The silver-tongued devil.

Jack Valenti came to Columbus once, and I can’t say when, except that I was old enough to read the newspaper and Jim Rhodes was governor. Valenti was paying a call on Big Jim, and the Dispatch story about it said the secretaries were all a-twitter. Why? Valenti was a good-looking man, but he’s no Clooney, either. I think it was just that he knew Clooney, or the day’s Clooney-equivalent; he reflected the Glory of Hollywood, something rare in the Ohio governor’s office. Especially that governor.

(I’ve heard many stories about Rhodes’ boorishness, and I don’t know how many are true, but here’s one, reported by an eyewitness: The governor was meeting with the presidents of Ohio’s public universities, a group he was not inclined to think much of, education bein’ for lawyers and fags and so forth. This one spoke, and that one spoke, and then the president of Kent State chimed in, and Big Jim stood up and stepped over to his bathroom, which opened onto the office. “Keep talkin’!” he said. “I can hear ya fine!” As the KSU president went on, haltingly, the governor of the Buckeye State had a nice, long, relaxing pee. With the door open. He had issues with Kent State.)

Anyway, Valenti. I don’t recall what he was doing so far from Hollywood, but it had something to do with the industry. The obits said he was a b.s. artist without peer, with a Texas drawl :

In his many public utterances, he orated and declaimed, grandly and voluminously, as if addressing the Roman Senate about the urgency of conquering Gaul. A fan of Shakespeare and Yeats and Greek mythology, Valenti spoke in baroque phrases, filigreed and curlicued — all inflected with a slight Texas accent. From his tongue, an opponent’s proposal wasn’t merely unacceptable; it was “an arrow dipped in curare.” And as spun by him, America wasn’t just a great and fine nation; it was “a free and loving land.”

Some people found such verbiage pompous and smarmy, particularly since Valenti, who wrote all his own speeches, was usually talking about something relatively mundane, such as DVD piracy or runaway movie-production costs. Such lofty language would have been ridiculous — if it weren’t such a pleasure to hear a man so out of step with ordinary speechifying.

One had to marvel at the self-confidence it took to gather oneself before an illustrious audience and utter such preposterous phrases as “springing full-blown from the head of Zeus.” And the thing was, you never remembered what a rival had to say.

Well, that’s the lobbyist’s secret charm, isn’t it? Blow into town, get the secretaries all steamy, fill the governor’s ear with sweet nothings, and on to Washington or Cannes or wherever.

Personally, after hearing what some of the Democrats had to say last night, a reference to curare would be welcome. Where did great political oratory go? This is one reason I can’t dislike Jesse Jackson; the guy understands that a speech is, on some level, entertaiment, and he delivers.

Not much to deliver, today, and I apologize: I have a busy day before I blow out of town late this afternoon for a weekend “camping trip” with Kate’s Girl Scout troop. I call it “camping” because we sleep in bunk beds in a heated lodge, making the experience less woodsy and more like a weekend in a bad hotel. But there will be S’mores, and wine if I have anything to say about it.

Back after the weekend.

Posted at 9:35 am in Current events, Movies |

31 responses to “The silver-tongued devil.”

  1. Karen said on April 27, 2007 at 9:42 am

    Oh no – booze is strictly forbidden at girl scout events in our neck of the woods (southern Illinois). I once had the nerve to bring a mixed drink with me to a spaghetti supper that I was volunteering to work for SIX hours on a Saturday night, and got my hand slapped by the leader. “Thank God no one knew”, she said. I’m just saying………be sure your leaders are more liberal than ours!

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  2. MarkH said on April 27, 2007 at 9:58 am

    Rhodes…the quintessential political hack. Nancy, remember the joke around Columbus about his statue in front of the statehouse? He’s walking away from the building carrying a briefcase and there was speculation on how much money was in it.

    You knew his disdain for education everytime he opened his mouth.

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  3. Danny said on April 27, 2007 at 11:35 am

    Take a thermos, Nance.

    As the KSU president went on, haltingly, the governor of the Buckeye State had a nice, long, relaxing pee. With the door open. He had issues with Kent State

    Was this before or after the National Guard incident?

    And the only thing that would have made that story more hilarious is if “Big Jim” at thrown in a few sphincter relaxing flatulences to boot.

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  4. nancy said on April 27, 2007 at 11:38 am

    After, of course. He may have been merely unimpressed by higher ed before 1970, but after that, it was personal.

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  5. Danny said on April 27, 2007 at 11:50 am

    I know you all have probably seen this, but the creator and singer of the Monster Mash died.

    I didn’t know Leon Russel played on that song.

    Pickett used the impersonation in a nightclub act and when performing with his band the Cordials. A bandmate convinced Pickett they needed to do a song to showcase the Karloff voice, and “Monster Mash” was born – “written in about a half-hour,” said Dr. Demento.

    The recording, done in a couple of hours, featured a then-unknown piano player named Leon Russell and a backing band christened The Crypt-Kickers. It was rejected by four major labels before Gary Paxton, lead singer on the Hollywood Argyles’ novelty hit “Alley Oop,” released “Monster Mash” on his own label.

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  6. MarkH said on April 27, 2007 at 12:16 pm

    Danny, read the attched article from American Heritage magazine, and you’ll learn all about “The Wrecking Crew”, THE backup recording band in LA throughout the ’60s. Leon Russell was but one of the then-anonymous members who played backup on EVERYTHING we heard in that era.

    Many of the famous groups who were purported to be playing their own instruments, in fact did not. The Crew did. The talentless Monkees are famously known (save for Nesmith, who did play guitar), but did you know that only Roger McGuinn played on al the Byrds’ early hits, including Tambourine Man?

    Glen Campbell, Larry Knechtel, Hal Blaine, many others. And the most fascinating to me, Carol Kaye, the woman who laid down many of the famous bass lines on those songs, including Nancy Sinatra’s “Boot Are Made For Walkin'”.

    I digress. Lots of stories; definitley worth your time:

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  7. MarkH said on April 27, 2007 at 12:17 pm

    Sorry. I screwed up the link. Try this:

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  8. MarkH said on April 27, 2007 at 12:31 pm


    Wrong about Kaye on “Boots”. It was Chuck Berghofer on that one. She did, however, do “Beat Goes On”, “Shaft”, others.

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  9. Danny said on April 27, 2007 at 12:51 pm

    Mark, say it ain’t so. Next thing you are going to tell me is that the Archies did not play their own instruments. And what about all of the music interludes on the Scooby-Doo show. I mean, Scooby really played those instruments, right? 🙂

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  10. Danny said on April 27, 2007 at 1:03 pm

    Man, that was an interesting article. Though i was surpirred about The Byrds, I was also surprised about The Carpenters. All stories I heard indicated that Karen was a top-notch drummer and that she really did not want to come out from behind the drum-kit. I just assumed that she did their studio drumming.

    Also, that really was an astonishing revelation about the degree of Carol Kaye’s virtuosity. I’ve never heard of her. Chris Squire, Stanley Clark, etc. yes. Carol, never.

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  11. MarkH said on April 27, 2007 at 1:43 pm

    Danny, she’s still at it. Check this out:

    Back in the ’60s, she was a wisp of a woman, not much bigger than the electric bass she played.

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  12. czucky Dimes said on April 27, 2007 at 3:37 pm

    Ahh, Jim Rhodes: Hard to understand how he deserves “quintessential political hack”. His three rules for all who worked in his administration were 1) Don’t steal from the state till, 2) Don’t sleep with the help, and 3) Don’t drink downtown. He was not above enriching himself and his friends with inside info, as in the case of the Honda plant siting at Marysville in the 1970’s. (He and others bought up land around that area before the announcement of the project, then cashed out after.) The stain of Kent State remains, although he was not directly responsible for that, merely involved in covering for the people who were. Aside from that, he ran a generally competent operation, and kept the troops on his side of the aisle in line. The same cannot be said of the most recent former governor, Bob Taft, a man who stood for nothing but expediency. At least Rhodes had an idea of what he wanted, and worked to fulfill it. His lack of respect for book-learnin’ and those who had it may have been a result of his earlier circumstances. The Columbus Dispatch turned up an FBI file on him (thank you Freedom of Information Act), in which his activities as a numbers runner during the Depression in the 30’s were laid open. Hell, it was tough then, and everybody has to make a living, right? All in all, I’d say the public got a fair bargain with Mr. Rhodes.

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  13. Peter said on April 27, 2007 at 4:29 pm

    Nancy, I don’t know if the Rhodes pee story is an urban myth, but LBJ was long known for taking a dump with the door open during meetings – he would like to have senior staff members bring him extra tissue – just to show who’s in charge.

    And don’t forget Louis XIV – he would invite nobility to watch him get up every morning, and they were treated to watch the Royal Dump, after which they could check out the deposit and see for themselves that the Sun King could still pinch a loaf.

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  14. Casey said on April 27, 2007 at 4:35 pm

    Have fun “camping”. I imagine you are going to Innisfree? Been there, done that and between you, me and the web, somehow a bottle of wine nearly always makes it to the campfire after the girls are asleep, but never asked. Next month our troop is ditching Innisfree (we prefer the Whispering Pines platform tent site at Metamora, (by far the most beautiful real estate the Detroit council owns) but the council is putting it in storage, probably gonna sell it to some developer to pay for council admin salaries…) we are heading up to a platform tent site near Lapeer, owned by the Flint council. First time up there for all of us.

    As to yesterday’s reference to the Bill Moyers program Wed (Alex wrote “As for Moyers, those of us who thought the McCarthy era could never happen again ought to wake up and realized we just lived through another one.”) I just saw it online, you can find it at (don’t know exactly how to do a hyperlink so let’s see if this works): .
    Okay, that didn’t work. Just copy and paste.

    I’ve been thinking this for a long long time…. I was living in the mid east (in Israel and travelling in and out of Gaza everyday for work/school/volunteer stuff) from June 2002 through Feb 2003 and well remember wondering how in the world the American press could be so thoroughly bamboozled by the Administration. I kept waiting for the press to find it’s own smoking gun to in the form of a Watergate burglary or something… nothing. Well actually, not nothing, just no front page reports. Doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence in daily news. Depressing really.

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  15. Casey said on April 27, 2007 at 4:37 pm

    well I guess the link does work after all.

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  16. brian stouder said on April 27, 2007 at 4:58 pm

    OK – I’ll bite. When you say –

    I was living in the mid east (in Israel and travelling in and out of Gaza everyday for work/school/volunteer stuff) from June 2002 through Feb 2003 and well remember wondering how in the world the American press could be so thoroughly bamboozled by the Administration.

    What Big Big BIG story is being so thoroughly missed (or suppressed, if a more ominous tone was what you intended) by “the American press”? – but that you could clearly see when you were a volunteer.student/worker?

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  17. MarkH said on April 27, 2007 at 5:26 pm

    OK, czucky, MAYBE I should not have been so cavalier about the work hack. A hack would probably be one who at the drop of a hat does the bidding of special interests or political superiors. Rhodes perhaps more ordered the bidding except when it came to corporate interests. He wanted to be known as the governor who, more than any other, provided jobs to Ohioans, and he probably did, whatever it took.

    Perhaps “afficiando of political patronage” could have been used.

    But those three rules of his you relate have ‘political cover’ written throughout.

    And, you are completely letting Rhodes off the hook regarding Kent State. Going against all local advice to the contrary, he ordered in the National Guard. He would not be pushed around by ‘brownshirts’, among other things he called the rioters. Granted, a small segment of the protestors was out of control, but local law enforcement felt it could be handled if they just shut down the university. An interesting summary is contained herein:

    Cover he did, but for himself as much as others.

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  18. czucky Dimes said on April 27, 2007 at 8:58 pm

    Well, Mr. H, it seems that we’re looking at the same thing through different filters. After reading the piece in your link, I remain a Rhodes admirer(grudgingly). Try not to forget that Rhodes grew up in a different time than we did, and the “brown shirts” probably represented something very different to him than it does to those who came along after WWII was over. By the time we got here, they were just history, but he had lived through (maybe didn’t fight in, not sure) a time of real war against them. So he sends in the Guard, and some stupid mazook(s) get trigger-happy. What do you do? Everything you can to keep the damage contained, that’s all. Yeah, he covered all right.

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  19. MichaelG said on April 27, 2007 at 10:42 pm

    My one Ohio experience dates from 1968. We were traveling and it was late on a Sunday night. Stopped to eat. Ordered a burger and a beer. Was told that it was not possible to have a beer on Sunday, but since it was minutes before midnight, things would soon change. We sat and watched the bar clock. At the stroke, a schooner appeared in front of me. Love them blue laws. Mass was and probably still is the worst. By the way, Mr. Dimes, is that pronounced “Chucky”? As in Cheeze? Wait! Wait! I was in Ohio one other time. I got off the plane and went to the rental lot and stood sort of stupidly looking at my car which had frost all over the windows. This was in Columbus. The guy getting into the next car said “gotta credit card?” I replied “uh, yeah, I guess so”. Quick study that I am, I half assed scraped the windows and went about my business. I always knew there were reasons I don’t like the cold country.

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  20. michaelj said on April 28, 2007 at 3:54 am

    The pissing story wouldn’t have phased Jack Valenti. That’s Lydon Johnson personified. Backin the Seventies, JoeKennedy came to talk to the principals of the engineering firm I worked for in Boston, about his ideas regarding cheap hearing oil for people in need. Every woman in the company basically went nuts.

    My point about Cheryl Crow was this: claiming she hasn’t talent is bogus. She’s an accomplished bass player, a very good singer, a fairly accomplished piano player, and probably a decent guitar player. Running her down is probably some sort of misogyny. . She’s written brilliant songs, that are far superior to anything that those boys got paid for on her first album. If you don’t like ‘Every Day Is a Winding Road’ I guess you don’t like music. If you think there’s a song on the first album, for which those aholes got writing credits and lots of cash, that’s as good as, for instance ‘Steve McQueen’ or ‘Every Day is a Winding Road’, you’re lacking sense.

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  21. michaelj said on April 28, 2007 at 4:00 am

    It’s something that bugs me that people assume female musicians just get where they get because they’re women. For instance, Georgia Hugley is one of the greatest drummers that ever lived, but I guess she’s just a chick, like Cheryl Crow. And anybody that thinks Nancy Wilson did anything but strum chords doesn’t really know much.

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  22. czucky Dimes said on April 28, 2007 at 12:46 pm

    To MichaelG: Pretty close, it’s Czucky as in Czechoslovakia.

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  23. Danny said on April 28, 2007 at 3:13 pm

    Nancy and Ann are simply brilliant. Saw them last sumer. They still kick ass.

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  24. michaelj said on April 28, 2007 at 5:33 pm

    I had no intention of introducing rancor to sucn a copacetic website. Dreamboat (big as she wants to be) sure can sing. The band?.Lamo Led Zep wannabes. Fortunately, we’ve got Chrissie Hynde that brought rhythm to rock ‘n’ roll. I’m not denigrating the Wilson sisters, although I figure Dog and Butterfly is as close tas they got to a good song. But Nancy Wilson is a guitar player like John Cougar can play guitar. Or all of those country characters that sling one.

    This is somdthingthat gets my dander up. Joan Armatrading can play. Bonnie can play. Sinead couldn’t if her life depended on it. Cheryl Crowe seems to be able, like Beck and Steve Stills, to play anything she picks up. Claiming she can’t is an abject lesson in objectifying women.

    Oh, and what I said about the quality of the songs, every day is a winding road. And that’s one of the truly great songs written in the last few years. (I get a little bit closer) That doesn’t really add to the arugment unless you listen to the song and hear how downright cool that sort of voice-over is.

    Honest to God, I think people don’t like her because she was born good-looking. It’s a burden some of us have to carry.

    I wouldn’t prolong this discussion but the idea of women rockars is compelling.

    There simply haven’t been enough of them. Patti Smith. Chrissie Hynde. Martha Reeves.. Ronnie Spectorr. SISTER RE. Oh, my God, Merrie Clayton, who put Mick in the ground on the greatest Rolling Stones song ever made.

    But did any one of them play an instrument? Probably.

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  25. Dorothy said on April 28, 2007 at 7:42 pm

    Marcia is it driving you nuts that they are spelling Ms. Crow’s name with a “C” instead of an “S”??

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  26. Casey said on April 29, 2007 at 10:10 am


    No omminous tone intended. When I lived there I accessed both US and foreign media pre-war coverage and I was astounded by the jingoistic tone in US media, and lack of depth of coverage – all the things Moyers talked about, that is the big big story. Did you see the report?

    When I watched U.S. adminstration talking (stand outs at the time were Colin Powell at the UN and the President’s 2003 SOTU address) I saw it in avery different light than what my friends still in the states saw. All that talk about “slam dunk”, “greeted as liberators” and “oil revenues will cover the cost” seemed so clearly off the mark. As too the last minute charges of Al Qaeda links. Hard to believe that Saddam, a secular Muslim, would embrace and give cover to the Islamist hard liners of Al Qaeda.

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  27. Danny said on April 29, 2007 at 5:35 pm

    michaelj, I think you know this, but just in case, I am totally cool with the musical discussion and half the time, I am tongue-in-cheek. No rancor. In fact, I misread your frist comment about Nancy Wilson and so when I said she was briliant, I thought I was agreeing with you.

    But i am surprised about the strumming comment. I mean, she wrote and performed that little intro to “Crazy On You.” I finally figured out how to play that several years ago, but as a teenager, that piece baffled me.

    Regarding Crow, I just have never liked her music. And as far as looks, I never even noticed. I mean she is OK, I guess. Just not my cup of tea.

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  28. brian stouder said on April 30, 2007 at 8:39 am

    Casey – thanks; now I understand your point.

    The pre-war and then the “new war” coverage on teevee was indeed uniformly terrible; msnbc (for example) – now the home of Keith Olbermann – was as smarmy and mindlessly flag-waving as everyone else.

    I thought it was disconcertingly odd at the time; but I don’t think anyone was fooled, other than original fools

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  29. Marcia said on April 30, 2007 at 9:31 am

    Dorothy: yes.

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  30. LA mary said on April 30, 2007 at 10:42 am

    Sheryl Srow?

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  31. Casey said on April 30, 2007 at 1:46 pm

    Disconcertingly odd is putting it mildly I’d say.

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