For the next two weeks, Paul Slansky will be guest-blogging at Dangerous Minds about life during the Reagan era.
To provide an antidote to the poisonous bath of Reagan Love that the nation is currently drowning in, I’ve revised my 1989 book The Clothes Have No Emperor – which Wonkette just called “the only honest history of the Ronald Reagan 1980s” (italics theirs) – and re-issued it as an eBook, available here on a name-your price basis.
This is the first in a series of excerpts to remind those who lived through it – and inform those who didn’t – that, contrary to the current hagiography that the media is so inappropriately cheerleading, Reagan was actually a nasty, lazy ignoramus whose singular ability was to seem unthreatening by waggling his head while sporting a misleading grin.
JANUARY 20, 1985: With the next day’s re-inauguration apparently not providing enough exposure for him, President Reagan injects himself into the Super Bowl, performing the important presidential duty of tossing the coin to determine which team gets the ball. The live feed linking him to the broadcast from Stanford is open ten minutes before he goes on the air, enabling satellite dish owners to spy on the leader of the free world as he:
*Practices the coin flip three times – “It is heads ... It is tails” – so he’s prepared for all possibilities
*Reveals a really neat idea a friend of his had: “Frank Sinatra had a recommendation, instead of tossing the coin, what would have been a lot better. You’d have had me outdoors throwing out the ball. I would have thrown it – a little art work of maybe a ball going across a map – and out there, one of them catching a ball, as if it’s gone all the way across the United States. How about that?”
*Stands immobile, almost deflated, as the minutes tick by, as if he doesn’t quite exist when the camera’s not on.
Finally, he gets his cue and – suddenly animated – he flips the coin. “It is tails!” he announces, adding some banality about how all the players should do their best. The network cuts away and, somewhat forlornly, he resumes the less satisfying non‑televised portion of his life.
Harry Shearer captured the satellite feed, and he’s finally made it available for everyone to see. It’s the only ten minutes – out of the entire eight years of his presidency – that Reagan was observable without knowing that he was being watched. It’s the realest he’s ever been in front of the cameras.
Spoiler alert: the coin comes up tails.