Friday, July 3, 2009

Funny Pictures of Veeps - Charles Curtis

Okay, I apologize for this apparent piece of fluff. In the middle of the night, I didn't feel I could do proper justice to a blog about Joe Biden and gay rights. Next week, kids. In the meantime, here's one of my favorite pictures of a Veep ever. This is Charles "Charley" Curtis, VP under Hoover. By any historians account, Charley was less than memorable, at least in action as a VP. Outside of his rise to the second-highest office in the land, he made his mark, but good.

Now, keep in mind, I don't look up to the man pictured here in what could be the most unflattering staged photograph of a head of state ever. As a Vice President, at least, he was an embarassment, inspiring, among other things, the character of Alexander Throttlebottom in the Gershwin musical "Of Thee I Sing," in which the Vice President doesn't have enough clout to get a library card. Curtis also notoriously insulted the "idiots" of America while his country was in the middle of the Great Depression. I don't know if this picture was taken before or after that particular blow-up, but the heat, as it were, was always on. But Charley never seemed to feel it.

But old "Damp Brow" Curtis, as he should have been called, wasn't all bad. He's been frequently painted as one of the poorest choices for VP in history, possibly rightly. As VP, so it's been said, he did almost nothing. But to get that high and to have so little to do, no one can say Charles Curtis didn't bust his hump.

He was rumored to have memorized the names of thousands of his constituents, life stories all stored in little black books, but only as backups for the kind of memory that would aid any career in law. He could easily have been the model for the straw-hat-wearing politician. On the other hand, despite his obvious (and ironic, given his running as a "minority" due to 1/8 Indian blood) distaste for the downtrodden, Curtis, for one reason or another, was one of the strongest forces in passing the 19th Amendment.

As Vice President, though, Curtis was notoriously pompous, ignoring the very people who got him the office. Perhaps he resented the men he would no longer allow to call him "Charley," for elevating him to mediocrity. Maybe this is why, after his term was over, he went back into law while in his seventies - perhaps hoping to make a difference again, if not a new name for himself.

Unyielding in his pomposity, Charles Curtis saved his worse face for the office that gave him the most exposure, and his likely distaste for the uselessness of the office shown through. Sadly, he never returned to his home State of Kansas after being Vice President, and died in Washington, DC. His most prominent legacy is likely The Pulitzer Prize that, in many ways, his personality was responsible for - the first Pulitzer ever given out for a musical.

Well, at least he advanced the legitimization of political satire as an art form. You win some, you lose some.

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