So in 1984, while my friends in the dorm were abusing themselves to pictures of Vanessa Williams and Heather Locklear, I was adorning my dorm room with pictures of Gerry Ferraro with Walter Mondale cut out. No, don’t even go there. I had too much respect for Gerry to degrade myself like that to her pictures. In fact I even hung a shirt over her posters before I dropped my bath towel.
But I was off on the strangest but most powerful female obsession for a horny 18-year-old surrounded by sexually-wanton coeds. I was in love with Gerry’s cute bob, her smoky voice, and the fact that her husband possibly had mafia connections and could probably with a phone call or two have someone’s legs broken (okay, that was later disproven, and all anyone could find out was that he owed an enormous amount of back taxes and rented one of his warehouses to a porn distributor–still, that was kind of cool). I had harbored no previous hopes that a woman could join the Executive Branch, but this particular woman captivated me. I knew if Walter made one misstep with her, her husband would threaten to beat his doughy, lutefisk-loving Minnesota ass into the next losing Democratic election cycle, but that she’d back him off–and then go do it herself.
As a college freshman dependent upon his parents and who had squandered most of his college money the last three years of high school on marijuana, clove cigarettes, Rainier Pounders, and corn dogs, I didn’t have copious amounts of discretionary income at my disposal to buy my ultimate campaign totem in time for the election, so I gave plasma every place and time they would let me, and one of the kids over in Bean Complex who gave me weed for typing his papers for him told me about an immunology professor looking for lab assistants. True, I was a film major at the time and was currently failing General Biology 1, but he was being picketed by really belligerent animal rights activists and was desperate for anyone who would sign on. It took two weeks handling tuberculosis-infected rhesus monkeys and getting pelted by the protesters with rotten fruit and some weird animal feces every afternoon when I’d come into the lab, but by Halloween afternoon I had enough money to pay a local silk-screener to print a rush order for a blue satin baseball jacket with Gerry’s huge picture on the back and “Ferraro ‘84″ in cursive on the left breast.
Every day I almost got into a fistfight when I walked past the Boys from Brazil at the Delta Theta house and their “Reagan Country” signs all over the lawn. I wasn’t about to let them fuck up my jacket, though.
Needless to say, I was crushed on Election Night when Walter and Gerry got beaten like Duk-Koo Kim. I drank seven cans of Magnum Malt Liquor and stumbled over to the Delta Theta house at 4:00 AM to vomit on as many Reagan signs as I could. I made sure I left the coat back in my dorm room, though, on the finest wooden hanger I could steal from an unattended professor’s office.
That jacket was my most prized possession until 1992. I was living in Portland, Oregon and working as a Distribution Center Manager for a nationally-prominent cookie and muffin producer. We sold raw cookie dough to convenience stores and schools and loaned them little convection ovens to bake the cookies in. I wasn’t a cookie fan, but I developed this huge jones for raw cookie dough, and suggested to the student manager at one of the larger high schools we were supplying that they could make a lot more money if they sold raw doughballs instead of baking the cookies.
It was an innocent suggestion, and at the time I had no idea how salmonella was contracted. But after three kids wound up being treated, the little bastard ratted me out, and about eight minutes after it hit the local papers I had to endure an obscenity-laced 20-minute phone tirade from the company CEO that was worse than any reaming my Dad ever gave me. At the end of the call I was fired and he’d already contacted a local security company to show up and escort me off the premises.
So, unemployed and having cashed out my 401(k), I had time on my hands and watched a lot of television, including a repeat of this horrendous 1984 true-story Movie-of-the-Week about a Vietnam POW who sent love letters home to his wife. It was dreadful, and I almost forgot about it, until a few days later when I was reading an article on H. Ross Perot who had just gone on Larry King and said he’d run for President if his supporters could get his name on the ballot in all 50 states. The article mentioned Perot’s work on behalf of Vietnam POWs and mentioned the name of this woman, Sybil Stockdale, whose husband had been a POW. Ding!
I remembered that name from that abhorrent TV movie rerun I’d just watched. It was the Jim and Sybil Stockdale story.
With a lot of time on my hands and the 401(k) money burning a hole in my pocket, I was gambling quite a bit more than usual. An old friend from college had introduced me to an utterly irredeemable bookmaker who would probably take bets on the casualty count of an African influenza pandemic (in fact, he did brag about taking action on the 1987 “Baby Jessica” rescue drama. He said he lost about $4,000 when the rescue succeeded but he’d placed enough side bets on how long the rescue would take to “head home with a couple Clevelands in my pocket”).
I was bored out of my mind in Portland, so I tossed a dufflebag into my 1990 VW Fox and drove down to Sparks, Nevada, where the bookie liked to hang out. After a long evening of drinking, the talk turned to the ‘92 Presidential race. I mentioned Perot, and in a moment of drunken chutzpah, said, “Mark my words: Perot’s getting in and he’s going to name James Stockdale as his running mate.” Of course, a fool and his money shall soon part company, and that’s never truer than when a bookie has his eyes on it. It wasn’t until the next day that he figured out who James Stockdale even was, and asked if I my johnson was still as big as it was the night before, and if I wanted to put $500 on my bold prediction at 44-1.
And damn, who knew? I’d never been that lucky. It wasn’t two weeks later that Perot held a news conference at the Loews Annapolis Hotel in Maryland and announced Stockdale as an interim running mate. He could have haggled over the “interim” designation, but most bookmakers aren’t baby-eating monsters. He honored his end and promised me my $22,000.
I took another drive down to Sparks and came back home with my Clevelands–all 22 of them. Unfortunately at the time I was subpoenaed for a deposition in the salmonella lawsuit that had been brought against the company, and the CEO had promised that if they had to pay, he’d put an army of lawyers on me and that the next one of his cookies I ate would be from a batch the company donated to a homeless shelter.
Needless to say, I wasn’t exactly in a position to be waving money around, so I squirreled it away.
Fast-forward ten months later. The lawsuit was settled out of court, the cookie company lost interest in exacting their pound of flesh from me, and I was temping in a cubicle farm in suburban Portland, just to keep myself in the system. A gambling acquaintance of mine was in hot water with the same bookie who had taken my Stockdale bet. Over the span of several wagers, he’d lost his shirt on three costly and ill-advised bets: 1) That Todd Marinovich would make a miracle comeback and win NFL MVP (he had one brilliant game–and then washed out of the league by season’s end); 2) That the Portland Trail Blazers would hold Michael Jordan to 7 points per game in the ‘92 NBA Finals (He averaged 35.8); and 3) …I don’t know the details, but it was a fairly convoluted over-under on the number of commercial buildings that would be burned to the ground in the Los Angeles riots–it had to be “to the ground”; they couldn’t just be partially burned and uninhabitable, and they didn’t count if a gas explosion caused their destruction.
Kind of a sucker’s bet, if I remember correctly.
In any event, my friend was in deep financial peril, and was looking to liquidate anything he could to pay his debts. I’m not one to profit from another’s misery, but I knew a way I could help him out–and gain what would supplant my Gerry Ferraro baseball jacket as my Most Cherished Possession.
My friend was a sports car man. He loved Ferraris. The big pony in his stable was a gorgeous 1984 Ferrari Mondial Quattrovalvole Coupe. It was stunning, and I wanted it–not because I liked sports cars. I didn’t.
But this one I wanted, and after he took my obscenely-low asking price of $11,000 (most of what was left of my Stockdale winnings), I found a local freelance jeweler and metalsmith to drop his mask, fire up his torch, and turn this into my Dream Machine. For $1,893.75, I had him take every “Ferrari Mondial” emblem and transform it into…..yes, “Ferraro-Mondale”. I even ponied up a little extra for a “1984 Ferraro” vanity plate (and the rest of my Stockdale winnings went for that, because Oregon license plates only allow for six characters, so I had to pay a guy who paid a guy who paid a guy to get it done for me. But it was worth it).
Good heavens, it was a thing of beauty. I cherished that car. I kept it covered, installed the best alarm money could buy, and even thought about inserting razor blades under the door handles lest anyone find a way to circumvent the alarm. I sent pictures of me posing beside it to everyone in the “liberal” media I could think of (but no one published) and, of course, to Gerry. I never heard anything back, and her lawyers eventually told me to back off after I drove it across country to New York to show it to her.
But it’s gone now. In a bit of serendipity not uncommon in the gambling world, I got my own self in hot water with the same bookmaker when I placed a bet in 1993 that party up-and-comer, Illinois Congressman Mel Reynolds, would be Albert Gore’s running mate in 2000. I was a little cocky after my prescience on the Stockdale bet and was sure I couldn’t lose, and that, though this was years out, it was a sure bet and would add a nice layer of winter fat to my retirement fund.
Unfortunately, Mel was charged with several sex crimes for sleeping with a 16-year-old campaign worker, and was eventually sentenced to 42 months in prison. I had fallen on lean times by this point and had to sell the car to pay my gambling arrears.
And my other prized possession–my Gerry baseball jacket–is gone, too. One careless and inebriated evening, I foolishly left it on the back of my leather Damark High-Back office chair, and it slipped off and onto a space heater, and suffered a sad, melted end. The space heater was also ruined.
But, like Gerry, both of them live on in my heart. And I still believe, now more than ever, that the Office of the Vice President would be a better place if she’d had the chance to grace it with her sharp, savvy, rock-hard and razor-sharp feminine dignity.