Friday, September 7, 2012


Since we are knee-deep in the 2012 Presidential election, I thought I would look at two political figures of the past, who made political elections fun. They were on different sides of the Atlantic Ocean and had different personalities, yet they were sort of doing the same thing. One was a proto-Gothic-shock rocker, the other a skinny, sad-faced fellow with a slow, monotone deadpan delivery. Screaming Lord (David) Sutch and Patrick Layton Paulsen ran for office for office from the 60s until their deaths in the 90s and, truth be told, could probably still get votes a whole decade after passing away.

Screaming Lord Sutch

David Sutch was an early British rock and roll performer. The "Lord" part of his name came from his habit of wearing a crown on stage in the early days. With the help of eccentric record producer Joe Meek, he created a stage persona of a ghoulish character with long green hair (this was in 1961), red lipstick, white face paint and blackened eyes. He recorded songs like "Til The Following Night (Big Black Coffin)," "Jack The Ripper," "Dracula's Daughter" and "She Has Fallen in Love With a Monster Man." None of these records were hits, but became quite influential and collectible due to his use of musicians like Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck, Ritchie Blackmore, Mathew Fisher, Noel Redding, Mitch Mitchell and (fellow partying buddy) Keith Moon.

In 1963, Lord Sutch entered into a Parliamentary special election for the seat vacated by Conservative John Profumo, who resigned after a sex scandal (which was the subject of the movie Scandal). At that time, he said he represented the National Teenage Party and said if elected he would lower the voting age from 21 to 18. He didn't win, but the idea picked up popularity and voting age was lowered in Great Britain. The Untied States followed suit in the early 70s. When Lord Sutch ran for Parliament, he usually included several serious issues in his platform, such as the rights and treatment of the disabled. Of course, the rest his platform included things like "Clothing-free Tuesday" and drivers license for dogs. In the 80s, Lord Sutch promised to win an election to be prime minister by changing his name to Margaret Thatcher. It apparently scared the Conservatives so bad that they raised the entry fee for candidates. This didn't stop Lord Sutch and his Monster Loony Party, which is still in existence and has a following with the younger generation. Sadly, Lord Sutch suffered from severe depression and took his life shortly after the death of his mother in 1999.

You wouldn't know it by looking at Pat Paulsen, but he served in the Marine Corp in World War 2. His foray into politics started as a series of monologues on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour. The joke began as a parody of editorials on local newscast, usually given by the TV station's general manager. Paulsen modeled his persona off of a general manager of a California TV station, who was ill-suited for speaking on camera (Paulsen said in an interview with E! Network that this GM must have worked his way up from accounting to general manager). One of the traits Paulsen picked up from this GM was his clumsiness. The GM might spill a cup of water or knock over the microphone. The first editorial Paulsen performed was mainly double-talk, followed by announcer Roger Carol giving an CBS address for a transcript of the editorial. CBS was bombarded with letters saying, "That guy is funny. We want more of that." So the Pat Paulsen editorials became a weekly feature on the show during the first two seasons. It caught on so fast during the first season that Pat Paulsen was asked to appear as a government expert on UFO's in an episode of The Monkees.

The second season of the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour fell during the turbulent election year of 1968. Early in the year, politicians such as Robert Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, Eugene McCarthy, and others would give a speech then deny they were running for the office of President. At the end of one of the editorial segments, Paulsen told Tommy Smothers that there was a "rumor going around" that he would be running for President. Paulsen said, "I will not run if nominated, and if elected I will not serve." Eventually, Paulsen announced on the show his "candidacy."  He told the audience, "I'm honest enough to admit that I have some draw backs and disadvantages as a candidate. Although I am a professional comedian, some of my critics maintain that this alone is not enough."

In the editorials and the campaign, Paulsen used to dismiss criticisms by saying "Picky, picky, picky." This became his catchphrase on the show. He said that he belonged to the Straight Talking American Government Party or the STAG Party. His campaign slogan was "I upped my standards, now up yours!" He frequently referred to himself as "Just a common, ordinary, simple savior of America's destiny."

He not only ran in 1968, but in 1972, 1980, 1988, 1992 and finally in 1996. He was actually more successful in the 90s. In 1992, he came in second to George H. Bush in the North Dakota Republican Primary and garnered 10, 984 votes in the Republican primary that same year. He received 921 votes to come in second to Bill Clinton in the New Hampshire Democratic Primary in 1996. Tommy Smothers has said if Pat Paulsen probably could have one an election, if he had ran a serious campaign. Pat Paulsen died the next year of pneumonia, while being treated for colon and brain cancer.

There are elements of Lord Sutch and Pat Paulsen still with us in various forms. Lord Sutch's music and stage act influenced later acts such as Alice Cooper, David Bowie, Kiss, Ozzy Osbourne, the Damned, the Cramps, Marilyn Manson and Slipknott. Paulsen's editorials were sort of the forerunner of The Colbert Report, The Daily Show and Saturday Night Live's Weekend Update. However, the type of campaigns that made Lord Sutch and Pat Paulsen famous may be a thing of the past. A case in point is Stephen Colbert's attempt to run for President in 2008 ended as soon as it began. South Carolina Republicans raised the entry fee (Much like British Conservatives tried to do to Lord Sutch) and the Democrats said he wasn't a serious candidate (Remember Paulsen's joke about being a "professional comedian" -as he would say "Picky, picky, picky"). Of course, it should be noted that Pat Paulsen was always a write-in candidate rather than being on an official ballot.    

Much of the blame for this could be a response to the confusing outcome of  the 2000 Presidential Election. There were some who blamed candidates from other parties (i.e: Reform, Green, Constitution, Libertarians)  for throwing the count off for Al Gore Jr and George W. Bush (BTW - Dubya shares a birthday with Pat Paulsen - July 6). Some people also take politics way too serious after 9-11. These people seem to think we should have banned humor after 9-11. I remember when Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert held the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear, one local blogger had a melt down on Twitter that they were "making light of our nations problems." No, they were poking fun at Glen Beck's rally a few weeks earlier, which the blogger gushed about for weeks afterward.

Think about this, both Sutch and Paulsen received more votes after there stardom was over. Was this because there was an underlying vision that appealed to people for years after the 60s or did the political scene get so goofy and stupid that Lord Sutch and Pat Paulsen seemed sane compared to the other people in politics? After all, Honey Boo Boo beat Paul Ryan in the TV ratings last week.  Maybe I should run for office and Honey Boo boo can be my running mate   

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