Monday, 7 March 2016

The First Bag Lady

Critics took to calling [Nancy Reagan] “Queen Nancy,” which eventually became a popular postcard. By December 1981, a Newsweek poll reported that 61 percent of the public considered her less sympathetic than previous first ladies to the needs of the disadvantaged...

...In an attempt to deflect the criticism a year after arriving in Washington, she donned a bag-lady costume at the 1982 Gridiron Dinner and sang “Second Hand Clothes,” a parody of “Second Hand Rose,” before the assembled journalists and Washington power players. 
Washington Post

Astonishingly, Nancy Reagan seemed to be more popular after this insensitive, self-absorbed "Aren't homeless people just adorable?" performance (at least with the hacks and Washington power players - nobody knew how her parody played with the genuninely destitute because who the hell, after the Reagan Revolution, cared about the opinions of bums and losers?).

For anybody who remembers the buffoonish antics of the celebrity couple occupying the White House through most of the 1980s, the idea of a ludicrous showbiz presidential candidate seems depressingly repetitive, rather than shockingly novel.

There was a time when the idea of that dumb actor Reagan becoming president was a hilarious joke:

Until people stopped getting the joke. It's incredible, isn't it?

Which reminds me, appropriately, of a famous Hollywood exchange:
Joe Gillis:You're Norma Desmond. You used to be in silent pictures. You used to be big.

Norma Desmond: I am big. It's the pictures that got small. 
Or, as the inexplicably influential former Hollwood star might have said (had he ever been troubled by anything so humdrum and unglamourous as honesty):
Reporter: You're Ronald Reagan. You used to be in pictures. You used to be a big joke.

Ronald Reagan: I am a big joke. It's the presidency that I made small.