Friday, November 14, 2008

One-term veep, one-hit wonder

When Joe Biden assumes the office of the vice presidency in January, he will be the first vice president from Delaware, the first Catholic elected to the office, and the first with egregious hair plugs. All of these historic firsts pale in comparison...

(ha! I bet you thought I was going to make some pithy comment about Obama's historic election, didn't you? Well, as awesome as that is, I'm taking this in a totally different direction.) Charles G. Dawes, vice president under Calvin Coolidge, the only vice president to have written a number-one hit song.

Dawes, an amateur musician, committed his "Melody in A Major" to paper over the course of one afternoon in 1912, though it had been stuck in his head for days prior to that. A musician friend secretly took it to a sheet music publisher, and bands across the country added it to their sets. Dawes, hardly a household name at the time, was initially flattered by his tune's success, but then the tune just wouldn't die. He went on to serve as Warren G. Harding's Director of the Budget, and won the Nobel Peace Prize for his work on post-war reparations in Germany, but the stupid song was still ubiquitous. It didn't fade into obscurity until years after Dawes himself had faded out of the public eye.

Shortly after Dawes's death in 1951, lyricist Carl Sigler resurrected the tune and added the lyrics we know it by today. "It's All in the Game" was put to a shuffling rock-ballad beat and became a number-one hit for Tommy Edwards in 1958. It has since been recorded by everybody from Robert Goulet to the Four Tops. Most recently, Barry Manilow included it on a 2006 covers album.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

What's in a name?

Today I randomly stumbled across Wikipedia's list of Secret Service codenames from the mid-50s to the present. President-elect Barack Obama is known as "Renegade." (Which is sort of like "Maverick," but better.) His wife and daughters are called "Renaissance," "Rosebud," and "Radiance."

One guy who clearly must have done something to irritate the Secret Service, though, was Gerald Ford's press secretary, Ron Nessen, who was known to the Secret Service as "Clam Chowder." Come to think of it, dude seems to have had a pretty wicked sense of humor, so maybe he got to pick his own. Nessen was the first political figure to host Saturday Night Live during its first season in 1975. You can read transcripts of some of the sketches in his episode here. Unfortunately Nessen as Jefferson's press secretary in "Press Secretaries Through History" hasn't yet been transcribed.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Cast Ballots, Not Aspersions...or, at the very least, do both.

Hope you all remembered to vote today. In my very humble elitist liberal opinion, this is the first election in many, many years in which we are not deciding between a douche and a turd, so this is pretty exciting stuff.

Also, enjoy the Itty Bitty Kitty Committee's list of White House Cats