By Amy Silverman
By Olivia LaVecchia
By Monica Alonzo and Stephen Lemons
By Chris Parker
By Michael Lacey
By Weston Phippen
When Charles Holden first walked the halls of the White House, he was wearing an imitation Alpine mountaineering hat with a huge ostrich feather sticking out of it. That was in the spring of 1964, and he was in from New Jersey on his eighth-grade class trip. A government official told him in no uncertain terms to remove the thing.
"He takes one look at me, starts shaking his head, and says, 'What do you do when you're in somebody's house?'" bellows Holden, recalling the scene as if it happened yesterday. "And I just looked at him, like, what?? What?? 'You take your hat off!!'"
And now Charles Holden wants to return to the White House, but not just for a brief sightseeing tour in an Alpine hat with an ostrich plume--he wants to be your next president.
Which will probably not happen.
All right, all right, it won't happen at all. At least not in '96; 2000 is still up for grabs.
Every four years, there are countless citizens who announce they're running for president, people who don't stand a chance in hell of even becoming dogcatcher, let alone propping up their Florsheims on that big desk in the Oval Office.
But that's part of the American system, a system that fosters hopes and dreams for Everyman, a system in which Charles Holden is a true believer.
Holden is 45 years old and a native of Bridgewater Township, New Jersey. He speaks with that classic, warm, Jersey accent, and he looks a little like Dick Van Patten, who also speaks with that classic, warm, Jersey accent.
Holden says he is a 13th-generation American. The first Holden to make his home in the New World settled at Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1628. Now Charles--so many Holdens later--has settled in a Phoenix trailer park near I-17 and Indian School Road. His reconditioned '50s Airstream is also the official Holden campaign headquarters.
Charles Holden claims to have had more than 100 different jobs since he graduated from college in 1974, including manufacturing engineer, production planner, metal stamping worker, plastics fabricating laborer and door-to-door Electrolux vacuum salesman. Ask him what he could bring to the country's highest office, and here is what he will say:
"You see, I'm a unique person with unique qualifications. Most people who become president are people who have been the governor of a state or a senator or a general. I feel that I am the kind of a person who would make a good president because I have unique insights into progress."
And he's not kidding. For as long as Holden has been skipping from job to job, he has also been studying. Spending long hours in the library, absorbing facts, poring over reference books, newspapers, magazines. Forming those unique insights into progress that may someday bring him--and humankind--rewards beyond compare.
Now, an excerpt from the text of a speech he delivered to Republicans at a rally in Tucson on February 26:
"Let us commit ourselves to working towards the reversal of the aging process as the goal of humanity and the goal of the American people. ... We can develop a program to replace most of the buildings in the United States of America and give a new home to anybody who wants one by building manufacturing machines to produce building supplies from recycled and reconstituted materials, and construct buildings via remote control using computers."
"Eventually, with the advancements of biotechnology and radio, science will bring people back from the grave, and we will begin the earliest stages of planning to schedule this inevitable scientific achievement of the future so people throughout the entire world will know: Those who have lost loved ones or spouses have hope with the progress we'll build in our great nation America."
It may seem like Holden has brought Ed Wood back from the grave and hired him as a speechwriter.
But Charles, as you might have guessed, is unperturbed by naysayers. "I feel a moral responsibility to express my ideas," he clarifies. "What I'm talking about is progress and inevitable scientific facts of the future. And none of the nationally known candidates, nobody on television or anywhere in the media, is really discussing these subjects."
Well, if nothing else, it takes guts to base a political campaign on issues such as these; it's hard to imagine Bob Dole braying out the advantages of bringing the dead back to life.
"These are issues that people aren't talking about, but will be realities in the very near future," Holden exclaims. "People need to face these issues. ... Look, in 1952, if someone walked into a meeting of Republicans or Democrats and said, 'We should have in our platform a plan to put a man on the moon and return him safely to Earth,' people would have laughed. They would think it was totally ridiculous."
I'm sitting there across the table from Holden, who is dressed simply in a blue work shirt with a Bic pen jutting from the pocket. He looks a little peaked; the political arena can be tiring--he had to take the bus to the New Times Building for this interview. Yet his eyes are aglow behind the thick glasses.