Jim McGreevey was back in his element tonight. The self-professed attention junkie was once again the center of attention.
“Fall to Grace,” the HBO documentary that chronicles McGreevey’s new life as a spiritual advisor to incarcerated women, had its New Jersey premiere tonight and like his days roaming the Statehouse in Trenton, the former governor was the star of the show.
Some 400 people attended the screening, and McGreevey seemed to not only know them, but have a hug and a smile for each. While McGreevey no longer lives the life of a politician, it’s clear the skills that got him to the governor’s mansion are still ever present.
“He’s right back in his element in terms of being the center of attention but his element has changed from elected service to a less visible public service,” said state Sen. Ray Lesniak (D-20), who has remained close with McGreevey. “The Jim McGreevey that I knew during that period was driven to succeed and gain public approval. This Jim McGreevey is still driven to succeed but he doesn’t give a damn about the public approval part of it.”
McGreevey has found redemption in his new calling and he seems – at least outwardly – to have found the peace that he says eluded him throughout his early life. And while many in the political world abandoned him even before he uttered the final words of his now famous “gay American” speech, there are many in his orbit who are thrilled the former governor has found happiness.
“I think it’s sort of a triumph,” said Maggie Moran, who worked for McGreevey’s 2001 campaign. “There are a lot of people who still love Jim McGreevey. We used to joke as a staff that half the people who voted for him on Election Day he knew by their first name. His world has come full circle and it’s great to see because he really is a good honorable guy.”
And while McGreevey has always longed for the spotlight, the movie – and the night – belonged to the women he advises.
“These women are great,” McGreevey said when asked about the movie and his role in it. “I’m so glad people are able to see their beauty and their capacity.”
While the movie opens with McGreevey’s tumultuous tenure as governor, it focuses mainly on his work now and the journey that brought him there.
And while it chronicles his downfall, the message that permeates the film is one of redemption and second chances. McGreevey continually preaches that message to the women he counsels and uses his own experience to teach them that they too can come back. The parallels between the lives he is trying to help and his own are constantly on display and it’s clear throughout the film that the women see him as a beacon of hope.
“Everyone deserves a second chance,” he says during a particularly poignant moment in the film. “Nobody should be defined by the nadir of their life, by the lowest point in their life.”