Most youthful dreams fade in adulthood. We may have aspired to fame, fortune or other glory until reality strikes, and we adjust to more modest aspirations. Hopefully, these setbacks and disappointments don’t scar us too deeply. But there’s no escaping what fate awaits us in the tragicomedy of our lives.
I’ve been a political junkie since the days of John F. Kennedy in 1960. One of my earliest memories was Mom and Dad posting competing bumper stickers on the metal front door of our humble apartment in “the projects” of Euclid, Ohio.
Dad was a Nixon man. Mom rooted for JFK, who would become our first Irish-Catholic president. All us Massé kids sided with Mom as I recall.
President Kennedy’s wit, charm and accent fascinated me. I began mimicking his Boston dialect as an 8 year old. It remains one of my favorite impressions.
I watched his famous inauguration speech and many press conferences. I loved the sound of his voice but also the impact of his words. Years later, I learned of Ted Sorensen, his longtime speechwriter, counsel and friend. That was who I wanted to be—not the candidate but the inspiration behind the politician.
Flash forward to mid-1970s Cleveland. I was working for a PR firm, headed by Bill Silverman, former reporter-turned consultant for Mayor Carl Stokes and other politicians. I wrote my first TV speech for candidates Sweeney and Garofoli in 1976 and thought I was on my way. But such speechwriting gigs were rare, and I was mired in the drudgery of industrial product publicity.
Then a reprieve! A major Democratic rally at a downtown Cleveland union hall. I worked with local pols, writing remarks and producing materials. My boss surprised me with one final detail: a live donkey to attract media coverage.
Fine, I thought, we’ll have some guy parade the animal outside the union hall as people filed in. No, Silverman said, YOU take the donkey INSIDE to kick off the rally. So there I was in my three-piece suit, holding the reins of a skittish, smelly jackass as hundreds of people cheered, and I grimaced.
That embarrassing day in the Democratic union hall foreshadowed the end of my political career. I later volunteered on some local campaigns, but my hopes of becoming a famed speechwriter faded away. Bad mojo from a damn Cleveland donkey many years ago.
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