," said eighth-grader Michael Simiu, who takes a drama class with Chelsea. "We've done some Shakespeare."

Everyone said Chelsea was a big hit as a school-carnival fortune teller, providing outrageous prognostications to fellow students on everything from life expectancy to their future love lives. "I never even got up there to her. The line was so long that I just gave up," said Kim Gist, a seventh-grader.

Indeed, so many kids wanted a palm reading by the president's daughter that Chelsea left for a while when she noticed that nobody was lined up for the predictions of another student fortune teller.

"She's really nice," said Sarah Sommerkamp.

The kids are a bit bemused now at how outsiders view the celebrity in their midst. They laughingly described how a group of students from another school were so Chelsea-crazed that the visitors marveled at a Sidwell Friends bathroom, saying, "Just think, Chelsea was here."

During the winter, Chelsea played soccer at the school and, now that spring has arrived, she is playing on a school softball team. Her mother has been spotted at games, but not her father. In Time magazine last week, Hillary Rodham Clinton talked about how the president's attendance would cause such a disruption that he hasn't been able to see Chelsea play.

"Al and Tipper [Gore] go to all their kids' games," she told the magazine. "I think Bill deserves the same kind of space" and privacy.

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