Put Some Gay In Your Day, Dallas!

And Here’s To You, Mr. Robinson

We’ve all had that experience of getting something stuck in our heads.  Usually, it’s a song of some sort, maybe one that was popular when we were back in high school or perhaps a jingle for those of us old enough to remember when cigarettes were advertised on television.  “You can take Salem out of the country, but…”

Sometimes, Ethel Merman is playing on a loop in my head, and the only way to silence it is to open my mouth and belt it out with her.  “You’ll be swell, you’ll be great, gonna have the whole world on a plate…”  

After watching one of their movies, I’ll spend a few days with my self-talk sounding like Cary Grant or Jimmy Stewart.  Viewing Katharine Hepburn with her inimitable, but too often imitated, style of speech rattles around inside my head like “nickels dropping in a slot machine,” as Tallulah Bankhead famously described Ms. Hepburn’s voice.  

But here lately, another classic Hollywood star keeps jumping around inside my head, and he’s not one who has really done that in the past.  I always liked Edward G. Robinson. Although he often played unsympathetic characters, he was never a Gary Cooper or a Joel McCrea.  In Double Indemnity, Robinson plays the insurance company claims adjuster who isn’t fooled by Barbara Stanwyck, who has killed her husband with the help of his co-worker Fred MacMurray.  It’s my favorite movie of all three of those stars, partly because so much of the story takes place inside an insurance company—a turf on which I spent many years myself.

But it’s not that one, or Key Largo or The Ten Commandments for that matter, that is buzzing around in my brain.  It’s Mr. Robinson in the movie that really made him a star.  Little Caesar was one of the first, if not the first, of the major gangster films distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures during the 1930s.  Based in part on an actual mob boss of the era, Mr. Robinson plays Caesar Enrico Bandello, a young hoodlum who rises to the top of the rackets before his inevitable fall at the hand of the authorities.  Refusing to give himself up, the gangster is shot, and his dying words became one of the movie’s greatest quotes.  “Mother of mercy, is this the end of Rico?”

Well, Mr. Robinson, it was the end of your Rico, but obviously not the end of every Rico.  I can’t help but wonder if whoever named the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act wasn’t thinking of Mr. Robinson when coming up with that somewhat tortured moniker.

While I will always carp about district attorney Fani Willis assertion in January that her charging decisions were “imminent” when the indictments finally showed up in August, credit must now be given for a 98-page document naming 19 defendants, 30 unindicted co-conspirators, 41 counts of criminal charges, and 161 acts of racketeering in furtherance of the conspiracy.  It makes my head ache.

Remember those quizzes in school where we were required to match the items in the first column to those in the second by drawing a straight line to connect one to the other?  This document starts off listing the defendants on one side, and the counts on the other, and anyone trying to draw lines between the two would end up with a chart with so many intersecting lines that the whole mess would be meaningless.  Each of the defendants has been charged with at least two counts, and Trump and Giuliani managed to rack up 13 apiece.

Now truth be told, it’s been quite some time since I’ve personally been invited to participate in a criminal conspiracy, but I should think the first question one would ask oneself—probably in Katharine Hepburn’s voice—is “What’s in it for me?”

Clearly subverting a legitimate election to keep oneself in power would be a payoff for Trump.  But what did Giuliani want?  Relevance?  Did Sidney Powell want a government position?  Did Mark Meadows just want to keep Trump from yelling at him?  And all of those people with less than boldface names, who had little to gain and everything to lose.  Was it just an opportunity to be part of something bigger than themselves, even if only briefly and at a potentially high cost?

There are those who would say that they were true believers, actually thinking that the election was rigged against Trump.  If that were the case, their energy would have been spent finding evidence, not conspiring to overthrow the election through other illegitimate means.  Besides, generally speaking, people do what they want to do, and they usually believe what they want to believe.

And here’s to you, Mr. Robinson.  We love Rico more than you will know.  Whoa, whoa, whoa.