On this day in 1901, Chic Young was born. He was the creator of the comic strip Blondie. I really liked it when I was a kid. Now, it seems kind of pathetic. But I think it is like all art: you have to put it in historical context. Look at the other comic strips of the 1930s: they’re dreadful. What is most amazing is that the strip is still actively being produced. Young’s son Dean writes it and it is drawn by whomever. He is currently on his fifth artist since he took over the strip from his father in in 1973. By the way, the Dagwood Sandwich really is named after Blondie’s husband.
The great guitarist Jimmy Page is 70 today. I’m not a big Led Zeppelin fan, but Page was a very innovative guitarist. But I’ve look for a decent bit of video of him playing his guitar somewhat recently. All I find is a lot of Led Zeppelin that really annoys me. So go look it up yourself if you want.
Other birthdays: playwright Thomas William Robertson (1829); composer John Knowles Paine (1839); chief engineer of the Golden Gate Bridge Joseph Strauss (1870); actor Fernando Lamas (1915); one of the greatest villains in film history, Lee Van Cleef (1925); playwright Brian Friel (85); football player Bart Starr (81); actor Bob Denver (1935); actor J K Simmons (59); actor and crush of mine Imelda Staunton (58); and singer-songwriter Dave Matthews (47).
The day, however, belongs to my beloved Richard Nixon who was born on this day in 1913. Look, the man was imperfect. He had a real paranoia problem—but not without cause. And his foreign policy was a disaster. But was it worse than Johnson’s? Well, I don’t know. It certainly wasn’t a lot worse. And he did eventually decide it was time to pull the cord. He also wasn’t bad on domestic issues. But the reason that I love him is that he is the most successful loser in the history of humanity. Even at the peak of his fame, I think he still felt like a loser. And, of course, there are my puppet plays about the Nixon administration. So in a sense, Nixon is no longer a person to me; he’s a character. And in that group, he’s an okay guy. Kind of a Caspar Milquetoast compared to the rest of the cast.
Here’s another thing. Here’s what Nixon said after he lost his election to become the governor of California:
How do you not love that man? He’s angry. He’s sad. But he thinks he’s being funny. And do you know what? I think he was funny! I present the video because when people quote it, they get the tone all wrong. That’s understandable. There’s a lot going on inside him at that point. But it isn’t an angry denunciation the way people usually say it, “You won’t have Nixon to kick around anymore…” He wasn’t just talking about the media there either. He was talking to the world generally. It’s poignant.
One thing I definitely think: Richard Nixon was not bad for this country in the way that Reagan, Bush the Younger, and even the New Democrats have been. That’s not to say that he wouldn’t be a crazy Tea Party guy if he were in politics today. But even in his own time, the conservative Republicans didn’t much like his liberal social policy. If Nixon had been more of an economic conservative, his party mightn’t have abandoned him so willingly over Watergate. I for one am damn sad that we don’t have Nixon to kick around anymore.
Happy birthday Richard Nixon!