Sunday, 29 November 2009
328: You Can't Lick Dick 3
by Edward Sorel
cover to “Screw”, 10 December 1973
A small selection of scandalous sexual gags at Richard Nixon’s expense. Another example I’ve posted earlier of Nixon indulging in Caligulan-style homosexual orgies is this comic in “National Lampoon” February 1974
Unlike that cartoon by Sean Kelly and Tony Hendra, these three examples all turn on Nixon’s friendship with Bebe Rebozo. http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/JFKrebozo.htm is probably a decent overview of Rebozo’s character and the history of his friendship with Nixon.
Nixon and Rebozo were incredibly close friends, almost devoted to each other since the early 50s. This was a relationship all the more striking since the awkward Nixon had few others friends. Their friendship may have been made more public than is common as a means of countering the impression Nixon usually gave of possessing all the human affect of a cheap lawn ornament. But it also had the side-effect of making people ponder as to the true nature of their companionship. Even members of Nixon’s administration are on record declaring their suspicions. (Not that any gay historians would be minded to claim Nixon, or Edward Heath for that matter, for our team as a matter of pride.) So these gags play off existing qualms that people had about Nixon and Rebozo together.
Of course these jokes are primarily intended as cheap shots. And deliberately so. The editors of “National Lampoon”, Edward Sorel and Paul Krassner are not really the type to thing that homosexuality is actually dishonourable. Each has differing attitudes of relaxation and liberal acceptance given their generation, but they are all prepared to play off the assumption that for the general public homosexuality at the very least has a strong stigma.
It is those unenlightened attitudes that Nixon repeatedly made his political base.
We’ve seen Nixon express his distaste for homosexuals in his incisive review of a 1971 episode of “All in the Family”
So it’s not big, it’s not clever, but making gay allegations against Nixon is just the sort of base attack that would really rile him. No need to be political, no need for ornate caricature, just paint him as a queer. Nixon was such an uptight and unsexual person, it was the perfect comic contrast to show him relishing some passionate gay sex.
The first example, the letter in “National Lampoon” predates Watergate, so it’s just a general humorous jab, some common abuse of the man. Playing off his strenuous image of probity even it is undermined as he gets some executive head.
The second from Paul Krassner, is just one small part of a larger assault on Nixon’s character, morals, and general fitness for office and general existence as a human being. Gay rumours are raised, in the vicinity of other longstanding rumours about Hoover and Clyde Tolson, only to be scotched. And how are the rumours disproved? By visiting whores. Classssy.
The third example above, the illustration by Sorel, obviously builds on contemporary interest in the Watergate Tapes. A cover for “Screw” magazine means the opportunity for Sorel to be as scandalous as possible. It also has Nixon as the one being buggered, which probably has a touch of further denigration about it.
The last five pages of Robert Coover’s 1977 novel “A Public Burning” has Richard Nixon sodomised by the figure of Uncle Sam, an equally vicious and low conman representing the true base nature of America. It’s quite a graphic passage, and in its “Deliverance”-style rape there’s more than a slight element of Coover exacting some unspeakable vengeance on his imaginary Nixon, since what could be a worse indignity. However, after this gross buggery, in the last couple of paragraphs, homosexual affection comes into it as this venal Uncle Sam and Nixon realise their love for each other.