Robert Stein 1924-2014

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Saturday, November 17, 2012

Groucho and the Generals

For those of a certain age, everything new recalls that fount of all wisdom, Groucho Marx. The current tragic comedy surrounding our military leaders is no exception.

It brings back a story Groucho relished telling Dick Cavett about the aphrodesiac rewards and risks of fame in the Marx brothers’ vaudeville days.

Back then, Groucho and Chico were visited backstage in Iowa by a middle-aged Jewish couple, who relayed their admiration and said, “We know you boys are Jewish, and we thought you might like to come to our house Friday night for a traditional Jewish dinner.”

The brothers agreed but, walking around town the day before, Chico recognized the address and they decided to ring the doorbell. The couple’s two pretty daughters were home, greeted them happily and were eventually induced to act out their fandom physically.

When the parents appeared, there was some embarrassment.

“Chico was more accustomed to this sort of predicament than I was,” Groucho recalled, “so I followed his example, which was grabbing up our clothes and high-tailing it out the window. Fortunately, we were on the ground floor.

“In any case, the penultimate thing the parents saw were our two buck-naked rear ends disappearing over the window sill. The ultimate thing they saw was Chico’s head reappearing momentarily, saying, ‘I hope this doesn’t affect Friday night.’”

If military leaders today only had shared some of the decisiveness and aplomb of Groucho and his brother back then, we might have been spared our distress over their iffy responses to traditional forms of female expression of appreciation for famous men.

As always, Groucho gets to the heart of the matter then and now.

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