Sunday, January 09, 2005

The President and the King

Two of the 20th Century's most influential figures celebrated birthdays over the weekend. Pop icon Elvis Presley would have been 70 years old Jan. 8. Former president Richard Nixon would have turned 92 today. Presley died of a heart attack in August 1977. Nixon passed away following complications from a stroke in April 1994.

Two seemingly polar opposite figures saw their respective careers rise, fall and then rise again from the 1950s to the 1970s. And of course the duo's famous December 1970 meeting has become something of legend, having even spawned a hilarious 1997 Showtime TV movie spoof.

Elvis' 70th birthday got big play in the media. A local oldies station played his music throughout the weekend. I heard "Little Sister" and "Kentucky Rain" as I was driving around town yesterday. Several TV stations dug out several of Presley's movies to air in tribute. The Town of Farragut even brought in a special exhibit on The King.

Nixon's birthday came and went without so much as a mention in the local media. Which isn't really much of a surprise, sadly. I consider myself something of a Nixon buff and only remembered it offhandedly, as I was watching Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts easily dispose of Jake Plummer and the Denver Broncos earlier this afternoon. Nixon loved football and would no doubt have been watching were he still with us. Elvis, too.

It is a shame that Nixon is still treated as a pariah because of Watergate and the other scandals that plagued his administration. He was by no means perfect, but it is unfair to judge anyone by one chapter of their lives. And Nixon, after all, is such a fascinating story.

His journey remains inspiring, if for no other reason than the "never say die" attitude that was so much a part of his life. Even after his August 1974 resignation, Nixon refused to simply relegate himself to the history pages. He wrote nine books after his presidency ended and stayed very much in the mix of things, albeit from the Elbas of San Clemente and then Saddle River, New Jersey.

There is some comfort in the fact that if a guy like Richard Nixon can survive and rise again from a defeat, the rest of us surely can.

Or maybe not. Nixon's iron butt is a trait few of us can claim to have.

Presley remains very much with us, although sadly much of it is caricature. Most of those impersonators don't do the man justice and even few diehard Presley fans really know much of his catalog beyond "Jailhouse Rock" and "Hound Dog," which is a true shame.

The world seems a bit smaller without such personalities. The likes of Nick and Jessica, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, Bono and Sting just can't measure up to the phenonmenons that were Elvis Presley and Richard Nixon.

Both left us just when we needed them most. Pop music and politics have never been quite the same.

Happy birthday, fellas.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Excellant post, Mabe. Nixon is an amazing story. I wonder how CNN would treat Nixon had they existed together and what about my favorite Fox News. The reality of it is

We NEED Nixon Now, more than ever.

Long live RN!!!

11:28 PM  
Blogger Jake Mabe said...

Thanks for the comment. I, too, wonder how CNN would have treated Nixon. One never knows. I suspect the well-known liberal bias in the mainstream media would have prevented them from being fair to him.

Soemtimes I think we do indeed need Nixon now more than ever, to quote that great 1972 TV ad.

2:50 AM  
Blogger Brian Hornback said...

Where O Where is the Mabester? It has been 4 days since the last Mabe post. There has got to be something worthwhile in Mabe's world that he can post about. Just don't put Scott Frith's name first

9:41 PM  
Blogger Jake Mabe said...

Geez, Hornback. Give a guy a break. I've been busy writing for my real job this week!

2:40 PM  

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