Grid­iron Club notes for­mer first lady’s 1982 per­for­mance

Chicago Sun-Times - - POLITICS - LYNN SWEET Fol­low Lynn Sweet on Twit­ter: @ LynnSweet Email: lsweet@sun­

WASH­ING­TON— When for­mer first lady Nancy Rea­gan, who died Sun­day at 94, wanted to try to re­vamp her im­age in 1982, she turned to the an­nual Grid­iron Club show.

Rea­gan, who grad­u­ated in 1939 from Chicago’s Latin School for Girls, would go on to say in her mem­oir that singing “Se­cond-Hand Clothes” at the Grid­iron— a take­off of “Se­cond- Hand Rose”— worked.

And so it was apt that the club of jour­nal­ists paid trib­ute to her at the top of the 2016 show— a reprise Sun­day of the skits per­formed at the white tie and gown af­fair of the night be­fore.

Vice Pres­i­dent Joe Bi­den and three po­ten­tial 2016 vice pres­i­den­tial con­tenders were the Satur­day head­lin­ers at the 131st din­ner of the Grid­iron Club and Foun­da­tion.

Those three are South Carolina Gov. Nikki Ha­ley, speak­ing for Repub­li­cans, and the twin Texas Cas­tro Brothers, Ju­lian, the HUD sec­re­tary, and Joaquin, a U. S. House mem­ber, rep­re­sent­ing the Democrats.

Dis­clo­sure: I’m a mem­ber of the club and had some bit parts in the skits, where we lam­poon and singe politi­cians through our mu­si­cal par­o­dies. I dressed up as a bor­der guard and then, as a Texas cow­girl, was ac­tu­ally al­lowed this year to sing a few lines.

Nancy Rea­gan

“As Ron­ald Rea­gan ended his first year in of­fice, the grim re­al­ity was that hiswife showed up in the polls as the most un­pop­u­lar first lady since polling be­gan,” the Na­tional Jour­nal’s Ge­orge Con­don, the club his­to­rian, told the crowd as he re­called her sur­prise ap­pear­ance in the 1982 Grid­iron show.

“Her love of de­signer gowns, her so­lic­i­ta­tion of pri­vate funds to spruce up the White House and her pur­chase of an ex­pen­sive set of White House china had not gone over well with a coun­try strug­gling with high in­fla­tion and high gas prices,” Con­don re­lated.

The Grid­iron stage, how­ever, pre­sented her with an op­por­tu­nity. As Con­don said, “Her staff knew that the club would have a song pok­ing fun at her and asked her if she was will­ing to sing a song of her own.”

Though it’s rare that the news­mak­ers who are the tar­gets of the zingers per­form on the Grid­iron stage, Rea­gan wanted to go on and make fun of her­self, which she did with new lyrics writ­ten to the tune of the fa­mous Fanny Brice song.

Rea­gan popped out on stage from be­hind a rack of clothes dressed in a cos­tume, not ob­vi­ously rec­og­niz­able at first.

She sang, “Even my new trench coat with fur col­lar Ron­nie bought for ten cents on the dol­lar.” She was a hit. Said Con­don, “The re­views were tremen­dous, and her hus­band was thrilled. The tone of the sto­ries was al­tered, and she rose in the polls.”

Nikki Ha­ley

Ris­ing Repub­li­can star Ha­ley, who de­liv­ered the GOP State of the Union re­sponse, is the se­cond In­dian- Amer­i­can gov­er­nor in the coun­try, and she took some shots at her­self— and Trump.

Re­fer­ring to her sib­lings, the daugh­ter of In­dian im­mi­grants zinged, “Out of the four of us, only one works with com­put­ers. You tell me we haven’t as­sim­i­lated.”

And this: “I won’t re­ally feel like I made it un­til Don­ald Trump de­mands to see my birth cer­tifi­cate.”

Cas­tro Brothers

The Cas­tro brothers started their shtick wear­ing fake beards, pre­tend­ing they were the other Cas­tro brothers— Raul and Fidel.

Aim­ing at Sen. Ted Cruz, R- Texas, who is dis­liked by his Se­nate col­leagues on both sides of the aisle, Joaquin Cas­tro said, “Why do peo­ple take such an im­me­di­ate dis­like to Ted Cruz?”

Punched Ju­lian, “Prob­a­bly be­cause it saves them time.”

Joe Bi­den

Bi­den also ad­dressed Cruz’s un­pop­u­lar­ity.

“I told Barack if you re­ally want to re­make the Supreme Court, name Ted Cruz nom­i­nee. Be­fore you know it, you’ll have eight more va­can­cies,” Bi­den said.

And al­lud­ing to the 2016 pres­i­den­tial run he de­cided not to make — for a job he still seems to want — Bi­den said, “Folks, if all else fails. . . . I’m here.”


South Carolina Gov. Nikki Ha­ley took a dig at Don­ald Trump. Ju­lian Cas­tro ( left) and his brother, Joaquin Cas­tro, joked about other Cas­tros.


Vice Pres­i­dent Joe Bi­den ad­dressed the pop­u­lar­ity of Ted Cruz.

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