The other day, I ruminated here about how there were no Republican former presidents -- or even former GOP presidential candidates -- at the tribute honoring the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington and Martin Luther King's "I have a dream..." speech. I wondered whether there were any high-ranking Republican officials there.
It turns out that there weren't. But the story is worse. Because it turns out that pretty much every Republican official in Washington -- and most major ones elsewhere -- were invited. And none showed up. Zero.
Let's repeat that number, since "zero" is easy to slip by. It was -- zero.
Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) was invited, but didn't attend. He was in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, giving a -- well, no, he didn't have any public speeches that day, though he'd been doing fundraising, so perhaps he was occupied with that. House Minority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) was invited, too, but he didn't attend either, though he had an excuse -- he was in North Dakota, meeting with oil lobbyists. The last two standard-bearers of the Republican Party, Mitt Romney and John McCain, weren't there either.
In fact, all 233 Republicans in the House of Representatives were invited. So were all 46 Republican U.S. Senators. And every one of the 30 Republican governors. And not a single one of them found it worth their time to help commemorate what is widely considered one of the great civil rights events and one of the great speeches, period, in United States history.
So much for Republicans showing their support for minorities. So much for that whole "outreach thing" that the Republicans acknowledged in their Growth and Opportunity Project report that the Party had to do.
And how did Fox News cover their total absence? How do you think? With total, outraged inaccuracy.
On his show, the ever-angry Bill O'Reilly cried pointedly and emphatically and All Knowingly to his ever-believing viewers that " "No Republican or conservative was invited."
Except for the 281+ who were.
And now you understand why a study by Fairleigh Dickinson University's PublicMind Poll showed here that "People who watch No news know more than Fox viewers"
(By the way, this raises the question. If Bill O'Reilly and the various far right news media around the country were so outraged that Republicans supposedly hadn't been invited to the March on Washington commemoration -- will these same conservatives media now be equally outraged AT all the Republicans who didn't attend?? By sheer, rational logic, you'd sure think so. And by sheer understanding of recent reality that there is no depth to which far right hypocrisy won't sink, you'd sure know that's not likely to happen. "We just vociferously demanded (!) they should be invited. We never for a moment thought they should ever actually attend...)
Forget the horrible message this shows to minorities -- and to majorities, for that matter -- about what the Republican Party feels about civil rights, human rights, and the downtrodden and needy. Forget how this shows the galling hypocrisy of that Growth and Opportunity Project the Republican Party put together. (The report was beautifully typed and packaged, at least.)
Forget all that. Just purely on a human level, on an American level, it is reprehensible that not a single ranking Republican official out of 281+ invited showed up to honor the 50th anniversary of perhaps the most iconic moment in the struggle for civil rights this nation has seen. The Democrats showed up -- three presidents and numerous lawmakers. But zero on the Republican side of the aisle.
If any number could encapsulate the Republican Party's support of those in need, you have it right there. And this isn't about just some racist sense of ignoring black people or Hispanics or whatever minority might be uncomfortable or inconvenient. But that 50th anniversary event was about sort of the core concept of this nation. You know, the American Dream. The whole "Give me, your tired, your poor. The huddled masses yearning to breathe free" thingee on the Statue of Liberty. And the other Dream -- the "I have a ..." one.
Not one Republican official showed up. That's intentional. That's planned. That's sending a message. That's, "Let's go out of our way to ignore honoring civil rights."
And that's the Republican dream. Welcome to their nightmare.
Yesterday, I told a story about working with Robert Goulet and having him autograph my copy of the original cast album for The Happy Time, the Kander and Ebb musical for which he won the Tony Award as Best Actor. I thought it would be nice to show an 8-minute video of the show's presentation on the 1968 Tonys. It includes the very enjoyable title song and a charming sort of soft-shoe number, "A Ca that includes co-star David Wayne as his disapproving father and 16-year-old Mike Rupert as Goulet's impressionable nephew.
The show is based on a series of stories, which became a Broadway play in 1950 and then a movie a few years later that starred Louis Jordan, Charles Boyer (as the father), and Bobby Driscoll (from the film Treasure Island). The story is set in French Canada -- which, in fact, is Goulet's heritage, and where he moved when a young boy himself. It concerns memories of one's past, and a man, sort of the black sheep of the family who left home to become a photographer, who returns home for a visit, and how it affects those around him.
The Happy Time was Kander and Ebb's first musical after their breakthrough Cabaret. It didn't have the "bite" of much of their work, and wasn't successful, though it ran for 286 performances. It won two additional Tony awards, to Gower Champion for directing and choreography. While it was famous (or infamous) for its pioneering use of photographic projections (which weren't admired by all, some thinking it overwhelmed the action on the stage) and being the first musical to lose a million dollars, the score still has a bunch of very nice songs throughout.
The production went through a revision for a revival at the Goodspeed Opera House in 1980, notably in the second act, and added some songs that had been cut. Also, the use of photograph projections was dropped And then about 10 years ago, for a college production, Kander and Ebb reworked the show again, with some more cut songs returned, and when finished considered that the "definitive" version. A couple years ago, this was presented at the Signature Theatre in Arlington, Virginia, and in the Washington Post review of this new production, they called it, among other things, "A little charmer... Effervescent." So, maybe The Happy Time had a happy ending...
I've been looking for this to post for a long while. It's the song, "Confidence," from a little-known 1964 off-Broadway musical, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. The score isn't effective all the way through, but half of it is quite wonderful. The music is by Leon Carr (who had a successful career writing TV jingles, most notably, "Sometimes You Feel Like a Nut" for the Almond Joy/Mounds candy bars) with lyrics by Earl Shuman. The book is by Joe Manchester, based of course on the James Thurber story.
In fairness, I have it on the album, but converting it all to a digital file is something that I never decided to get around to doing. But with the National Football League season starting in only about 10 days, I thought it was time to finally get it done. And so, bingo! Here, at last, it is.
Wait, the NFL?? What does the NFL have to do with this.
Okay, here's the tale.
Today, NFL football on Sunday is carried by CBS and Fox. Just a few years earlier, though, NBC had the contract along with Fox. However, before that, for a very long time, NFL football was a Sunday tradition on CBS and NBC. It was a huge deal when upstart Fox outbid CBS -- which ultimately is one of the things that put the new network on the map.
And when CBS carried the NFL football on Sundays, most notably from the mid-60s forward, they began their broadcast with a rousing march. Many years later, ABC's Monday Night Football tried sort of the same thing with their theme song, "Are You Ready for Some Football?" (at least before Hank Williams Jr. went all racist, and was dropped). But it was CBS's joyful, enthusiastic, opening march that was the trend-setter. It simply put audiences in the spirit of a big football game. You heard that march, and you sat up, ready to watch. It was Sunday! It was football!
And that music -- little-known by most people, most especially not known by macho football fans -- was "Confidence."
From The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. An off-Broadway musical.
The song comes in the show when the always daydreaming and henpecked Walter is down at his favorite Harry's bar. It's around his 40th birthday, and he's ruminating about his wistful life. And it's there that Harry (performed by Rudy Tronto) begins to tell Walter (played by Marc London) to start having some confidence already, like making big changes in his life. Just throw it all aside, even if that means moving on from his nagging wife, Agnes. And with the pushing of others at the bar, (including Cathryn Damon, later a star of the TV series, Soap), and the influence of the flowing alcohol, Walter starts to build the confidence he's been lacking his whole life.
And no, this isn't in the original James Thurber story. And yes, it all ends happily. After all, the reason his wife Agnes nags him is because Walter is always so lost in his dreams, and he realizes that he needs someone to keep him on track.
(Though knowing such minutiae might seem wasteful and pointless -- in large part because it is -- I once scored bonus points for knowing this musical, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. A few decades ago, I was visiting my friend Stephanie Segal, who was having a little gathering. Also there was her childhood friend from New York, an actress named Christopher Norris, who would soon go on to some fame in the TV series Trapper John, M.D., a spinoff of M*A*S*H, as Nurse "Ripples." Upon being introduced, I offhandedly asked if she was the Christopher Norris who played Walter Mitty's little daughter, Peninnah, in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. It was like a cartoon moment when a character's jaw hits the floor. Stef later told me that I had made a friend for life. A slight exaggeration since I haven't seen Ms. Norris since. But who knows, perhaps if we cross paths again one day...)
And yes, the character's name is Peninnah. That wasn't a typo.
By the way, I've thought that CBS blew it when they got the right back to Sunday football. They should have opened their first broadcast with this song. Well, if CBS screwed it up, at least I can rectify their error.
I know that there's a new movie version of the Walter Mitty story from Ben Stiller upcoming, so all the more appropriate to post this now. But then, movie aside, this is version with the NFL Song.
Anyway, even if you don't know the music from the NFL days, this is still an absolutely joyful, wonderful showstopping number. But if you do remember That Music from the early days of the NFL on CBS, you're going to hear the opening bars, leap up in your seat and shout, "Oh, my God! That's the NFL song!!!"
And so it is.
We interrupt this website to pass along some great news for folks here who like to read those ebook things. My friend Bart Baker -- who I've written about often, most notably here about his always wonderful BartRants (tm) -- is doing a promotion for his terrific novel, What Remains, and has put the ebook edition on sale for just $0.99. You can download it on Amazon.
This is what I wrote about the book when it was published.
"I’m sort of in awe of Bart’s writing style. It’s powerfully aggressive, but wild with humor and heart-breaking romantic tenderness. I don’t have a clue how he does it. I know of few other writers who can do it. But he does all the time. What Remains falls right into that. A disgraced ladies man whose life crashes and burns has to move in with his gay brother. When the brother’s life hits its own crisis and falls apart, the slacker is aghast to have responsibilities dumped onto him – forcing him to take a journey to the jungles of Colombia and complicated further when he falls in love with their mixed-race nanny with her own, unsuspected and dangerous problems. As they say, complications, hilarity, and serious angst ensue. How Bart gets hilarity out of this deeply emotional drama, and he does, that’s his magic trick."
I'm slightly biased in all this. When Bart initially wrote his first draft, I edited it. It sat on the shelf for a long while he focused on other things that took over his life. After he finally picked it up again, though, he completely re-edited it on his own and took it to another level, making it even better.
I have no idea how long the sale is for -- but I just wanted to pass this along.
Last night on The Rachel Maddow Show, in devoting a long time to the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King's March on Washington, she related a story from a memoir by singer/activist Harry Belafonte. It told of when King and others had been arrested in Birmingham, Alabama, his lawyer and friend Clarence Jones got a $100,00 bail loan from then-governor Nelson Rockefeller of New York.
While the story is fascinating -- and remarkable -- I think the most remarkable thing about it didn't get mentioned on the broadcast last night. It's not that a governor gave such a loan. Or that Rockefeller gave so much. It's that the governor who did this was a Republican.
Can you imagine a high-ranking Republican official today who would go so far out on a limb to help such a divisive black, civil rights leader? A man who the FBI (or at least its director J. Edgar Hoover) considered the most dangerous black man in the country, and an agent of Communists.
Here's how unthinkable it is today. At the major tribute given in Washington honoring what is considered one of the great speeches in U.S. history, "I Have a Dream," the event was loaded with dignitaries. This included three presidents -- Mr. Obama, Clinton and Carter. And not a Republican president in sight. In fairness, there are only two still alive, and one isn't in the greatest health. But George W. is still around. Just not around Washington. Mind you, there could have been former GOP presidential candidates. It's just that there weren't.
But 50 years ago, a Republican governor gave a loan of $100,000 to bail Martin Luther King and others out of jail.
It put me in mind of an article I wrote on May 12, 2009, for the Huffington Post. What I most like about the article is that it was included in the political anthology, Clued in to Politics: A Critical Thinking Reader in American Government, published here by the company that puts out the Congressional Quarterly. (For a bigger laugh, it's the first selection in Chapter 11, "Political Parties." The last selection in that chapter is by George Washington, his Farewell Address.)
Trust me, I'm not suggesting you get it. It's terrific (the book's rating is five stars) -- but sells for $46.50. However, here's that selection below.
Yes, Virginia, There are Liberal Republicans
Several weeks back, I was talking with a friend who is politically conservative. I praised a recent Obama bill for remarkably getting bi-partisan support, when he cut me off. "Oh, you mean those two women?" he interrupted, with ridicule dripping from his voice. "They're not Republicans. They're Democrats!"
(A quick digression out of fairness. "Those women" was not meant dismissively towards Senators Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins. My friend has a memory like a bad sieve. "Those two women" was the best he could do.)
Anyway, I was certain he was exaggerating - but he wasn't. "Oh, please," he kept scoffing, "they're Democrats."
It was clear that this was something he and his circle had previously settled among themselves. And I realized what the problem was, and it wasn't obstinance or gross stupidity.
Here's the thing, I told him. You've confused being conservative with being Republican. But there are conservative Democrats. And once there were moderate and even liberal Republicans, too. But you've pushed them all out, to the degree that you now can only recognize a Republican as someone who is conservative. And that's just not the case at all. There are moderate Republicans. And liberal ones.
To my friend's great credit, he stopped a moment, and then actually agreed. Mind you, I have little doubt that the next day this all was forgotten. Putting life into convenient boxes gives too much comforting order, no matter how false. His loss is that the reality would have been so much more rewarding.
You see, time was when the Grand Old Party did, indeed, have grandness to it. When it was a party of mixed views, and moderates and liberals could be seen as actual Republicans, alongside the conservative party elders.
The Republican Party, once upon a time - a time within the life of most people reading this - included among its members such moderates and even liberals as Nelson Rockefeller, Jacob Javits, Margaret Chase Smith, Clifford Case, Mark Hatfield (who co-sponsored with George McGovern an amendment to end the Viet Nam War), Lowell Weicker, Richard Schweiker, Kenneth Keating and John Chafee. Remarkable people all of them, well-worth looking up. They may have been in the minority of their party, but they were trusted and admired voices, helping focus Republican direction.
And most of them now have been blocked out of the memory of today's Republicans, dismissed by a current generation that doesn't consider "those two women" in Maine even to be Republicans.
And so the Republican Party has hounded out officials who've dared not to be conservative. Jim Jeffords left the party. Lincoln Chafee left the party. Arlen Specter left the party. Americans have left the party. Today, only 21 percent of Americans consider themselves Republican. And so, today, there are zero Republicans in the House of Representatives from New England - where the country was founded, by the way. Gone.
And the Republican Party has started to lose the rest of the nation, as well. What has happened is that the Republican Party has become a party of the South. Less a party, in fact, and more a little-tent, religious revival meeting.
By contrast, the Democratic Party ranges from conservative senators like Ben Nelson, Mary Landrieu and Jim Webb - to Ted Kennedy and Barbara Boxer on the liberal wing. With moderates filling the chewy, nougat center. No one would confuse this group - which includes fiscally conservative "Blue Dog Democrats" - of being of a united mind. And the House is even far more mixed. While this often causes consternation within the party, it's also what ultimately gives it a wide exchange of ideas - and ideals.
The result for Republicans is a party so top heavy on the right that John McCain, who long-prided himself as being a self-proclaimed "Maverick," was only able to win the GOP nomination by claiming he always had been a conservative. The result is that "those women" - lifelong Republicans - aren't even viewed as Republicans.
The result is that it wipes out the history - and often impressive history - of the Republican Party.
Today, the party of Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt cultivates a divisive, empty demagogue like Sarah Palin, for no reason other than she's conservative, religious, and can see Russia from the beach. Today, the party of Dwight Eisenhower holds Tea Parties and Pizza Parties, dresses up in colonial garb, defends torture, and bows to a radio host.
Today, the Republican Party has forgotten what the Republican Party was founded on, and in doing so, has redefined itself into the ground, as it drives its moderate and liberal members away. The base can deny this all it wants, and wrap itself in its own True Values, but that only confirms the reality.
And if at some point all "those women" and "those men" end up driven away and actually become Democrats, it won't be because the far-right describing them were perceptive, but rather the party created a self-fulfilling prophecy. Because when you push people out of the house, slam the door and lock it, they have nowhere else to go, but rely upon the kindness of the neighbors.
A couple days ago, I had videos here of performances from Camelot on The Ed Sullivan Show, including one of Robert Goulet as Lancelot, which is what made him a star. It brought up memories of working with him on a film, Naked Gun 2-1/2: The Smell of Fear, when I was back in my wayward days in publicity. (I was the unit publicist assigned to the film.) He played the anti-environmental industrialist Quentin Hapsburg, rival of Leslie Nielson's Frank Drebin, for the hand of Priscilla Presley's Jane, and bad guy of the movie.
(Side note: in the lower right of that picture is the wonderful British actor Richard Griffiths as Dr. Meinheimer. He later went on to win a Tony Award as Best Actor for starring in The History Boys, a role he recreated in the movie version. Naked Gun 2-1/2 was his first Hollywood film, and he was utterly thrilled by the experience. A very nice fellow, my fondest memory of him was that on his last day filming, he bought for the crew a truly massive mound of scones and clotted cream -- which is basically whipped cream. How many scones was it? Think of the scene in Close Encounters of the Third Kind when Richard Dreyfus builds that model of a mountain on the kitchen table. That's what it was like with the scones. Now, you must understand, I love scones and clotted cream -- while at the same time most film crews hate anything they've never seen before, most especially if it isn't hamburgers. So, they went untouched by most everyone. "Most," in this case, means everyone but me. I spent the night gorging on scones and clotted cream, along with strawberry jam. I knew I wouldn't get such a chance again. I'm not exaggerating when I say I had close to a dozen. Hence me remembering this.)
I should also add that starring in the tiny, but important role of 'McTique,' the police sketch artist, was American actor Robert J. Elisberg. And yes, the character did have a name. Several crew members referred to me as 'McTigue' throughout the production.)
But I digress. And digress.
Back to Robert Goulet. He was a reasonably pleasant person who had the ego you might expect from his persona, though it was much smaller than you'd think, and he was enjoyable to deal with. He also had a very good sense of himself and was able to make fun of that public persona.
Probably less fun for him was the the day in the makeup trailer when he was getting ready for filming. As a sort of tribute, the makeup artists had a tape of one of his albums playing while they did their work. Sitting in a chair nearby was a dayplayer, a young actress who was there for her day of filmming. Having no idea what was playing, eventually she got annoyed at the music and called out, "What is this shit?" Very politely, the makeup artist (who was probably cringing inside) said, "Oh. That's Mr. Goulet here." The actress was embarrassed, and did her best to help the situation and make it better. She made it worse. "Oh! Mr. Goulet," she said enthusiastically. "My mother is a big fan of yours."
I'm not big on getting autographs, having someone signed a scrap of paper just because they are A Celebrity. But I do like getting autographs of things that have historical significance or add perspective to an object. And unlike many people, I tend to keep them. (I still have an autograph by Ella Fitzerald in my "trip journal" from high school when I took a summer bicycle trip through Europe and saw her perform at Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen.) So, there was no question in my mind that I was going to bring in my original cast recording LP of Camelot to get signed, as well a cast recording of The Happy TIme, for which he won the Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical. (I just realized -- with Richard Griffiths, that means the movie has two Tony-winning Best Actors.) However, I waited until his last day of filmming, so as not to seem too geeky. It was this latter album that stunned Goulet, something he said he hadn't seen (or thought about) in a very long time. The show was the first musical by Kander and Ebb after Cabaret, but it wasn't a big hit and is not well-known. It's rarely performed, and having the cast album is even more rare. So, he did a big double-take when he saw it. And was impressed that someone was a geek enough to have such a thing.
But my favorite memory was when I came to the set one Monday morning. As I was crossing through the lot, I saw Bob (as I like to call him...) telling a bunch of grips with much dramatic enthusiasm about a golf game he'd played over the weekend. And he was particularly enthusing about one Incredibly Amazing Shot he'd hit. My memory is that it was something like, "And I hit the tee shot, and it went soaring, I'm telling you it was one of the longest I ever hit. It must have gone 250 yards, flying over the fairway, over the water hazard, over the sand traps, over everything, it was incredible, and it landed on the green and rolled and rolled and ended up just 10 feet from the hole!!!"
And at that, I paused my walk and spoke up, standing behind the group: "And not only that," I said, and everyone suddenly turned to look at me. "But he also caught a fish! And it was -- " and here I spread my arms as wiiiiide as I could -- "THIS big!!"
There was the briefest hesitation of silence, and then a big grin broke out across Goulet's face and with a smile, he said, "Ohhhhh, fuck you."
I would like to note that if I didn't get along with him and have the impression that he had a sense of humor, I would never have said that. But I'm glad I did. And am equally glad he answered as he did.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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