Thursday, January 8, 2015
Hard Time with Dirtbag Alice & Emily Spinach
Tidbits this week:
On Friday I watched a documentary on prisons called Hard Time with my friend Ledbetter. (It was narrated by Thurston Moore. Yeah- Sonic Youth Thurston Moore. Am I the only one who finds that weird?) In one episode, there's a prison break where they discover two men have escaped. One of the guards was interviewed about his worries after the men had been missing for over 24 hours. Ledbetter shook her head and said, "I know just how he feels. It's like when your hamster gets out and you just want him back in the cage."
Awhile back, I found a piece on The Toast.com that tickled the hell out of me: Dirtbag Teddy Roosevelt.
I adore T.R. and I thought this was funny as all get-out.
The comments on The Toast were awesome as well- these are people who know their T.R. My new favorite word ever? UberRoosevelt.
One person commented that this was great, but what she REALLY wanted to see was Dirtbag Alice.
Which led me to believe I should finally dig in and start reading the biography of Alice Roosevelt Longworth that I bought eons ago. It has not disappointed.
Alice was one of my favorite kind of people- independent, intelligent, witty, weird.
Her mother, T.R.'s first wife, died two days after she was born and T.R. was so distraught he gave the baby to his sister Bamie (sometimes known as Bye) to raise. (Alice admired her aunt so much, she once said, "If auntie Bye had been a man, she would have been president.") After Teddy married Edith Carow, they made the child leave the only home she'd ever known and move in with them- and their five children which were soon to follow. (Ted, Kermit, Ethel, Archie and Quentin. As another Toast reader said, all hail Edith's naming skills.)
In the White House, Alice relished the attention she received as First Daughter (or Princess Alice as she was often known) and HAD HERSELF A TIME. During a diplomatic mission to Japan, Alice jumped into a pool fully clothed and coaxed a congressman to join her. On May 11, 1908, Alice amused herself in the Capitol's gallery at the House of Representatives by placing a tack on the chair of an unknown but "middle-aged" and "dignified" gentleman. Upon encountering the tack, "like the burst of a bubble on the fountain, like the bolt from the blue, like the ball from the cannon," the unfortunate fellow leapt up in pain and surprise while she looked away.
"In her purse, she could be counted on to carry four essentials: cigarettes, a fertility image (no doubt sanctioned by the RSC), her green snake named Emily Spinach (after her thin aunt), and a copy of the Constitution."
EMILY SPINACH. I cannot tell you how much I love this.
Once, a White House visitor commented on Alice's frequent interruptions to the Oval Office. The exhausted president commented to his friend, author Owen Wister, after her third interruption to their conversation and threatening to throw her 'out the window', "I can either run the country or I can attend to Alice, but I cannot possibly do both."
When it came time for the Roosevelt family to move out of the White House, Alice buried a Voodoo doll of the new First Lady, Nellie Taft, in the front yard.
She was banned from the White House in 1916 for making a bawdy joke at the expense of Woodrow Wilson.
Alice demolished Thomas Dewey, the 1944 opponent of her cousin Franklin, by comparing the pencil-mustached Republican to "the little man on the wedding cake." The image stuck and helped Governor Dewey lose two consecutive presidential elections.
Alice is credited with the saying, "If you haven't got anything good to say about anybody, come sit next to me." She had it stitched on a pillow.
Senator Joseph McCarthy jokingly remarked at a party, "Here's my blind date. I am going to call you Alice." She responded, "Senator McCarthy, you are not going to call me Alice. The trashman and the policeman on my block call me Alice, but you may not."
Alice, who lived to age 96, was known as The Other Washington Monument.
While I very much enjoyed Ken Burns' The Roosevelts when it aired on PBS a couple months ago, I agree with Lyetteann on The Toast that it needed more Alice. I would've watched the hell out of "Come Sit Next To Me: the Story of Alice, Bamie and Some Dudes Who Were Related to Them."