One Saturday morning in early November 2020, Fernando Silva, the wine director of Bedford’s Glen Arbor Golf Club, was at home when he received a phone call from Grant Gregory, the club’s president.
“He asked me if I was around the next afternoon,” Silva recalls. “I said yes. Then he asked me if I could bring my best paintings to the club because a special friend of his was coming to play golf with his friends, and he wanted to honor them with a little private show. So I said, ‘Yes, of course, sir.’”
Silva arrived at the club around 11:30 a.m., set everything up and then waited. At 2:00 p.m., Silva texted Gregory.
“I told him I was at the club and asked if he was coming soon,” says Silva. “He texted back and asked if everything was set. I wrote ‘yes.’ He replied, ‘Perfect.’ And that was it. Radio silence.”
Ten minutes later, President Bill Clinton walked in and asked the receptionist if Silva was there. She told him that Silva was upstairs, and then she went upstairs to tell Silva that Clinton had arrived. Silva was shocked – he didn’t know who the show was for. He told the receptionist to send him up.
“He came upstairs with 10 or 12 people and asked me, ‘You’re Fernando?’ I replied, ‘Yes, sir.’ He said, ‘You are the artist and the sommelier?’ I replied, ‘Yes, sir.’ ‘Good, good,’ he said. ‘We’re here to see your artwork. These are my friends.’”
As they began looking around the room, Clinton asked Silva to tell him about his work. Silva walked with Clinton, describing the various paintings until Clinton stopped at a 40” x 40” painting, turned to Silva and asked, “Why did you make this one?”
“It was around the time Sean Connery passed away, and I told him I was inspired by James Bond,” Silva explains. “Then President Clinton turned around, put a hand on my shoulder and said, ‘I want you to listen to a story. Back in the day, I met Sean Connery at a Hollywood gala, and we clicked. I told him I wished I was James Bond, and he told me he wished he was the president of the United States. It became our joke with each other. We spent a lot of time together and became very, very good friends. Two days before Sean Connery passed, he called me. He knew he was going to pass.’”
“President Clinton got very emotional,” Silva continues. “And then he said, ‘I’m speechless. Thank you very much. You’re a great artist.’ It was a very strange moment. Then he started to leave, and everybody followed him out. They shook my hand, told me my work was great and thanked me for my time.”
“Then, as the whole entourage was going downstairs, Clinton turned around and came back up. He got close to me and whispered, ‘How much do you want for that painting?’ I said, ‘Mr. President, I want your friendship. How about that?’ He replied, ‘You got it.’ He shook my hand, gave me a hug and took my painting. It’s now hanging in his office, and that experience will be with me forever.”
Now, whenever Clinton sees Silva at the club, he shakes his hand and says, “My artist.” Silva responds, “My president.”