Just a brief note to alert interested readers of this blog to a fine blog of Carl Anthony’s about campaign songs. Somehow recent campaigns haven’t produced memorable songs (does either Obama or Romney even have one?). Check out his blog for the story behind Calvin Coolidge’s 1924 campaign song, “Keep Cool and keep Coolidge” as well as other fine examples of campaign music, and also check out the other areas of his blog – highly recommended!
On Friday, October 17, 1924, President Coolidge had a White House breakfast with a group of people that included Edward L. Bernays. Bernays, a “double nephew” of Sigmund Freud, has been widely hailed (sometimes vilified) as the father of modern public relations and was at one point named one of the 20th century’s 100 most influential Americans by LIFE magazine. Bernays recorded the events leading up to that breakfast meeting, and his impressions of it, in 1962, when he was 71. Amazingly, he lived a further more than 30 years, passing away in 1995 at the age of 103.
As Bernays recalls, the objective was to counteract the perception of Coolidge as “cold and taciturn”. I’ll let Bernays take it from here:
“How could Coolidge’s warmth and human sympathy be emphasized? (…) A (…) striking idea occurred to me. That is, that we would take a group of well-known actors and actresses to the White House for breakfast. In 1924, this was a startling idea, for actors and actresses were still tainted with a 17th century reputation, but there was no disputing that they also carried a strong connotation of humanness, warmth, extroversion and camaraderie.”
“I wasn’t surprised when C. Bascom Slemp, the knowledgeable secretary of the President, set up a breakfast date for us at the White House. The President, politically keenly aware, as he had shown at the time of the Boston police strike when he was Governor, recognized the implications of this venture into imagemaking.”
Bernays put together an impressive “non-partisan” list of big stars of the day, a few of whom still are recognizable to us today. Al Jolson “rounded up” John Drew, Raymond Hitchcock, Charlotte Greenwood, Ed Wynn, Francine and Stella Larrimore, Justine Johnstone, The Dolly Sisters, Brennan and Rogers, songwriter Buddy deSylva, and numerous others. When the party arrived by train in Washington, D.C., the two Dolly Sisters were missing: