January 13, 2019

“J’Accuse!” (“I Accuse!”)

J'Accuse quote, Emile Zola, Alfred DreyfusOn January 13, 1898, the front page of the French newspaper L’Aurore featured a scathing letter about the “Dreyfus Affair” written by popular author Émile Zola and addressed to the President of the French Republic, Félix Faure.

The letter was published under huge headlines that said:

               J’Accuse...!
      LETTRE AU PRÉSIDENT DE LA RÉPUBLIQUE.
                              Par ÉMILE ZOLA

In English:

               I Accuse...!
      LETTER TO THE PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC
                              By ÉMILE ZOLA

In the letter, Zola accused the French government and top military officials of anti-Semitism and of conspiring to unjustly frame, convict and imprison Alfred Dreyfus.

Dreyfus was a Jewish officer in the French Army who was convicted of treason in 1894, for allegedly passing military secrets to the Germans.

The young officer had steadfastly proclaimed he was innocent and, by 1898, clear evidence had surfaced showing he was.

The debate over Dreyfus split French society into warring cultural factions for years, in ways similar to those that have divided liberals and conservatives in America during the Trump era.

Indeed, the Dreyfus Affair involved social and political issues that would still resonate today: racial intolerance, a secret conspiracy by military and government officials, the unlawful conviction and imprisonment of an innocent man, and an example of how protests by outraged activists and revelations in the media can rock the establishment and help lead to justice and cultural changes.

However, the most widely-known legacy of the Dreyfus Affair is Zola’s quote “J’Accuse!” (usually cited without the ellipsis in the actual headline).

It is still invoked in both French and English in public attacks on injustices, lies and malfeasance committed by people in power — though few people today know much, if anything, about the events that inspired it.

The affair started when a French spy found a letter indicating that some French military officer was passing information about French artillery parts to the Germans.

The traitor was a high-ranking officer on the General Staff, Major Ferdinand Walsin Esterhazy. But Esterhazy used phony evidence to put the blame on his subordinate, Dreyfus, who was conveniently of low rank and Jewish.

At the time, anti-Semitism was rampant among the mostly-Catholic French military leaders and public.

Dreyfus had his supporters, but the flimsy case against him was accepted by the military court and most citizens. There was some inconvenient evidence suggesting that Esterhazy was the likely traitor. However, it was generally dismissed as what would now be called “fake news.”

Dreyfus was convicted in December 1894 and sentenced to life in prison on Devil’s Island off of French Guiana. Before being sent there, he was publicly shamed and degraded in a ceremony in Paris on January 5, 1895.

The insignia was torn from his uniform. His sword was broken. He was then paraded past a crowd that shouted things like, “Death to Judas!” and “Death to the Jew.”

During 1896, as Dreyfus suffered through a hellish incarceration on Devil’s Island, a new chief of French military intelligence, Lieutenant Colonel Georges Picquart, found more evidence showing that Esterhazy was the real traitor.

Picquart’s superiors responded by sending him to a post in Tunisia and trying to keep the information he uncovered secret.

The shaming of Alfred Dreyfus TDIQHowever, reports of the military’s coverup were leaked to the press and eventually Esterhazy was put on trial in a closed court martial.

Despite the evidence, he found not guilty. This added to the outrage of Dreyfus supporters, which included Émile Zola and many of France’s other leading intellectuals and liberal activists, such as Georges Clemenceau, a long-serving member of the French National Assembly and publisher of the L’Aurore newspaper.

Zola expressed his own outrage in his “J’Accuse...!” letter. In it, he reviewed the facts surrounding the Dreyfus Affair and pointedly named specific military and public officials who were complicit in railroading Dreyfus and letting Esterhazy skate.

Zola used his quickly-famous headline words in front of a series of sentences near the end of the letter, writing:

“Mr. President…

I accuse Major Du Paty de Clam as the diabolic workman of the miscarriage of justice, without knowing, I have wanted to believe it, and of then defending his harmful work, for three years, by the guiltiest and most absurd of machinations.

I accuse General Mercier of being an accomplice, if by weakness of spirit, in one of greatest iniquities of the century.

I accuse General Billot of having held in his hands the unquestionable evidence of Dreyfus's innocence and of suppressing it, guilty of this crime that injures humanity and justice, with a political aim and to save the compromised Chie of High Command.

I accuse General De Boisdeffre and General Gonse as accomplices of the same crime, one undoubtedly by clerical passion, the other perhaps by this spirit of body which makes offices of the war an infallible archsaint.

I accuse General De Pellieux and commander Ravary of performing a rogue investigation, by which I mean an investigation of the most monstrous partiality, of which we have, in the report of the second, an imperishable monument of naive audacity…

Finally, I accuse the first council of war [i.e., the first military court that convicted Dreyfus] of violating the law by condemning a defendant with unrevealed evidence, and I accuse the second council of war of covering up this illegality, by order, by committing in his turn the legal crime of knowingly discharging the culprit." [Meaning Major Esterhazy].

Clemenceau published the letter on the front page of L’Aurore on January 13, 1898.

As Zola hoped, it fueled increasing pressure to free Dreyfus. It was also a brave act of political activism. He was, in effect, taking on the French military and political establishment and he knew he would be targeted by them for revenge.

Almost immediately, Zola was charged with “criminal libel.” On February 23, 1898, he was convicted and sentenced to a year in prison. Zola refused to serve his jail time and fled to England.

But his “J’Accuse!” letter marked a major turning point in the Dreyfus Affair.

During the summer of 1899, the French military held another trial for Dreyfus and, despite the questionable evidence, found him guilty again. However, public sentiment had started to turn against them in France and around the world.

Anti-French demonstrations sprang up in twenty foreign capitals. Editorials in scores of newspapers in other countries decried the unfair treatment of Dreyfus.

Prior to the end of the second Dreyfus trial, President Faure died. On September 19, the new French President, Émile Loubet, gave Dreyfus a pardon. To save face for the French army brass, Loubet let Dreyfus’ conviction stand.

Thus, even though Dreyfus was allowed to return to France, he was still technically a convicted criminal and lived with relatives under “house arrest.”

Finally, on July 12, 1906, the French Supreme Court declared Dreyfus innocent of treason. He was readmitted to the army and promoted to the rank of major.

Dreyfus served throughout World War I, rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel, and was awarded the Legion of Honor.

He died in Paris at age 75 on July 12, 1935 — exactly 29 years after he was officially exonerated.

Like Dreyfus, Zola returned to France in 1899. He had lived long enough to see President Faure’s right wing government fall and to see the success of his efforts to secure the freedom of Alfred Dreyfus. But he died tragically before seeing the final vindication of his heroic public stand on the Dreyfus Affair. In 1902, he was asphyxiated in his bedroom by carbon dioxide gas caused by a blocked stove flue.

George Clemenceau lived to see his support for Dreyfus and many of his other political views vindicated. He became one of France’s most important political figures, serving as Prime Minister from 1906 to 1909 and again from 1917 to 1920. He died in 1929 at age 88.

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Related reading and viewing…

January 06, 2019

Notable quotes quote lists of 2018 (updated)…

Truth Isn't Truth - Rudy Giuliani quoteEDITOR’S NOTE: This an updated post that fixes some typos and links. I had previously posted the unedited draft by accident. Sorry about that.

Every December, I like to read the various lists of the “top,” “best” and “worst” quotes of the year that are posted online and published in magazines and newspapers.

The most widely read is the annual “Most Notable Quotes” list selected by Yale Law School librarian Fred Shapiro, editor of The Yale Book of Quotations (a must-have reference book for any quotation buff).
 
Each year, his list is sent out by the Associated Press news service and published by hundreds of newspapers and websites.

The quotes Fred selects are not necessarily the most repeated quotes of the year. He uses his judgment to pick the quotes he also thinks are worthy of note because they “reflect the culture of our time.”

Fred explains that “often it’s quotes that are not admirable but quotes that are silly or negative in some way. In our current world political scene, the United States maybe dominates that kind of quotation.”

Shapiro’s top ten quotes of 2018 are not all quotes by Donald Trump. In fact, only one is, and it’s not Number 1. But six quotes are related to Trump and Shapiro’s pick for the top slot was said by someone who represents the President. Here are all ten...

1. “Truth isn’t truth.” — Rudy Giuliani, in an interview on Meet the Press, August 19. He was discussing why he won’t let special counsel Robert Mueller rush Trump into testifying. Giuliani said he doesn’t want investigators to trap the President into a lie. “Truth is truth,” NBC's Chuck Todd noted to him. “No, no, it isn’t truth,” Giuliani said. “Truth isn’t truth. The President of the United States says, ’I didn't ...’” Todd responded: “Truth isn't truth? Mr. Mayor, do you realize, what...I think this is going to become a bad meme.”

I liked beer quote Brett Kavanaugh2. “I liked beer. I still like beer.” — Brett Kavanaugh, remark on September 27, defending himself against suggestions that he drank too much in high school, during the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee’s hearing on his nomination to the Supreme Court. The lines quickly became a subject of jokes on Saturday Night Live and other comedy shows, political cartoons and social media sites.

3. “While all pharmaceutical treatments have side effects, racism is not a known side effect of any Sanofi medication.”A Twitter tweet posted on May 30 by the Sanofi drug company, in response to Roseanne Barr’s claim that Sanofi’s sleep drug Ambien caused her to post a racist tweet that led her to be fired from the revived version of her show, Roseanne.

4. “We gather to mourn the passing of American greatness, the real thing, not cheap rhetoric from men who will never come near the sacrifice he gave so willingly, nor the opportunistic appropriation of those that live lives of comfort and privilege while he suffered and served.” — Meghan McCain, in her eulogy for her father, Senator John McCain, on September 1. It was clearly a barb aimed at President Trump, who had publicly insulted Sen. McCain on multiple occasions. 

5. “We’re children. You guys, like, are the adults. You need to take some action and play a role. Work together, come over your politics and get something done.” — David Hogg, a survivor of the Parkland, Florida, school shooting, in a CNN interview, February 15.

6. “(I am) not smart, but genius.…and a very stable genius at that!” — President Donald Trump, in a tweet on January 6 that immediately turned “a very stable genius” into a new catchphrase and source of jokes.

7. “You don’t have to agree with Trump but the mob can’t make me not love him. We are both dragon energy. He is my brother. I love everyone.” — Kanye West, in a tweet on April 25, expressing his continued support for Donald Trump, despite the intense negative reactions it attracted.

0111-donald-trump-genius-tweets-twitter-18. “Our country is led by those who will lie about anything, backed by those who will believe anything, based on information from media sources that will say anything.” — James Comey, in a tweet on May 23, after being fired from his position as Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) by President Trump for not stopping the Mueller investigation of Trump’s possible collusion with Russia and violations of US campaign and business laws.

9. “I have just signed your death warrant.” — Judge Rosemarie Aquilina, addressing former USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar on January 24, after she sentenced him to up to 175 years in prison for sexual assaults of young athletes.

10. “If you see anybody from that Cabinet in a restaurant, in a department store, at a gasoline station, you get out and you create a crowd! And you push back on them. And you tell them they’re not welcome anymore, anywhere.” — Rep. Maxine Waters. A controversial remark she made at a political rally in Los Angeles on June 23, suggesting that angry Democrats should harass Trump Administration officials when they see them in public places.

Of those ten quotes, I suspect only #1, #2 and #6 are likely to be widely cited for a significant length of time. They are the ones that were most frequently reposted and mocked on the internet and late night comedy shows.

Naturally, there are online lists that focus solely on controversial things President Trump said or tweeted in 2018.

For example, Chris Cillizza, CNN Editor-at-large compiled an annotated list of “The 41 Most Unreal Donald Trump Quotes of 2018.”

Trump’s “very stable genius” quip is not Number 1 on Cillizza’s list. For his top slot, he picked another Trump quotation that made Trump haters’ heads spin: “The country is doing well in so many ways. But there’s such divisiveness.”

Cillizza commented: “What’s amazing here is that Trump seems entirely unaware of the role he has played in the country’s divisiveness. That’s not to say we weren’t divided before 2016 – we were – but it is to say that Trump exacerbated those divisions for political gain, and continues to do so.”

On the other end of the political commentary spectrum, Fox News commentator Dan Gainor posted a list titled “Hating Trump in 2018: the Top Five Most Incredible Liberal Media Quotes of the Year.”

Gainor’s top pick for that list was a remark by CNN news commentator Don Lemon in which Lemon appeared to rationalize violence by the so-called Antifa: “It says it right in the name, Antifa, Anti-Fascism, which is what they’re fighting. Listen...no organization is perfect. There is some violence. No one condones the violence. But there are different reasons for Antifa and for these neo-Nazis to be there. One, racists, fascists, the other group fighting racists...There is a distinction there.”

Gainor said of this quote by Lemon: “When you say ‘No one condones the violence’ followed by the word ‘but’ you are the one condoning the violence.”

Trump my button works tweetWhether you’re a Trump lover or a Trump hater, if you want a fairly comprehensive list of Trump’s most widely-noted quotes in the form of tweets, check out the list compiled by CNBC journalist Kevin Breuninger, titled “Trump’s most memorable Twitter bombshells of 2018.”

That list is ordered by date and kicks off with Trump’s “my Button works” quote. That one was the President’s response when he heard that North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un had claimed the “Nuclear Button is on his desk at all times.”

Trump tweeted: “Will someone from his depleted and food starved regime please inform him that I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works!”

If you think CNBC is a “fake news” outlet, you can read a similar list on the Trump-friendly Breitbart News site, titled “Top Donald Trump ‘Very Stable Genius’ Tweets of 2018.”

Ironically, that list is almost the same as CNBC’s.

The year 2018 wasn’t a good one for new famous quotes outside of the political arena. Take movies, for example.

Some years are great for memorable movie quotes that become catchphrases. 2018 was not. I could only find a few lists of top movie quotes for the year and I doubt if any of the quotes they include will ever be added to the lists of the top movie quotes of all time.

However, if you’re a movie quote fan like me, it’s interesting to check out the list of 44 movie lines dubbed “Best Movie Quotes 2018” on the Movie Quotes and More site
and the list of “The 12 Best Lines Of Movie Dialogue In 2018” on the Cinema Blend site.

There are two quotes that showed up on both of those lists.

Bohemian Rhapsody misfits quoteOne is “It’s fucking Chucky!” That’s a line said by the character Sixer #6 in the movie Ready Player One when he sees an image of the killer doll from the Chucky horror movie series. I’ll be surprised if anyone is citing that quote years from now, the way people still quote classic lines, like “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn” or “I’m gonna make him an offer he can’t refuse.” But I could be wrong.

The other quote on both lists is more interesting. It’s a quote spoken by actor Rami Malek in his highly praised role as Freddie Mercury, front man for the band Queen, in the movie Bohemian Rhapsody.

“We’re four misfits who don’t belong together. We’re playing for other misfits,” he says when a journalist asks what makes Queen different from other rock bands. “They’re the outcasts right at the back of the room. We’re pretty sure they don’t belong either. We belong to them.”

There didn’t seem to be any big new TV catchphrases in 2018. But I did find one entertaining list of TV quotes of the year on the TVLine.com site.

It’s titled “Best TV Quotes of 2018” and it’s one of those lists you have to scroll through. But it’s actually a pretty good, well documented list, with photos.

None seem likely to become sticky pop culture sayings, but the list is fun to read.

Naturally, some have a connection to President Trump. In the “Hamilton/Berg” episode of the show The Last Man on Earth, the character Cannibal Karl (played by Fred Armisen) suggests that not all people eaters are bad, saying “Good people on both sides.” 

That, of course, is a humorous variation of President Trump’s infamous comment that there “were very fine people on both sides” in the clash between white supremacists and alt-left anti-fascists in Charlottesville, Virginia in August.

Bobby on SUPERNATURAL Apocalypse World quoteBut my favorite TV quote from the TVLine.com list reflects the fact that I am a huge fan of the long-running TV show Supernatural.

In the episode, “Let the Good Times Roll,” first aired in May 2018, the alternate universe version of the character Bobby Singer (actor Jim Beaver) is shocked at some of the things he sees in the news on TV. The main characters of the show, brothers Sam and Dean Winchester, had previously referred to the world alt-Bobby comes from as “Apocalypse World.”

Remembering that, Alt-Bobby quips: “Let me get this right: The ice caps are melting, a movie where a girl goes all the way with a fish wins Best Picture, and that damn fool idjit from The Apprentice is president…And you call where we come from Apocalypse World?”

It wasn’t that many years ago that memes became a big thing on the internet. Apparently they still are and I found several lists of 2018 memes.

None may become as famous as early memes like “I Can Has Cheezburger?” But some did gain notoriety, like the countless variations of the “scared to moan” meme.

As explained on the DailyDot.com site: “It seems like every user puts their own spin on the meme’s wording, but they all express some variation of, ‘You guys are scared to moan during sex? I’m in my girl’s ear like…’ followed by a short video of some animal or human making a hilarious noise.”

Scared to moan meme articleIf you want to read some lists of 2018 memes, check out these three:

●  “The Memes That Defined 2018 — From ‘Scared To Moan’ To ‘Bongo Cat.’”

●  “The 108 Best Memes of 2018.”

●  “Memes Rule Everything Around Me: The Best of 2018 Edition.”

I looked for lists of quotes from other realms and found quite a few; many of them very nichey.

For example, on various special interest sites, you can read:

●  “Quotable Wine Quotes of 2018.”

●  “2018: The Year In Quotes From Corporate Board Member”

●  “Top Marketing Quotes of 2018”

●  “2018: Year of the Woman, in 5 Powerful Quotes”

●  “‘She said What?’”: The best quotes from women in 2018”

●  “Best LGBT quotes of 2018: Moving things queer people said this year”

Alonzo Lerone Get a Dictionary●  “Artist quotes: best of 2018”

●  Bad sex award 2018: the contenders in quotes”

●  “The best celebrity quotes of 2018"

●  “Most Shocking — and Revealing! — Celebrity Quotes of 2018"

●  “The very best (and worst) celebrity quotes of 2018"

●  “The Best Sports quotes of 2018”

●  “Top Inspiring Travel Quotes by Famous Travelers of 2018”

●  “The Story Of 2018 Told In 25 Uniquely Baffling Quotes”


One of the most amusing compilations of 2018 quotes I saw is a YouTube video posted by a young comedian named Alonzo Lerone, on his “Get a Dictionary” channel.

Alonzo specializes in reading Internet posts and comments that are full of typos, misused words, and bad grammar.

In his YouTube post “TOP 50 Funniest Senior Quotes of 2018,” he reads the things some graduating high school seniors picked as the “Senior Quote” to be shown in their school yearbook.

I have no idea where he found them all, but he cracks himself up reading them. And, I gotta admit, even though none of them are memorable quotes that will be posted and reposted on the internet or included in books of famous quotations, it cracked me up to hear Alonzo read them.

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Related reading – and some daily quotation calendars for 2019…

December 19, 2018

“These are the times that try men’s souls…”


During the Revolutionary War, getting soldiers to stay in the Continental Army was one of the biggest problems facing the American commander in chief, General George Washington.

Many American soldiers were non-professional militiamen who volunteered for a limited number of months, usually during the spring or summer. After a short stint, they were legally allowed to go back their farms to harvest their fall crops — and typically did.

There were regular soldiers in the Continental Army. But many deserted once they experienced the horrors of combat or the miserable conditions in winter camps. Others left after becoming disgusted by the lack of reliable pay and supplies.

In 1776, Thomas Paine, an aspiring writer who had emigrated to America from England two years earlier, became an aide-de-camp to American General Nathanael Greene.

That winter, Paine decided to write something to try to renew the patriotic spirit of American soldiers and discourage them from deserting or going home when their enlistment period was up.

It ended up being the first in his series of “American Crisis” pamphlets.

The opening sentence became a famous quotation; the second embedded two related metaphors into our language: 

“These are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.”
Paine’s rousing treatise was first published in the Pennsylvania Journal on December 19, 1776, then issued as a printed pamphlet on December 23.
 
The piece provided some very timely and welcome inspiration to General Washington.
 
In recent months, the British had repeatedly defeated the Americans in battle and forced the Continental Army to retreat from New York into New Jersey. Washington’s troop strength was severely reduced by a combination of death, disease, “summer soldiers” and desertion.
 
On December 18, a despondent Washington said in a letter to his cousin in Virginia:

“I think the game is pretty near up, owing, in a great measure, to the insidious arts of the Enemy…but principally to the accursed policy of short enlistments, and placing too great a dependence on the militia.”
Five days later, after reading Paine’s new pamphlet, Washington had it read aloud to his remaining troops to inspire them in advance of a upcoming attack he’d planned.
 
On Christmas night of 1776, he and about 2,400 American soldiers made the legendary crossing of the Delaware River. The next day, at the the Battle of Trenton, they surprised and soundly defeated a group of 1,500 professional Hessian mercenaries who were fighting for the British.
 
That victory renewed the morale of Washington and the soldiers of the Continental Army. It also attracted many new recruits to the American ranks.
 
During the next six years, Paine wrote a series of fifteen more “Crisis” pamphlets. They helped inspire the sense of patriotism and resolve that eventually led to the success of the American Revolution. But none are as significant or as remembered as his first.
 
It played a role in a turning point in the Revolutionary War. Its opening sentence became one of the best known quotes in American history. And, the second sentence made “summer soldier” and “sunshine patriot” common terms of derision that are still used today to refer to people who give half-hearted commitment to a cause or abandon it when the going gets tough.
 

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Related reading and viewing…



December 09, 2018

“Baseball been berry, berry good to me!” – the famous SNL catchphrase of Garrett Morris as Chico Escuela…


If you’re old enough to have been watching Saturday Night Live in the late Seventies you might have been watching Episode 5 of Season 4 when it first aired on November 11, 1978. (I am and I was.)

Buck Henry was the host. The Grateful Dead were the musical guests. And, there were several classic skits — including one at the end that introduced what would become a famous TV catchphrase.

The sketch takes place at a meeting of the St. Mickey’s Knights of Columbus.

After dealing with a few business items, the organization’s leader, played by SNL cast member John Belushi, announces that the club would have a special guest speaker that night.

Dan Aykroyd, playing the Knights’ treasurer, notes that the group had to go into debt to pay the speaker’s steep $900 fee.

Belushi then introduces this special guest: “the immortal” Chico Escuela, a former all-star baseball player for the Chicago Cubs who came to the US from the Dominican Republic.

After being introduced, Chico — portrayed by SNL cast member Garrett Morris — gets up, stands at the podium and says in a thick Hispanic accent:

“Thank you berry much. Baseball been berry, berry good to me. Thank you. God bless you. Gracias!”

Then he sits down.

Astonished by the brevity of this $900 “speech,” Belushi’s character asks: “Is that it Chico?”

Chico thinks about it a second, gets up again and adds: “Keep you eye...keep you eyes...on de ball.”

After which, he sits down again.

Belushi says sardonically: “Thank you, Chico. You’ve been an inspiration to all of us.”

Three weeks later, during the December 9, 1978 episode of SNL, Morris’s Chico made a second appearance and repeated his line “Baseball been berry, berry good to me!” several times — making this the night on which it gained official catchphrase status. 

In that episode (Season 4, Episode 8), the host was Monty Python star Eric idle. Kate Bush was the musical guest. Dan Aykroyd performed the insanely funny skit in which he plays a frantic Julia Child, who bleeds to death after cutting her finger. And, Don Novello showed up as Father Guido Sarducci.

Chico was in the Weekend Update segment with Jane Curtin, who announced that he had been hired as the Weekend Update sports commentator. After being introduced by Jane (this time as a former New York Mets ballplayer), Chico says:

“Thank you. Thank you, berry, berry much. Baseball been berry, berry good to me. Thank you, Hane.

[A photo of major league player Pete Rose, who had recently signed a four year, 3.2 million dollar deal with the Philadelphia Phillies, appears behind Chico.]

Pete-ee Rose...Baseball been berry, berry good to Pete Rose. Three-point-two-million-dollar para Pete Rose. Charlie Hustle, you bet. Thank you berry, berry much.

In foot-ball... I don’t know football. In Dominican Republic, football is — how you say, Hane? Um, Oh! Soccer! Your football... I don’t know.

In National Hockey League... I don’t know hockey.

In baseball… Baseball been berry, berry good to me! Thank you berry much. Thank you. Thank you berry much. Hane? Thank you, Hane.”

Hearing Chico’s fact-challenged report, Jane responds sarcastically: “Great job, Chico. I’m glad that we haven’t hired just another stupid ex-jock sportscaster.”

Morris went on to appear as Chico Escuela eight more times before leaving the Saturday Night Live cast in the summer of 1980.

Each time, he repeated “Baseball been berry, berry good to me!” (sometimes written as “Beisbol been bery, bery good to me!” and in various other ways). It remains one of the most famous of the many memorable catchphrases created by SNL.

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Related viewing and reading (and other stuff)…

November 21, 2018

“Coffee, Tea or Me?” – the catchphrase popularized by a hoax based on a joke...


Back in the 1960s, when air travel was more pleasant and our culture was less politically correct, airline stewardesses were hot – at least in terms of their popular image.

Most stewardesses were young and single. In the media, they were often portrayed as both desirable and attainable – as women who liked to fool around with pilots, passengers and lucky local citizens at stops along their routes.

The airlines tried to cash in on and promote this image in the mid-Sixties with ads that featured beautiful stewardesses and taglines like “I’m Cheryl. Fly Me.”

Then, on November 21, 1967, the Bantam paperback edition of the book Coffee, Tea or Me? was published, about a month after the hardcover edition had been released by Bartholomew House.

Subtitled The Uninhibited Memoirs of Two Airline Stewardesses, this widely-distributed, wildly successful paperback further popularized the stereotypical image of fun-loving, promiscuous stewardesses.

It also made the sexually provocative phrase “Coffee, Tea or Me?” a familiar saying.

The book was portrayed as a humorous but fact-based memoir co-written by two stewardesses named Rachel Jones and Trudy Baker.

When it was published, two young women using those names went on a media tour to promote it.

Soon, Coffee, Tea or Me? became a national best seller, then an international best seller. 

Three sequels were published and credited to Rachel and Trudy.

In 1973, Coffee, Tea or Me? was even made into a TV movie starring Karen Valentine and Louise Lasser.

Decades later, it was revealed that the real author of the Coffee, Tea or Me? books was Donald Bain.

Bain was working as a public relations man for American Airlines when he wrote Coffee, Tea or Me?  

Thanks to its success, he went on to become a prolific full-time novelist and ghostwriter who has since penned dozens of popular books (including many of the Murder She Wrote novels).

“Trudy Baker” and “Rachel Jones” never existed.

The women who went on the book tour were two actual Eastern Airlines stewardesses, but they were hired by the publisher’s publicity agent to pose as Trudy and Rachel.

It was a supremely well-executed hoax that generated a ton of money for Bain and a memorable phrase that’s still used and lampooned today.

In the introduction to later reprints of the book, Bain wrote that the title Coffee, Tea or Me? came to him halfway through writing it after he heard someone recite an old airline joke that used the phrase.

If you’re old enough, you might remember the joke: A stewardess enters the cockpit of a commercial airplane and asks the pilot, “Coffee, tea or me?” The pilot says, “Whichever is easier to make.”

Bain says in his intro:

"Little did I know in 1967 that the book I was writing with a title lifted from a lame old joke would go on, along with its three sequels, to sell more than five million copies, be translated into a dozen languages, cause anxious mothers to forbid their daughters from becoming stewardesses, spawn airline protest groups, have its title inducted into the public vocabulary and be republished thirty-six years later, branding me the oldest, tallest, bearded airline stewardess."

Speaking of lame jokes, there’s a funny coincidence about the illustrations used on the covers and interior pages of the Coffee, Tea or Me? series. They were drawn by Bill Wenzel, one of the greatest of all adult cartoon artists.

Cartoons featuring Wenzel’s bosomy, airheaded babes, typically accompanied by classically lame and sexist captions, appeared in countless men’s girlie and humor magazines from the late 1940s into the early 1980s. He also did many paperback covers.

You can read more about Wenzel in the excellent book about him that was published in 2000 and in the authoritative posts done about him by vintage paperback and magazine maven Lynn Munroe. You can also see scores of his cartoons in this Google image search.

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