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Presidential Parody : Satirical Poster Takes a Poke at Prospect of Quayle as Occupant of the Oval Office

October 30, 1988|KENNETH J. GARCIA | Times Staff Writer

The writers said that in a campaign long on nastiness and short on humor, the public was starved for some good, old-fashioned political satire.

So they dished up the first and only edition of "The Washington Possible," a pseudo newspaper and real-life protest poster that has generated a healthy portion of laughs since it began appearing on walls coast to coast several weeks ago.

"Quayle Becomes President," screams the banner headline. "Uh-Oh Says Worried Nation."

Dan Quayle, the Republican vice presidential nominee, was such "a veritable Mother Lode of satiric possibilities," said Harold Meyerson, one of the writers, that they felt compelled to mine it for all he was worth.

Satirists Join Forces

The Possible became more than a possibility because of the reaction by Jeremy Sherman, the 32-year-old Midas Muffler heir, to the "shocking" realization that Quayle could ascend to the nation's highest office. Sherman contacted friend Josh Baran in Los Angeles, and the two men kicked around the idea of a Quayle parody.

"There's just been a lack of witnessing to the folly of this campaign," Sherman said from his San Francisco office. "There seemed to be a great need to call attention to Quayle's lack of qualifications, and I love political satire."

Baran, who served as California press secretary for Gary Hart's 1984 presidential campaign and now does publicity for MCA-Universal and United Artists, brought in veteran political and comedy writers Meyerson and Pacy Markman to work on the project. It was put together in Baran's Venice office.

The three of them began trading zingers and dreaming up copy, parrying and thrusting with their pens until the jokes were exhausted.

'Impeachment Insurance'

With Sherman's financial backing, they printed 20,000 posters and 20,000 mock newspapers and shipped them to journalists, politicians, cartoonists, disc jockeys and friends across the country. The posters began appearing on walls in New York, Washington, Boston, Los Angeles and several other cities about two weeks ago and have been the subject of stories in the Washington Post and the New York Times. The project cost about $30,000.

"It was only after the election that informed sources said Bush viewed Quayle as impeachment insurance," one section of the parody reads. The public's reaction to the Quayle succession to President George Bush's sudden death (See BUSH DIES SUDDENLY, SEC. B, page 12) is also showcased: "Americans Kneel in Prayer, Refuse to Rise."

The publication includes a map of the "inaugural hole," where Quayle is sworn in ("After Quayle took oath of office at 9th hole, he shot a double bogey six,") and a picture of the senator in his former National Guard uniform ("Quayle keeping Indiana safe from communism.")

"We wanted to use humor to get our point across about how scary the thought of a Dan Quayle presidency is," Baran said. "It's designed to shock and amuse."

Since the Possible is based on the grim premise that Bush could die in office if he's elected President, Meyerson admits that a lot of people might find the parody distasteful.

"But there are a lot of things worse than bad taste," he said. "And Quayle being President is one of them."

The protest sheet has apparently eluded the otherwise watchful eyes of state Republican leaders such as Los Angeles County GOP Robert Whitmore, who say they haven't seen the Possible.

Variety of Pot-Shots

If they ever get a copy, it's doubtful that they will like what they see.

"With Danny Quayle, we've finally got a President who's not afraid to push the button first," reads a mock quote from conservative Republican Sen. Jesse Helms.

The parody also takes aim at Quayle's well-chronicled educational background, with a shot reserved at his acceptance into law school:

"Quayle had a little trouble getting into Indiana University. By a curious coincidence, he was admitted at the same time his grandfather made a major contribution to the school. Quayle was admitted under a program designed to help minority and underprivileged students. Quayle's minority group: grandsons of billionaires."

For Meyerson and Baran, the Possible is the most recent collaboration in a series of satirical adventures that began when they published an underground paper as students at Palisades High School.

For Markman, the parody is an outlet for his liberal political bent. A former comedy writer for Bob Hope and the "Fernwood 2-Night" television series, Markman has worked on the campaign to reelect Rose Elizabeth Bird, the former chief justice of the state Supreme Court, and is currently helping in the campaign to stop oil drilling in Pacific Palisades.

Impact on Election

However, none of them are working for the Democratic presidential campaign, unless the Possible unexpectedly gives a jump-start to Michael Dukakis' fading bid for the White House.

The writers believe that with the polls indicating a Bush-Quayle victory on Nov. 8, the satire takes on extra bite.

"I will lead us down the back nine," reads a mock Quayle quote. "Some days we'll be in the fairway, some days in the rough. But even when we're in the deepest sandtrap, I know the American people will be able to look over the water hazard to the green and see the flag waving in the breeze."

Said Baran: "I believe that this will have a shelf-life of many years."

However, the collaborators have not fired all their satirical shots. Baran said they are working on a longer spoof, tentatively entitled "The Dan Quayle Vice Presidential Fun Book."

"There's a lot more to be said," said Sherman. "And I love these kinds of capers."

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