Excerpt form David Remnick's new book, Reporting:

In a little while, a new friend of Gore's, an eccentric musician and visual artist named Robert Ellis Orrall, was going to swing by to take him and Tipper to the Belcourt. "You'll like Bob," Gore said, smiling. "But I'm warning you: he does his own thing. He's a crazy kinda guy."

A few minutes later, Robert Ellis Orrall arrived. A charming man in his late forties with close-cropped hair and an earring, Orrall has a vibrant sense of performance, insofar as he is always performing. He began telling jokes the moment he arrived, and Gore seemed to relax completely in his presence. Tipper Gore, wearing a cotton sweater and hot-pink pants, came out on the patio to greet Orrall. "How are you, Bob?"

"Just fine, Tipper, but a little nervous. They asked me to introduce Al at this thing, so I've got this little speech . . ." A slight breeze of anxiety riffled Gore's features. Orrall gave every indication of being an unpredictable stage presence. It was one thing to clown around on the patio, quite another when you're introducing the former Vice-President in front of a few hundred supporters. "I hope you, um, wrote it down, Bob," Gore said. "I got it right here," Orrall said, patting his pocket.

The four of us walked out to the driveway and climbed into Orrall's car, an incommodious Volkswagen Golf. The former Vice-President opened the front door, fastidiously folded in half, and inserted himself through the narrow space available, as if through a mail slot. Once inside, he shifted his legs, zigging them up and to the right, forming with them what seemed to be an especially complicated letter in the Cyrillic alphabet. Then he very slowly closed the door on himself. There were no major injuries. Tipper climbed in back. Orrall steered out of the driveway and headed toward the theater. There were no sirens, no trail cars besides the normal run of traffic.

Gore smiled and said, "Bob, you could pretend like you're Secret Service, but you'd have to be wearing an earpiece instead of an earring." "I'll do my best," Orrall said. Orrall is a performer of parts, and one of them is as "Bob Something," the chief songwriter and singer for a farcical band called Monkey Bowl. In northern terms, Monkey Bowl might be described as a cross between the Fugs and Ali G. As we drove, Orrall produced a Monkey Bowl CD titled Plastic Three-Fifty, which listed such songs as "Stupid Man Things," "Hip Hop the Bunny," and "Books Suck." The second cut on the disk was called, simply, "Al Gore." Not long after they met, through a mutual friend, Orrall played an early version of the song for Gore. Gore liked it so much that he added a touch of his own. "Let's play it," Orrall said, and he slipped it into his CD player.

After an infectious string of guitar chords and backbeat, Orrall started singing: "Al Gore lives on my street, Three-twenty-something, Lynwood Boulevard. And, he doesn't know me but I voted for him. Yeah, I punched the card!" Soon, everyone in the car started laughing, maybe Gore most of all, and Tipper was whacking her palm against her knee in time with the drums. After another chorus comically contrasting Orrall's childhood defeat and self-pity to Gore's historical disappointment and recovery, the chorus takes its climactic turn: Life isn't fair, don't tell me, I know it 'Cause even with the popular vote, Al Gore lives on my street, right down the street from me" Finally, the song seemed to be ending, but then came the voice of Gore himself: "Hey, man, I like your song, but you need to get over all that stuff. Hey, this is a great neighborhood!" Everyone applauded, and Orrall kept driving.

Orrall pulled the VW into the parking lot of the Belcourt Theatre. Someone pointed him in the direction of a space that had been saved with an orange traffic cone. "Hey!" Gore said. "We've got an orange cone!" Orrall took the stage, plugged a performance he was making that evening at a local club, the Bluebird Café, and efficiently introduced the day's speaker. "He won the popular vote... and he lives down the street from me!" Gore, who was now wearing a jacket and tie, came out to a standing ovation.