Rangel buoyant at birthday bash

Herb Boyd | 4/12/2011, 5:24 p.m.

Several stories about Congressman Charles Rangel's birthday bash pegged their ledes on Dionne Warwick's "That's What Friends Are For," which was indeed appropriate since the Plaza Hotel was an impenetrable gaggle of his friends, family and associates last week.

But Chuck Jackson's soaring "You'll Never Walk Alone" was equally on target and key as he matched Warwick--who was substituting for the ailing Aretha Franklin--in moving the crowd to thunderous applause.

Because of Rangel's recent turmoil, many pundits on the right were predicting a small turnout and something akin to a wake. "I've been to a lot of funerals, but this damn sure ain't no funeral!" Rangel said to loud approval.

The event was sold out hours before folks such as Harry Belafonte and an impressive retinue of elected officials began arriving.

When Rangel arrived with his wife, Alma, it took him a good hour to move across the Grand Ballroom to the stage, where Danny Mixon and his trio were grooving on--was that--"Some Enchanted Evening."

If not enchanted, the evening was festive and made all the more enjoyable with Governor David Paterson as emcee. One of his best quips was that everyone in the crowd would get a chance to speak. "Just come on up with three blank checks and the mic is yours," he joshed.

And at a reported $200 per person, the Rangel campaign banked a few more bucks in the war chest. Rep. Carolyn Maloney wasn't able to attend, but, according to the emcee, texted her goodwill and the promise of a check for $2,500.

There were a number of great one-liners, and Rev. Al Sharpton was the usual nimble wordsmith, tossing a riposte to the mainstream media. "You started and executed a political crucifixion," he said, his bomb lobbed to the press, "but stay tuned for a political resurrection."

Mayor Bloomberg got in a nifty one, too. Commenting on those not in attendance, the mayor said, "They knew they were going to have a headache."

Inside the ballroom, the hilarity and praise were unending with Rep. Joe Crowley, Councilwoman Inez Dickens (her leg in a cast), Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, City Comptroller John Liu and Attorney General Andrew Cuomo each extending their warm regards to the octogenarian Lion of Lenox Avenue.

Outside, there was a small group of protesters with placards calling Rangel a "liar" and a "cheat." Among the dissenters were people carrying signs supporting Jonathan Tasini, one of the candidates seeking to unseat Rangel.

When one of protesters directly heckled former Mayor David Dinkins as he arrived, the feisty mayor shot back a middle finger and then hurried on to the festivities.

"We're going to win this one," Rangel roared before cutting his huge birthday cake, and that was the only understatement of the evening.