The Button Baron of America: Mort Berkowitz

Campaign button baron meets Hillary Clinton

New York state delegates were treated to a meeting of the minds Sunday night at the Boston Park Plaza hotel. Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) was leaving a party for New York state Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D) when she stopped to peruse a large collection of campaign buttons on sale outside. The man selling the buttons, New Yorker Mort Berkowitz, rushed to hand Clinton a button featuring herself and four other former first ladies arranged in a halo around a sunlit Teresa Heinz Kerry with the motto “In the tradition of Great Democratic First Ladies.”

Dozens of other buttons adorned the table, including “Stars for Kerry-Edwards,” with Barbra Streisand, Robert Redford and Bette Midler, and “The Dawning of a New Day” with John Kerry and John Edwards pasted on top of a sunrise.

As Berkowitz looked on anxiously, Clinton proclaimed the button “neat.”

“She loved it!” said Berkowitz, all smiles after Clinton’s entourage had moved on. Like Clinton, Berkowitz has risen to the top of his field, having once been dubbed the Button Baron of the Big Apple. His big break came in 1996 when he came up with the idea of putting basketball player Dennis Rodman’s hair on Hillary’s head under the slogan “Hillary Rodman Clinton: As Bad as She Wants To Be.”

“That was her favorite button,” Berkowitz said. “She mentioned it on Page 375 of her book!”

After observing the impromptu Clinton-Berkowitz meeting at the Park Plaza, prominent New York election lawyer Jerry Goldfeder announced that Berkowitz was now the “Button Baron of America.”

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