Monday, October 27, 2008

change is just around the corner

During the heated political campaigns of my youth, I would ride my bicycle down to the local Republican and Democrat headquarters to get free campaign buttons for my collection. Amidst all the Nixon, McGovern, Ford and Carter pins that I stored in a huge maraschino cherry jar from Baskin-Robbins were my two of my favorite buttons: "Wally Ballou for Mayor" and "Wintergreen for President." Both are fictional candidates. Wally Ballou was a creation of radio greats Bob & Ray. John P. Wintergreen is the lead character in a musical by George & Ira Gershwin and George S. Kaufman & Morrie Ryskind.

"Of Thee I Sing"
is about a presidential candidate who knew he was unelectable based on the issues and decided to run on emotion instead. His advisers choose a one-word platform that, "everybody's interested in and that doesn't matter a damn!" John P. Wintergreen was swept into office on a platform of "love." The satirical show features songs such as "Love Is Sweeping the Country" and "Who Cares?"

My wife and I took in a student performance of the Gershwin musical while visiting with family members over the weekend. I knew I had seen a televised production of the play back in the '70s but could not recall any of the plot points or songs. As I watched the students sing and dance, I kept trying to remember who played those same parts in the TV version. The president was easy. I could picture Carroll O'Connor's face on my Wintergreen campaign button. However his running mate, Alexander Throttlebottom, and his First Lady, Mary Turner, stumped me. The young lady we saw playing Mary had a beautiful, operatic singing voice.

Thankfully IMDB came to my rescue. Throttlebottom was played by Jack Gilford, who I mainly remember from some old Cracker Jack commercials. During the play I kept thinking that Wintergreen's wife was played by another television star, maybe even O'Connor's "All in the Family" costar Jean Stapleton. However her off-key singing as Edith Bunker made me think it had to be someone else. Still, I was quite surprised to find out that the lovely Mary Turner was played by the same woman dancing across my TV tonight, Cloris Leachman.

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