October 30, 2004

Let me say this about that.

I didn't understand much about politics when I was 12, but I nevertheless bought the wildly popular LP "The First Family." Vaughn Meader, who brilliantly impersonated President Kennedy on that record, died yesterday. People talk today about how comedy shows, especially "The Daily Show," are the place where young people learn the about politics, but "The First Family" worked like that too. I was a big Nixon supporter in 1960, quite simply because my parents were. I wore a big button to school -- in fourth grade -- that shifted back and forth between the face of Nixon and that of his running mate Lodge -- through the magic of that technology used in old crucifixion pictures to make Jesus Christ's eyes open and close. I loved Nixon then because my parents supported him. Yet when Vaughn Meader's brilliant comedy record came out, hit number one, and its tracks were played on Top 40 radio as if they were rock and roll singles, I went out and bought the record album. And there was something about that record that invited me in to the Kennedy mystique. Comedy can do things like that.

When Kennedy was killed, the great record became unplayable, and Vaughn Meader went from being one of the coolest people in the country to a person that no one wanted to talk about.
Mr. Meader often referred to Nov. 22, 1963, as "the day I died."

He drifted into alcohol and drugs before experiencing what he described as a religious awakening in the late 1960's. In recent years, he worked as the manager of a pub restaurant in Hallowell, Me., and performed in small clubs as pianist and singer, specializing in gospel and bluegrass.
Who could feel much sympathy for the comedy man, when we were all mourning our President? No celebrity has ever risen and fallen like Vaughn Meader. But thanks for the great fun you brought us back in those golden days, and goodbye.

UPDATE: I don't know why I didn't think to look it up before, but you can buy "The First Family" on CD, and even listen to some clips, which show how great Meader's Kennedy impersonation was.

1 comment:

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