Tuesday, July 15, 2008

They won't have Levine to kick around anymore!

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’??

25 comments :

Alice said...

My grandmother used to smoke KENT. LOL.

On other matters, what happened to this post?: A boy named Moxie Crimefighter... or is it a girl?

Tim W. said...

Quite funny, and it brings back memories of my ill-fated election campaign for some position I can't recall for my high school student council. I was probably the youngest candidate and had only been at the school less than a year. Like you, I really have no idea why I ran and knew I had no real chance. It was not long after the Cheers episode where Sam's girlfriend is running for city council and Diane tries to help this schlep who has no chance. One of the slogans proposed was Wim With Jim. Well, hoping others would get the irony of it, one of my slogans was `Wim With Tim'. I didn't.

Thankfully a couple of years later I was elected to student council, only to be kicked off halfway through the year because I rarely went to the student council meetings.

One of my jobs was supposed to be going on announcements every morning, but thanks to the guys who preceded me, that job was taken away from my position, so what was supposed to be a really fun position where I got to say funny things to the entire school every morning turned into a really boring job that entailed, if I recall, helping the Social Director make signs for the dances. I made enough of a stink about it that they let me go on announcements once in a while (it was the ONLY reason I wanted to run in the first place, after all). Of course, halfway through the year, I get a spare first period and getting up early just to do announcements was suddenly less appealing when I could sleep in instead. I still remember attending the meeting where I was kicked off, and trying half-heartedly to fight it, only to realize that I didn't really care all that much anyway.

KEN LEVINE said...

Moxie Crimefighter will post tomorrow. It accidentally got prematurely posted for a few minutes yesterday. So check back on Thursday.

msw said...

Thanks Ken. By the way I once read that a popular alternative to Goldwater's slogan was "In your guts you know he's nuts"...

geoge w. said...

Then as now nobody likes a liberal smartass

grouchy mike said...

Yes, beware that psycho Barry Goldwater! Let's stick with LBJ and watch 50,000 guys get run through a meat grinder in Vietnam.

rob! said...

if only there had been a teenage Kathryn Harris there to help you steal the election...

Anonymous said...

United Kingdom 69.27

Mary Stella said...

Ken, you remember the 60s in such detail. Obviously not part of the Haight-Ashbury scene.

What are you going to call your memoirs?

Dwacon® said...

Hey Kent, I'm back. Not that you even noticed I was gone...

My slogan was, "Dwacon Tastes Good, Like a (expletive) Should!"

No expulsion or call to my parents or anything... Just an ass whupping from the crazed Vietnam vets who worked as our school's NTA's (Non-Teaching Assistants -- or, to be more accurate, goon squad).

And people ask why I don't miss South Philly...

Tom Quigley said...

Ken,

Did you have to give a separate concession speech to each class also?...

One of my memories of the 60's was that Richard Nixon knew his by heart because he had to give it so often...

growingupartists said...

That was very funny, looking forward to the next installment!

tb said...

You don't remember the winner's name? How about what he/she looked like? Didn't they rub it in?

Roger Green said...

Whereas I WON as President of Student Government in high school by sounding as though I didn't even want the job. Maybe you tried too hard with those young folks.

John said...

Ken, obviously you failed to take into account the effects of the 1964 Surgeon General's Report on smoking as it penetrated through West Coast junior high culture. Obviously, the 7th graders at your school were more news-aware and health-conscious, then the 9th graders, who were already hooked by the pro-smoking lobby and were willing to laugh at a subject that should be a concern for all of us (I'm trying my hardest to come up with the post-speech spin the campaign handlers for your opponent would have used here, assuming they wouldn't have hauled out the big guns and used the Tony Schwartz-Bill Moyers "Daisy" ad against you for making a smoking-related joke).

maven said...

LOL, Ken, this sure brings back memories from Parkman! I ran for President (lost, of course)...my slogan was "Everyone yearns to vote for Burns!" OMG, did I really do that?

Great Big Radio Guy said...

Grouchy Mike: Let's stick with LBJ and watch 50,000 guys get run through a meat grinder in Vietnam.

Hardly anyone on both sides would disagree about LBJ's horrid foreign policy, but on civil rights, he changed the country. In signing the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Voting Rights Act, he said, "We lost the South for a generation." Turned out to be more.

That history lesson aside, in my junior year, I was campaign director for one of the groups running for Suffern High School's student body. I came up with a simple to-the-point name of our party: The Suffern High Improvement Team.

Took the principal three days, but he caught on, and we caught enormous Suffern High Improvement Team for it despite our pleading our total ignorance. We still won, mostly out of chutzpah.

David K. M. Klaus said...

An older friend (I was nine in 1964) once told me "I was told if I voted for Goldwater, we'd get stuck in a land war in Asia. And that's what happened, I voted for Goldwater and we got stuck in a land war in Asia."

Cap'n Bob Napier said...

Another take on the Goldwater slogan was, "In your heart you know he's right--extreme right."

And wasn't that War On Poverty that LBJ created a rousing success?

Ken, where's your report on the All-Star Game?

Gridlock said...

Sorry if I'm posting a 'spoiler', but Moxie Crimefighter is Penn Jillette's daughter's name and has always struck me as absolutely fan-fucking-tastic.

Beth Ciotta said...

Priceless. 'Wonder Years' with an extreme edge. :)

A. Buck Short said...

Expelled???? For a button? Solzhenitsyn was treated fairer sent to the gulag. Lesson number two: never even attempt any kind of a set before 9 pm. much less as a matinee in a room where copious amounts of alcohol are uninvolved and the light is bright enough to grow poison tomatoes.

In the early 70s, one of my favorite New Yorker cartoons had deranged Hungarian Laslo Toth being led away by authorities with an extremely puzzled look on his face after smashing Michelangelo’s Pieta to smithereens with a with hammer during a mass at the Vatican. The caption was, “Pieta? I thought they said piƱata?”

And I’m sorry. I even like the guy, but doesn’t that Barak Obama look (and sound a little) like he’s still running for student body president? And lesson number three: student body or House of Representatives, ultimately everybody does everything to get laid.

LouOCNY said...

Suffern High Improvement Team?? Thats HYSTERICAL.........doubly so that it took the dim bulb principal THREE days to figure it out! Betcha every kid got it right away....

www.markchaet. said...

Also a 60's kid, I also ran for school office (maybe Vice-President) as an 11th grader. No idea why. My posters were mostly illustrated with photos of Godfrey Cambridge (for those that don't know him, a brilliant comic and actor who happened to be black) wearing a satiny red KKK outfit. The photos were from Esquire magazine.

I was never expelled, but as a senior I was sent home because my sideburns were too long. The next morning, with the same sideburns, I left for school. My mother (a very good mother, loved me a lot, hated the sideburns) noticed that I hadn't shaved them and shouted after me: "I hope you get expelled." A fond memory.

Paul Dua said...

Reminds me of my less than stellar political career....I won the post of Drama Club treasurer in junior high, but the faculty advisor never really gave me anything to do. That, combined with unsuccessful campaigns
in high school and college, helped to turn me off to public service.

And in fact, my mother smoked Kent cigarettes while I was growing up...more over, your losing with that campaign slogan just might have been a warning about the hell you would end up in two decades later. Mary Tyler Moore flogged Kent--she and the rest of the DICK VAN DYKE SHOW cast.

Finally, to refer back to the decade...I collect old TV game shows and now have an episode of THE DATING GAME from the time you made your notable appearances. No, it's not one with you--but I just wanted to provide some reassurance.
It has pictures from activities other daters attended.
At least you didn't end up at the Healdsburg (CA) Prune Festival, as one couple did.