King Willie The Slick, Then Junior BushleagueSaturday, November 18th, 2000
Cast of Characters (In Order of Appearance)
King Willie The Slick
Lady Hilarious, Wife of King Willie
Sir Newt Gecko
The Grand Inquisitor
Prince Al The Bore
Once upon a time in the United States of Amnesia lived a king called King Willie The Slick. Now King Willie was a popular king, known throughout the land for his big smile and feathery head of hair. But one day King Willie the Slick was caught smoking a cigar that had been dipped in the sweet nectar of a harmonica flower.
In fact, thousands of harmonica flowers had to be cut to extract the nectar for a single savory cigar. And the good people of Amnesia felt that harmonica flowers ought not to be cut for such a purpose, or, even if they were (for truth be told some of the people themselves smoked such cigars), it should be done in privacy, and certainly not by the King under any circumstances, who probably shouldn’t be smoking at all.
Even King Willie’s nasty habit of smoking cigars dipped in the sweet sweet nectar of harmonica flowers could probably be forgiven, but when the King was asked by the Lord High Tribunal of Legal Crimes whether he had indeed smoked such a cigar, the King had replied: “No no no. One thousand times no, assuming that ’no’ means what is often taken for the word ’no’ in our language by those in the know. And even if I did, which I didn’t, I didn’t inhale with undue intention.” The people nodded their heads and were relieved that the king had smoked no such cigar, though verily many of the people themselves smoked cigars dipped in harmonica flowers.
Now it came to pass that The Grand Inquisitor appeared on the scene. He had been hired by Sir Newt Gecko, then the leader of the one of the land’s two main theater troupes, The Repulsives. Sir Newt and the Repulsives were still mad that King Willie the Slick had stolen the crown from the former king, King George The Petulant, successor to the greatest king of our age, King Ronald McRegan. So Sir Newt Gecko hired The Grand Inquisitor to snoop around King Willie’s house. And indeed, one day The Grand Inquisitor caught the King in the act of smoking an especially juicy harmonica-dipped cigar, which came to be known as The Great Smoking Harmonica Cigar. The Grand Inquisitor then wrote a long pamphlet about the King, called “An Inquiry Into The Frequency, Manner, and Duration of The Smoking of Cigars Perpetuated by King Willie The Slick During His Reign,” which in fact recounted every cigar King Willie had ever smoked, harmonica-dipped or otherwise, even before his marriage.
The Grand Inquisitor insisted his pamphlet was true, and expressed his unseemly desire to display some of the sweet sweet cigars in a public forum, but this was not wished for by the people. Instead, the pamphlet of The Grand Inquisitor was read aloud by the town criers throughout the land. And the land was sad. Indeed, for one year the good people of Amnesia turned away from their own affairs to listen to the town criers speak of the “Harmonica Matter,” which many people found so loathsome. The matter remained unsettled until the “Harmonica State of the Union,” King Willie’s finest hour, when he spoke for hours about matters of state, and spoke not of the Great Smoking Harmonica Cigar that The Grand Inquisitor had found. And the people of Amnesia again loved King Willie.
But Willie was growing old, and the time had come for him to step down. His wife, Lady Hilarious, herself wanted to be queen or even king, and was even ready to become the Duchess of Sodom in the Assembly of Amnesia for a time until the people had forgotten about the Harmonica Matter. Lady Hilarious wanted to rule so badly that she would even pretend to like the Sodomites in order to fulfill her designs. But she herself was not yet ready to be the king or queen.
Now long ago, during the founding of Amnesia, the Founding Fathers of the Aristocracy had decided that ruling the land was a dull business, and that their time was better spent tending to their fortunes and their lawns. They would hire the duller members of the Barely Rich to rule the land for them. And the Founding Fathers of the Aristocracy were wise, and knew that the people might try to enrich themselves or rule themselves or even revolt if they were not constantly amused. So the Founding Fathers created two great theater troupes for the National Theater known as the Dominoes and the Repulsives, whose lead actors would come from the class of the Barely Rich. Every four years they would audition for the role of “King” while the Aristocracy continued to rape the land and improve their golfing skills.
Domino productions were often morality plays that showed the Scales of Justice tipping toward equality, and carried themes such as that the poor were good or that the rich were bad. The Aristocracy never objected to these themes, because they knew that the good people of Amnesia would believe that in the Dominoes they had a voice, and so not revolt.
The most famous Domino actors of all time were a family known as the Kayes, who, though descended from a Beantown bootlegger, had been blessed by a platoon of especially gifted hair-stylists. The most famous of the clan was King Jack the Haircut. The Kayes slept with beautiful actresses, though rarely with their beautiful wives, and had not produced a king for some time.
The Repulsives staged morality plays of a more religious kind. The most famous Repulsive play, “Morning in Amnesia,” showed the Amnesians dancing around gushing fountains of Black Gold, while the Lord smiled down on all. The Repulsives found the Dominoes repulsive, mainly for failing to worship the flag of Amnesia dramatically enough. Nor did they drive big enough Black Gold Burning Carriages. Nor did they attend the Amnesian Gladiators’ shows quite enough. It was clear to the Repulsives that something was fishy about the Dominoes, who didn’t seem quite as proud to be Amnesians as the Repulsives felt they ought.
But for many years the Repulsives relied on character actors, and could not produce a leading man to match the dashing of the Kayes and their many imitators, including King Willie the Slick. The Repulsives could muster only uninspiring types, men with “character in their faces” but nowhere else. Actors like Dick Dixon, who hired scribes to record his every utterance, though he seemed only to utter the word “chickenshit” all the day long, in reference to his enemies. Dick Dixon also sweated a lot on stage, and didn’t shave every day, and shifted his beady eyes around, and was in general an unsavory character, but he seemed to stand for something until he was finally dethroned for his general unsavoriness.
For years the Repulsives could only produce such character actors, including Gerald Fathomless and Bob Archer Daniel Midland Droll, until the Great King Ronald McRegan took the throne. McRegan, known as The Great Combobulator, was just what the good people of Amnesia had wanted for years. He was a very experienced actor, and learned his lines well. He also staged big and heart-warming productions such as “Grenada The Grinch (It Must Be Stopped)” and “1001 Libyan Nights” that made Amnesians proud to be Amnesians again, because of how many non-Amnesians could be killed without Amnesians receiving a scratch. Perhaps most impressively, King Ronald McRegan had built innumerable catapults with which to hurl vats of boiling offal upon the Evil Empire. He also promised to build a big net to catch the Evil Empire’s catapult shots. And so the land was at ease until the pesky Dominoes asked whether nets weren’t made primarily of holes.
Now that it was time for him to step down, King Willie wanted his adopted son, Prince Al The Bore to succeed him as king. Prince Al was a wizard, but an ugly man, and so King Willie had always cast him only in minor, nonspeaking parts. Al The Bore was indeed learned, but no matter what his part, his reviewers were unanimous: he was “wooden.” He actually blended into the stage, and did not please the crowd. Al The Bore felt the audience needed more “serious” productions, but it was not what the people wanted. The good people of Amnesia had loved the Kayes for their costume dramas, and King Ronald McRegan (for his charm) and King Willie the Slick (for his burlesques) and even the otherwise unlovable King George The Petulant (for his special effects extravaganzas, such as “Saving Private Oil”). The producers of soul-searching dramas, such as King Jimmy Peanut or Prince Al The Bore, could rarely hold an audience, and were bad box office for the Dominoes as a whole.
Now the Repulsives were not without eyes, and saw plainly that Prince Al The Bore had not won favor in the eyes of the people. They searched the land for a leading man to vanquish Prince Al. Their last offering, Bob Archer Daniel Midland Droll, had lost the audition to King Willie, and had grown depressed and started taking Priapism-inducing potions. Even the costume department could not hide the lump in his trousers, and his good wife had grown terrified. The Right Honorable Sir Newt Gecko had been forced into hiding after it was revealed that he had been caught in flagrante delicto with several loose women who had been paid only to caress his soft round head. The other leaders of the troupe were of the usual character actor stripe that could not land the role of king.
But then at last they found Junior Bushleague.
Junior Bushleague was the son of King George The Petulant. Junior had led a wayward life, until six years before, when he had become Duke of the Lone Thought State. Junior was rumored to be a good Duke for many reasons. He hung so many prisoners that there was always room in his jails. (He wasn’t sure how many he had hung, or who they were, but he was sure they were all guilty.) He also kept the Black-Gold flowing toward great and small alike—toward the towns teeming with smoking Ford Carriages, as well as toward the colonies of seals and the schools of fish. Like George The Petulant, Junior Bushleague was sure to make battle with pesky principalities that owned the Black-Gold that the Amnesians deserved.
Junior Bushleague had other ways to win the crowd. Like King Ronald McRegan, Junior promised to lower ticket prices to the shows for all people. Al the Bore asked whether the Aristocracy and the Barely Rich weren’t getting the biggest discount, to which Junior Bushleague responded that they were paying the most already, and so deserved the biggest discount. The people had forgotten that under King Ronald ticket prices were less at the door, but programs and refreshments were so high that the show was interrupted by hungry theater-goers, begging food from the Aristocracy and the Barely Rich. King Ronald had also installed pay toilets in the bathrooms (though not for the Aristocracy, who had private facilities). Whenever the Dominoes complained, the Repulsives kept insisting that the ticket prices were low. The Repulsives told the people that the Dominoes would raise ticket prices, but still charge more for programs and for food.
Junior also promised to stage more lavish special effects productions, like his father and King Ronald had done. King Willie had done only small numbers that neither generated memorable slogans nor quickened the production of patriotic pins.
Perhaps most importantly, Junior Bushleague vowed to cleanse the throne that King Willie had stained with nectar of the sweet sweet harmonica flowers.
It was difficult for the Amnesians to choose their favorite for the role of king. During the audition, both actors had given powerful performances.
In the end, the Amnesians chose Junior Bushleague. They chose Junior for his boyish charm and his resemblance to Ronald McRegan. And because times were so good, they felt they could afford to punish Prince Al The Bore for thinking he could be King despite being so inhumanly boring. “If only Al The Bore were more like King Willie!” they lamented, having already forgotten about the Harmonica Matter.
So a new Repulsive play opened, with Junior Bushleague in the role of king. Almost as soon as they had chosen him, the Amnesians felt something was wrong. Although he had more personality than Prince Al the Bore, the name “King Junior Bushleague” just didn’t sound right in their ears.
“What have we done?” cried the people amongst themselves. “Have we have crowned the greatest idiot of them all?”
King Junior Bushleague was lost without his script. He couldn’t improvise. He often seemed to act out of character, and speak as if he were channeling the voices of others. He seemed to forget that his part was that of King of Amnesians. Once on stage, he acted like a mere errand boy.
But the flag was worshipped, and more farms become golf courses, and extravagant special effects productions were staged, to which the Aristocracy was admitted for free. And though the poor were not admitted, the people warmed to their choice soon enough.
“He was our choice,” they came to say. “So he cannot be all bad. For we, the good people of Amnesia, have chosen him, King Junior Bushleague, to be our king. And surely we are not fools.”
Note: Gore Vidal coined the phrase “United States of Amnesia.”
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