the schmooze


*In Yiddish, "der khidesh" means "the surprise"

Marjorie Gottlieb Wolfe
Syosset, New York
Today is Election Day.  As I stood outside of the Baylis School in Syosset, New York, where I vote, I heard my "shokhente" (female neighbor) said, "Forget Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.  Forget Rudy Giuliani and Mike Huckabee.  And forget, Stephen Colbert, the comedian who is running for the nation's highest office. Let's bring back Gracie Allen!"

Radio personalities, notably Eddie Cantor and Will Rogers, had made slapstick runs in the direction of 1600 Pennsylvania "evenyu" (Avenue). 

Let's look back to 194.  Gracie Allen ran as "der kandidat" (the candidate) of the Surprise Party, dispensing with a vice president because she wanted no vice in the White House.  Why the "Surprise Party"?  As Gracie explained, her mother was a Democrat, her father, a Republican, and Gracie had been born a Surprise.

In the book, "Gracie -  A Love Story" by George Burns, we learn that Gracie was "good as a painter and excellent as a concert pianist, but she was best as a politician."  Yes, Gracie's presidential campagn attracted as much attention as the search for her missing brother had seven years earlier.  Gracie was the first comedian to run for the presidency...and to do it seriously.

Gracie once claimed she was going to run or the office of governor of the State of COMA, claiming to have been there for many years.

What George and gracie did was provide relief for people from the fact that millions of them were on relief.  They did a series of broadcasts for "di regirung' (the government) to publicize and explain the National Recovery Act, which provided protection for the worker, including the creation of a minimum wage.

George said, "Look here, Gracie.  This means that women will be getting men's wages."

"Don't be silly, George," she corrected. "My sister Bessie has been married to three men and never got their wages."

"Gracie, the you know that the government will see that everyone in this country is going to be paid a living wage?"

"It's a good idea.  They should be paid living wages because wages aren't very good when you're dead."

Imagine the state of "dos land" (the country) if we needed Gracie Allen to explain the economic recovery!

Back in 1940, the presidential campaign pitted Democratic Franklin Roosevelt against Republican Wendell Willkie.  And Gracie Allen was the candidate of the Surprise Party.

Gracie's presidential campaign began on the show as a gag, and it was supposd to run for two weeks.  She announced that the American public had been laughing at political candidates for years, so why shouldn't she run?  Her slogan:


Gracie referred to her platform ("redwood trimmed with 'nutty' pine") as having "such insignificance that future historians may well call it the Magna Carta of the Misdeal."  Her ideas:

Gracie claimed that she had a real chance of winning because "half of all the married people in this country are women."

Well, her gag caught on and Gracie began making unannounced appearances on other radio shows like "Dr. I.Q." and "Jack Benny's Jell-O Show."  On "The Texaco Star Theatre," Ken Murray asked her which party she was affiliated with.  "Same old party," she told him--"George Burns." Others say that she retorted, "I may take a drink now and then, but I never get affiliated."

Fibber McGee and Molly told Gracie that they had heard that several other candidates intended to run for the White House and asked her if she'd heard about those rumors.

"They're not true.  I'll be running the White House and I don't intend to take in any roomers."

Candidates come in all sizes and have a variety of styles and methods of campaigning (Whistlestopping; front-porch campaign; whirlwind campaign; even whispering campaign.)  Most claim to find campaigning a "great opportunity to meet the people."

The Union Pacific Railroad and the City of Omaha, Nebraska, turned her stunt into "an event."  To promote the release of the movie, "Union Pacific," the railroad and the city had staged an Old West festival called Golden Spike Days, during which the men of Omaha grew beards and everyone wore traditional western costumes.  The Union Pacific railroad offered to provide a campaign train for Gracie for a whistle-stop tour.  She would board a campaign train in LA and make a series of speeches enroute to Omaha, and when she got there she would inaugurate their new coliseum.

Gracie didn't think she could do it.  She disliked making speeches, and certainly didn't want to make a series of them.  She was required to make as many as 20 speeches to thousands of people from the rear platform of a caboose.

Now Gracie wasn't really interested in politics.  She read the newspapers every day and had her own opinions about current events, but she was never vocal about them.  (In those days, show-business people concentrated on show business, while politicians concentrated on giving people the business!)   Performers never ran for office, although some of the people who ran for office turned out to be performers.

Gracie Allen was a strong supporter of the Dies Committee--"If we didn't keep [it] going, who'd color our Easter eggs?"

And though she was eager to serve the nation as president, Gracie had her limits. "I will make no fire-side chats from the White House between April 15 and October 15," she declared.  "It is asking too much and I don't know how President Roosevelt stands it.  Washington is awfully hot ("heys") in the summer ("zumer").

Gracie encouraged the American people to take pride in our national debt, boasting that "it's the biggest in the world."  So impressed was she with the $43 billion owed by the government that she proposed depositing the entire amount in a "safe" bank at two percent interest.

So, what happened?

Gracie received the endorsement of Harvard "universitet"; this must have been a serious blow to Roosevelt, who was an alumnus of the school.

On Election Day, Nov. 5, 1940, Franklin Roosevelt collected more than 27 million votes and was re-elected president.  Gracie likely received a few "hundert"  write-in votes, at best; no exact figures are available.


Marjorie Gottlieb Wolfe's favorite Gracie-ism: 
"I don't know much about the Lend-Lease Bill, but if we owe it, we should pay it."

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Marjorie Gottlieb Wolfe is the author of
two books:
yiddish for dog and cat loversbook
"Yiddish for Dog & Cat Lovers" and
"Are Yentas, Kibitzers, & Tummlers Weapons of Mass Instruction?  Yiddish
Trivia."  To order a copy, go to her

NU, what are you waiting for?  Order the book!

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