Politics is Vaudeville with speeches
It's election night 1984. With 82% of the precincts counted, Walter Cronkite has just come out of retirement to announce that Gore Vidal has become the next president of the United States. Suddenly, last summer, the erstwhile screen-writer, and Tennessee's "favorite son," emerged
from the pack as vanguard of the anagrammatical "I love drag!" party. With popular transvestite song stylist Caz Casual for his running mate, the self-styled politico quickly garnered support from a bi-coastal [quoteright]coalition of western block states riding a bitter tide of resentment following the release from custody of gay San Francisco supervisor Harvey Milk assassin Dan White and a radical male contingent of cross dressers from the nation's powerful east coast based I.L.G.W.U. The predominantly gay oriented group gained momentum, and who could forget it, when they clandestinely inserted the letter "I" on "Remember M L K" placards prior to a massive Martin Luther King memorial rally in Washington, D.C. last summer... The Reverend Jesse Jackson, as you'll recall, is still under indictment for allegedly soliciting a campaign contribution described as "in excess of six digits" from CIA agent Fred Singer. Masquerading as Sheik Yewva Bin Had, Singer was reportedly offered in exchange an exclusive contract for proposed Afro-Sheen concessions in Harlem precinct houses during Jackson's cause celebre negotiations on behalf of downed U.S. flyer Robert Goodman. Scoffed one political analyst at the arrangement: "THERE'S a dark horse that won't run!"... Walter Mondale, you may recall, was dumped by his party last June, in the words of former president Jimmy Carter, "like a bedsheet banner after a Sunday double-header," following a Rhode Island caucus at which a grad student specializing in Eurasian diphthongs, and mistress of a "significant campaign contributor," keenly observed A D (for "Democratic") LEMON anagram for this presidential hopeful's cognomen. This came, of course, on the heels of his lackluster Louisiana runoff loss to Rep. Ezekiel Sanders, a scion of the Colonel Sanders fried chicken empire, whose platform had candidly offered his constituency "a choice for the future!" Described by supporters as "visibly shaken" in postrunoff press releases, Mondale had argued, unsuccessfully, that "original recipe" and "extra crispy" could hardly be considered viable political alternatives... Still another Democratic assault on the White House foundered and fell into disarray as Colorado senator Gary Hart, facing stiff censure from a Select Committee Investigating Illegal Campaign Practices, quietly bowed out of contention exactly four months ago tonight. The end came swiftly, you'll recall, just hours after government informants personally implicated him in persuading organizers of the annual UNICEF drive to televise promotional spots featuring a variety of pellagra, beriberi, and rickets-racked children attired in "HAVE A HART" tee shirts. Citing comparisions to the Reverend Jesse Jackson's "Rainbow Coalition," though dissimilar, he claimed, in that the latter's color scheme appeared to emphasize only the "coal" in its title, Hart failed to convince the panel of his so-called "ecumenical intentions." When news of this pioneering senator's "quitclaim on a deed to the presidency" reached his campaign headquarters, scores of friends and admirers of the man often characterized by opponents as a "blow-dried candidate" were reportedly seen scurrying for the exits, presumably, to quote the senator's wisecracking Aunt Rhea- "like smoke off the candles on the quints' latest cake."... This just in: Senator Edward Kennedy is now reportedly "back home and resting comfortably" with mother Rose at the family home in Hyannisport, this following his release from a private Cistercian-run sanitarium last weekend. It may be remembered that he was placed there for observation nearly one month ago after the comeback contretempts he encountered at a $100-a-plate Boston Barbecue Benefit for the retarded. At that time, you will recall, he knocked all existing straw, Gallup, and Harris poll findings into a cocked hat by unexpectedly announcing his candidacy for the nation's highest office. Appearing together publicly for the first time with his campaign manager, former rock-'n-roll impresario Allen Klein, he fielded questions from a variety of local and congressional correspondents. At one point, when asked whether he felt that concern with the "memory of Mary Jo" had been "sufficiently exorcised" from the public's opinion of him, Mr. Kennedy balked and reportedly blanched slightly. When Mr. Klein attempted to intercede by assuring the crowd they would surely "cross that bridge together" when they came to it, Mr. Kennedy suddenly convulsed, then collapsed amid gestures symptomatic of a grand mal epileptic seizure. Cradled in the hammock from which he'd risen only minutes before, and apparently cognizant of family cries of "My God! Not Again!" and "Sweet Jesus! No!," he was rushed to a nearby daycare facility on the Holy Redeemer School grounds. At that point, in what was subsequently described by People magazine as "a laudable display of showmanship," veteran song and dance man Sammy Davis, Jr. reportedly sprang from the crowd, seized Rose Kennedy's walking cane, and, to the tune of an extempore "The Kennedy Man Can," began performing a modified vaudeville two-step. As reported by another correspondent at the scene, however, these theatrics were actually greeted with "less than a modicum of enthusiasm," as "dinner guests and rubberneckers alike, casting forlorn glances and shaking their heads, quickly, but solemnly, dispersed."... Eventual Democratic Party nominee John Glenn, in a uncharacteristic reversal aimed at bolstering his following in the northeast, you'll doubtless recall, decided one week before the election to highlight a waning WASP image by officially changing his name to Glen John. An East Orange printer who owned exclusive rights to election ballot offsets ran afoul of the senator's chances, however, when a pre-Holiday mailer from Macy's, also an exclusive client, tied up the presses until just hours ago. Despite a projected majority culled from the aggregate of votes cast under the old name, he thus became the first presidential hopeful in history to win and then subsequently lose an election on a technicality prohibiting the use of pseudonyms. "I knew this would hurt me in Arkansas," he later confided, "but I never expected THIS!!"... Five days before the election, as you also remember, an ad hoc caucus attempted to avert the inevitable by proposing a running mate who might "tip" the scales in the Democrats' favor. These hopes were dashed, of course, when party organizers were informed that their selection, a man whose initials approximated his own avoirdupois tipping of the scales (TON), had been cautioned by an EPA-certified team of geologists against campaigning in coastal areas... On the Republican side, complications of another sort occurred in the Reagan camp last August when Committee To Re-Elect chairman Paul Laxalt, disconsolate over the persona non grata status imputed to him by party moderates, metaphorically clipped the strings on a homemade "Ronny Doody" marionette following the president's keynote address at a mid-Manhattan fundraiser. "I'll show you the REAL power behind the throne!" he reportedly crowed. Then, still brandishing a pair of outsized garden shears, he opened them crosswise and took a position stage right among a lineup of chorus girls bearing monogrammed L A _ A L T ! cue cards... One week later, as we all know, the president appeared on national television to announce the "insidious presence" of a smear campaign perpetrated by "persons unknown" with intent to discredit his wife's standing in the fashion world. At that time he alleged he had received faded photographs of Nancy in what his detractors described as complicit conversation with renowned fashion critic "Mr. Blackwell." In one, she is purportely seen wearing a wan smile as she passes an envelope with a gloved hand. These "persons unknown" were also alleged to possess audio transcripts of this and other transactions dating back to 1979 as indicative of payoffs Nancy made to keep her name from appearing on the annual Ten Worst Dressed list. Unless the president agreed to renounce his party's endorsement, these were to be peddled to Women's Wear Daily in plenty of time for their fall fashion previews issue. However, despite the fact that in the wake of her husband's remarks Nancy publicly denied these allegations in her own words, the president nevertheless called another press conference the next day to announce that "...Regrettably, my doctor's intervention deems it unwise for me to seek re-election at this time..." Benumbed, beset, and, as one commentator put it, "Byronically bereft" by this bombshell, it was suddenly the Joint Chiefs of Staff who hastily assembled and, after passing around several hand-rolled cigarettes of questionable substance, thereby adding new meaning to their collective office, selected their proverbial "smoke-filled room" replacement candidate -- George Bush. Unfortunately, as these returns seem to indicate, they miscalculated his popularity nationwide. In fact, as of this moment, outside of a trickle of votes attributed to close family members, it has become apparent that nobody knows who George Bush is...And lest we forget, celebrated clergyman William Sloane Coffin, who was slated to preside at official swearing-in ceremonies next January, and who had been privy to what he claimed to have been a vision in which he foresaw the results of this election as early as July, providently passed away, as we all know, shortly before these, and I quote, "prefidious events" actually came to pass ...Now, as the Vidal/Casual ticket stroll arm-in-arm together onto the stage at New York's swank Studio 54 campaign headquarters, Gore throws a kiss to cue the band. Instantly they're triumphantly welcomed to the opening bars of what is to become the nation's new theme song, as a choral sea of adoring faces spontaneously picks up the familiar tune. Caz, flourishing a pinpoint diamond on his third finger, left hand, wipes away a tear and ardently eyeballs the nation's new chief executive "You're a GRAND Old Fag!"...A CBS news camera prowls a churchyard cemetery, slowly dollies in on a freshly engraved headstone, and levels its sobering inscription - Here Lies William's Lone Coffin - and with that, whoops! that old alarm clock suddenly tolls for me. And that's the way it was...November 6...1984...
Wayne Silka claims the distinction of being San Francisco Chronicle columnist Herb Caen's favorite anagrammatist, for such gems as RONALD (WILSON) REAGAN: A REAL DRAG, NON? and OGRE RAN A LAND.
|E-mail Print to PDF Blog|