Here's another installment of my 60s memoirs. It was a decade far more exciting than my life but still. This was my initial post on this feature. From time to time I'll be sharing more these memories as the sodium pentathol kicks in. Enjoy.
There were two big elections in 1964. The presidential and the more hotly contested “vice president of the student body” race at Parkman Jr. High. I was one of the candidates (of the latter). I don’t remember whom I ran against. All I know is: I lost, learned a valuable lesson in comedy, and got expelled.
Meanwhile, Henry Cabot Lodge, Nelson Rockefeller, and the far scarier Barry Goldwater were duking it out in the Republican primaries while President Johnson was opening the World’s Fair in New York. (The two big attractions were Michelangelo’s Pieta and Walt Disney’s “It’s a Small Small World”.)
For the life of me I don’t know why I ran for a student body office. It’s not like I was particularly popular and I had no idea what the vice president even did. I suppose I thought it would make me more attractive to girls. Power is an enormous aphrodisiac.
My campaign consisted of a poster, cardboard buttons, and a speech to be delivered to the entire student body. Every good campaign needs a great slogan and I had mine. Personally I thought it was way better than “All the way with LBJ” or Goldwater’s “In your heart you know he’s right” (in truth: “In your heart you know he was a fucking psycho who would start World War III).
Mine was “Ken Satisfies Best” which was a slight modification of Kent cigarettes very popular catchphrase “Kent Satisfies Best”. To stay with the theme I drew my poster to look like a package of Kent cigarettes.
I unveiled my campaign and handed out my buttons and it was an immediate sensation. Everyone wanted to wear one of my buttons. Most people just added the “t” back to Ken and suddenly the campus was filled with minors advocating smoking.
The principal absolutely freaked out. I was immediately expelled and my buttons and posters were banned from the school.
After a day of my parents assuring the administration that my campaign was not underwritten by the Lorillard Tobacco Company -- and that nowhere do I mention the benefits of the Micronite Filter -- I was reinstated and even allowed to remain in the race.
I no longer had a slogan and buttons but I now had that whole martyr thing going for me so that helped in the pre-election polls.
The campaign speeches were to be given at three assemblies, one for each grade (7th, 8th, 9th). I decided to make my speech funny since that was more my forte and I had no clue what the office entailed.
And here’s where the valuable lesson comes in.
First up was the 9th grade and I KILLED. Huge laughs all the way through. Forget votes, it was that laughter that “satisfies Ken best”.
Next up was the 8th grade and much to my surprise the reaction was only lukewarm. Laughs along with way but not huge like before. Hmmm?
By the 7th grade – death. Not a single laugh. Not one. Hundreds of kids just staring at me. And of course, my pausing for the laughs that weren’t there didn’t help either. I practically crawled back to my chair. For the first time in my life I WANTED a Kent cigarette.
“Know your house!” as comics say. That seems so obvious now but not when you’re 14 and a major smartass. I lost the election but it serves me right. Learner’s Permit jokes for 7th graders? What the hell was I thinkin’??