Monday, November 01, 2004
VAUGHN MEADER PASSES
It was Vaughn Meader who actually spurred my lifelong interest in politics. I came from a family of Roosevelt/Kennedy haters, people who believed Joe Kennedy made his money in liquor because Roosevelt tipped him off that prohibition was going to be repealed It apparently never occurred to the good evangelicals that the whole country knew prohibition was about to end and Kennedy was just a shrewd businessman. Like most kids, I believed my parents, when they demonized JFK, I thought him to be some kind of fiend. Then I saw him on tv, being asked about Meader's impression of him. Kennedy said "I think he is really a very funny fellow, but I have to tell you, I think he sounds more like my brother Bobby." The line brought howls of laughter from the press corps, and instantly humanized Kennedy for me. He was suddenly a very likable man, a guy who could poke fun at himself, a regular guy. I immediately became a Kennedy fan, and remain one to this day.
Meader doesn't get the credit he deserves, but he was really a pioneer. His ensemble political comedy paved the way for the likes of the SMOTHERS BROTHERS, THAT WAS THE WEEK THAT WAS, LAUGH IN, AND SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE. It is a shame he didn't get to enjoy more of the limelight he deserved.
After Kennedy's death, he became reclusive for a couple of years. He tried to get back into show business, but he was too closely tied to Kennedy, it was too painful for people to except him in any other role. He drifted into alcohol and drugs, and eventually made his way back to his native Maine. About 10 or so years ago, he re-emerged as a folk singer, and kept busy working the northeast until the emphysema he battled for years over took him. He died this week from the disease.
I notice that there is a cd available at Amazon of the two FIRST FAMILY albums. I believe I will drop the $20. Sometimes, it helps to remember where you came from!