Down for the Count: America's Fascination With Royalty



By Walter Brasch


           In case you're in a funk because you think the reason you didn't receive an invitation to the royal wedding is because the Brits are still ticked off about that silly little skirmish back in 1776, the American media have a solution for you.

           The media had been pumping out news, features, and gossip about the wedding for more than three months. Almost every radio, TV, and cable network, except for maybe the Cartoon Channel, will be covering the wedding on Friday. All. Day. Long.

           Coverage begins at 3 a.m. EDT (8 a.m., British Standard Time) and finally ends before the bars close. In addition to extensive live coverage of the procession and wedding itself, ABC, CBS, and NBC are devoting five hours in evening prime time to reviews of the wedding.

           WE TV has four one-hour documentaries: "Prince William," "Kate: The New Diana?", "Will + Kate Forever," and "William & Kate: Wedding of the Century." Apparently, the cable network that brands itself as "the women’s network devoted to the wild ride of relationships during life’s defining moments," believes there won't be a royal divorce, and that the marriages of Charles and Diana (which did end in divorce), Grace Kelly and Prince Rainier, Elizabeth II and Philip, and Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson in the 20th century were only preliminaries. Lifetime, which bills itself as the cable network that "celebrates, entertains and supports women," has several one-hour documentaries, including "A Tale of Two Princesses," "William and Kate: A Love Story," and "Kate's Gown of Renown." The network is also cablecasting two two-hour docudramas, "Prince William" and "William & Kate."

           If you don't have access to a TV set, You Tube is transmitting the events live to computers and every handheld device known to technology. Add in all the newspaper and magazine coverage—look for multi-page photo spreads in all major entertainment magazines in the next week—plus a million or so blogs, and there's no reason why anyone shouldn't know important details, including how many canapés were ordered for the after-wedding reception.

           Americans have always had a fascination with royalty. Although we organized a revolution to overthrow a monarchy, and created a president not a king as head of State, we have spent more than two centuries trying to regain a royal image.

          Our fast food restaurants are called Burger King and Dairy Queen.

           Somewhere at any moment during the year, American girls (infants through senior citizens) are practicing their wave so they can become a beauty queen. Schools have prom queens and homecoming queens, each with their court of princesses. Every college football bowl game parade has a Miss Something and her Court. And, every winner wears a tiara.

           The media and the public dub almost every new celebrity singer a "pop princess." Just about any young ice skating star is known as an "ice princess," but the media in 1989 derogatorily dubbed Deborah Norville an "ice princess" when she took over for popular Jane Pauley on NBC-TV's "Today Show."

           Princess Cruises has the "Love Boat," but there was no love lost when Donald Trump sold his 282-foot Trump Princess for about $40 million in 1991 after he, mistress Marla, and wife Ivana had formed a Ménage a Tabloid.

           Among googobs of literary and movie princesses have been Cinderella, Snow White, and Leia who helped Han Solo, Luke Skywalker, and that giant furry thing make the world safe for high-tech special effects. And, of course, there's the Lion King that made the Disney company rich enough to devour all other media companies, and take on the corporate shape of Jabba the Hut.

           The greatest baron, pursued by ace aviator Snoopy, was the Red Baron. However, for some reason the media prefer to use the title "baron" to refer to evil "kingpins"--as in "drug baron," "robber baron" and, understandably, "media baron."

           The music industry abounds with royalty. Bessie Smith was the Empress of the Blues; Roger Miller was King of the Road. Among other kings are those of Ragtime (Scott Joplin), Blues (W.C. Handy), Swing (Benny Goodman), Waltz (composer Richard Strauss or bandleader Wayne King), Pop (Michael Jackson), and, of course, Elvis, the king of rock and roll. One of the best singers was Nat "King" Cole. 

           Aretha Franklin is the Queen of Soul. Rap singer Queen Latifah may think she's royalty, but British rock group Queen truly has a better shot at sitting in Buckingham Palace than she does.

           Among singing princes are the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, who doesn't do much singing or rapping any more, and Prince Rogers Nelson, who became known simply as Prince, and then the singer-with-the-unpronounceable symbol, who later regained a pronounceable moniker, and has the ability to predict purple rain.

           The most famous duke is the "Duke, Duke, Duke of Earl, Earl, Earl, Duke of Earl" who proved in the late 1950s that anyone can grow up and write song lyrics.

           Other less royal dukes have been baseball great Duke Snider and musical genius Duke Ellington who, had he gone to baseball games, would have had to sit in segregated seating in most ball parks. Sitting with him would be the Dukes of Dixieland. Upset there are no more segregated "colored" seats, drinking fountains, and rest rooms is David Duke who once cornered the market on pointy white hats and dull-witted Whites.

           Babe Ruth was the Sultan of Swat. But no royal monikers were attached to Roger Maris who broke Ruth's single season record or to Hank Aaron, who broke Ruth's lifetime record, and had to put up with numerous racist comments. So far, no one has given royal titles to Barry Bonds, the current leader in single season homeruns, lifetime homeruns, and steroid usage accusations.

           Nevertheless, the only royalty that matters are the Counts--Tolstoy, Dracula, and Basie.


[Walter Brasch is an award-winning journalist. His next book is Before the First Snow, a look at America’s counter-culture and the nation’s conflicts between oil-based and "clean" nuclear energy. The book is available at]






Caroline Kennedy Refuses To Disclose Financial Records, Basic Information

My feelings about her being anointed as a senator are well known around these parts.  I'm just wondering how was it that she sat on the transition team for obama and demanded records of future team members ( appointed and not elected in some cases) and now refuses to hand over hers. In the NY times article below she says IF ( read as AFTER I'm chosen) I'm chosen * cough * anointed , then ONLY shall I show you my financial records or any records.

Missed in all of this recent hoopla and by practically everyone were reports weeks ago that Uncle Ted Kennedy offered a Blago like deal to Paterson, stating that by having her anointed, it would mean great things for Paterson in 2010 (indirectly)- because more money would be freed up for his reelection run in 2010. Now, it was not as juicy as blago's rant on tape but it was the same level of cronyism.

If she were applying to be, say, an undersecretary of education in Barack Obama's new administration, Caroline Kennedy would have to fill out a 63-item confidential questionnaire disclosing potentially embarrassing text messages and diary entries, the immigration status of her household staff, even copies of every résumé she used in the last 10 years.Caroline Kennedy is actively seeking appointment to the Senate seat being vacated by Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton.

If she were running for election to the Senate, Ms. Kennedy would have to file a 10-part, publicly available report disclosing her financial assets, credit card debts, mortgages, book deals and the sources of any payments greater than $5,000 in the last three years.

But Ms. Kennedy, who has asked Gov. David A. Paterson to appoint her to succeed Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton -- and who helped oversee the vetting process for Mr. Obama's possible running mates -- is declining to provide a variety of basic data, including companies she has a stake in and whether she has ever been charged with a crime.

Ms. Kennedy declined on Monday to reply to those and other questions posed by The New York Times about any potential ethical, legal and financial entanglements. Through a spokesman, she said she would not disclose that kind of information unless and until she becomes a senator.

"If Governor Paterson were to choose Caroline, she would, of course, comply with all disclosure requirements," said the spokesman, Stefan Friedman.

Mr. Paterson's office said his choice for the Senate would undergo the same background check as any cabinet-level officer in Albany, including verification of employment and education, a review of tax returns, and a criminal background check by the State Police. The governor's vetting process drew criticism this fall when it surfaced that his top aide at the time, Charles O'Byrne, had failed to pay income taxes for five years. The Paterson administration has since said it is requiring more extensive background checks.

The Senate's self-imposed ethics rules do not require any disclosure by potential appointees, although sitting senators are required to file financial disclosure statements by May 15 each year. (The latest filing by Ms. Kennedy's uncle, Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts, showed a net worth of at least $43.8 million, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, which ranked him the seventh richest senator.)

But several ethics experts, good-government advocates and scholars, who called Ms. Kennedy's situation highly unusual -- because of her overt pursuit of the job, her celebrity and her lack of previous political experience -- urged her to reveal information on her finances now, if only for appearances' sake.

Ms. Kennedy made headlines around the world last week after alerting the governor that she wanted the job. She then began a public tour, meeting with political leaders around the state, and quickly cemented herself as the dominant contender for the seat.

"Precisely because there is no campaign or election, she should be more willing to disclose and subject herself to a greater level of public scrutiny than is required," said Dick Dadey, executive director of Citizens Union, a nonpartisan watchdog group. He noted that other major contenders for the Senate seat -- officeholders like the attorney general, Andrew M. Cuomo, and Representative Kirsten Gillibrand -- have mounted runs for office and filed public disclosures before.

Others wonder if Ms. Kennedy's unwillingness to disclose personal information suggests she lacks the stomach for the kind of intrusive questions that could come her way as a candidate in 2010.

"If this were an open primary, and all the people seeking that position had to run, she'd have to make all those disclosures, so why not in the appointment process?" said Bob Edgar, president of Common Cause, a watchdog group that lobbies for tighter ethics rules. "She can't simply ride in on her name recognition or place in history. The voters and people of New York deserve that full disclosure."

Fred Wertheimer, president of Democracy 21, another watchdog group, warned that requiring financial disclosure by "anyone who is speculated about" for such a vacancy could be untenable. "I would think it would be up to her," he said. But he called Ms. Kennedy's campaign for the appointment "kind of unique."

So far, on her tour, Ms. Kennedy has taken just 11 questions from reporters, has granted no interviews, and responded only in writing to inquiries about her positions on significant issues.

"She needs to deepen the public's idea of who she is," said Paul Light, a professor at New York University's Wagner School of Public Service. "To the extent she can be more transparent, she dispels the notion that it's all about her name. We obviously know that she's quite wealthy, but beyond that, we don't know much about where she gets her income, how she's invested, whether she has followed her own principles in her investing activities, and so forth. That would be very useful to know."

Ms. Kennedy also has not had to disclose the names and salaries of the people working for her in her bid for the appointment. Lawyers have assured her that federal campaign-finance rules do not apply in this situation, her aides have said.

Ms. Kennedy also avoided disclosing any information about her finances while working as chief fund-raiser for the New York City Department of Education. She took the three-day-a-week job -- director of the Office of Strategic Partnerships -- in October 2002 at $1 a year, intending at the time to step up to a $90,000-a-year salary, but she later decided to forgo the salary. Taking it would have required her to file disclosures with the city's Conflicts of Interests Board, officials said.

Since then, Ms. Kennedy has been a vice chairwoman of the Fund for Public Schools, the nonprofit arm of the strategic partnerships office. A 2006 state law required that the board members of all nonprofits "affiliated, sponsored by or created by" a city government submit detailed disclosure forms. But on Dec. 10, the city told an Assembly committee that the Fund for Public Schools would be exempt from the law, reasoning that the Department of Education is, legally speaking, a school district, not a city agency -- even though the mayor has control over the schools.

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