Chatting with Sarah Palin Poolside

The Palins are approaching the Kardashians in the sheer number and variety of reality shows they take part in.

But even with Todd Palin on board as part of the surreal casting of the upcoming “Stars Earn Stripes,” nobody expected his famous wife to join him at the NBC cocktail party that followed the press conference Tuesday.

But there, alongside the pool at the Beverly Hilton was her familiar figure, now burnished and super-tan in the manner of Hollywood brunettes, in an form-hugging, low cut blouse and five inch heels she told somebody later she bought on consignment.

Her wraparound sunglasses at dusk at an event otherwise boasting Matthew Perry, NeNe Leakes and the monkey from “Animal Practice” may have been the giveaway that this was someone who was trying to shy away from the limelight to allow her husband to be interviewed about his first reality TV show. In “Stars Earn Stripes” he goes through military operations with a cast that includes Dean Cain to Nick Lachey working alongside real life special ops forces, for entertainment and to raise money for military charities. The biggest name associated with the show may have been Sen. Wesley Clark, himself a onetime Presidential candidate.

But here was the former Alaska governor who was introduced four years ago as the surprise Republican nomination for Vice President of the United States. Had the vote gone different, she’d be in Washington this summer, under a President who would be 75. And combining the age with the fact he had undergone cancer treatment, there was a closer than usual chance that she could have been President as well.

But instead of a vice president, governor or even soccer mom, Sarah Palin looked instead like an anonymous trophy wife of a reality star by some acounts, a knockout MILF, a colleague tweeted, amid the kind of Hollywood crowd she once publically distained.

A handful of reporters had crowded around Todd Palin to get his well-rehearsed take on the show, produced by Dick Wolf and Mark Burnett, who had produced “Sarah Palin’s Alaska” previously.

He was telling me how the show had changed his life: “To be able to hang out with military operatives that were on the show, the best of the best, to listen to their life stories and their military background.”

But with nobody talking to Sarah Palin, who reporters were begging to interview four years ago but were mostly thwarted, I stepped up to her. You’re a television veteran yourself, is there anything new coming up for you?

“I’m just continuing my contribution to Fox, “ she said with a smile, in her familiar sing-songy voice. Would she do another reality show?

“Not necessarily.”

She was more expansive when I asked about her reaction to “Bristol Palin: Life’s a Tripp,” the latest reality show on Lifetime for her daughter, a former cast member of “Dancing with the Stars.”

“It’s been great and I love the show,” she said. “I think it’s clever, it’s absolutely real and I’m proud of the girls.”

Having been in the public eye, she knew what her daughter would be up against in the show, which Lifetime bumped from prime time after two weeks due to low ratings.

“I know that no matter what, Bristol or Willow or Track or Piper and someday Trig, no matter what they do they’re going to be criticized,” Sarah Palin said. “But it’s like Bristol said all along: ‘The critics are going to criticize, the haters are going to hate, so you might as well dance. That’s why she did ‘Dancing with the Stars’ and that’s why she’s doing what she’s doing today.

“And her show today I think is very positive, its very realistic in terms of showing what single motherhood really is,” Palin said. “It’s not like the ‘Teen Mom’  – partyin’ – woo hoo – fun glamorizing single motherhood.

“She’s showing that it’s a lot of work and it’s not an ideal situation and you make the most of the circumstances that you’re in,” she said. “But it’s not something to glamorize or to sort of encourage young girls to emulate.”

Palin said she admired the work her husband went through on “Stars Earn Stripes,” by most counts the fourth reality show the Palins have been a part of.

“Todd’s on fire. He’s a commercial fisherman, a world champion snow machine racer, he’s got all this physicality that requires a lot of mental toughness too that you guys will be surprised to see manifested.”

It must be nice for you, somebody said, to be out of the spotlight for once.

“Heck yeah!” Palin said.

But asked if she was worried about his competing in it, she answered “Oh heck no.”

And would Palin consider competing herself on a second season of “Stars Earn Stripes”?

“Oh my gosh. I would have to be doing a whole lot of push-ups,” Palin says.

At this point when a reporter leaning in says, “Actually, you look pretty great,” she absolutely beams: “Oh thank you!”

Still, she says, “I don’t think physically I would be able to handle what it is that they’ve gone through.

“It will blow you guys away when you see what they do,” Palin says. “I’ve seen some clips of it and just as a witness to the bumps and bruises at the end of the day, it amazes me. But like Todd said, our son is over in Afghanistan. He and every other member of the military who goes through this in real life and for the real cause —  what they go through is nothing compared to he real thing.”

And when someone mentions that politics can be just as rough, she does not disagree.

“Politics are pretty brutal too.”

But so far, the experience hasn’t changed her husband, Palin said.

“Todd, he’s calm cool and collected all the time, and was as a result of this competition too. So not a whole lot of change. Just happy he had the opportunity to get to participate with the most amazing cast and crew, these producers, and the most amazing and I think the most appropriate worthy cause he was able to help and give back. So I’m very happy.”

Before she was whisked away to get something to eat, she was asked about the Supreme Court’s health care ruling.

Just kidding. She was asked whether she’d ever join “Dancing with the Stars.”

“I am not coordinated like those who end up doing those show,” she said. “Wasn’t a cheerleader, wasn’t a dancer.”

But she was a vice presidential candidate.

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