Could it be that Roy Blount Jr. is a visionary? In 1990 the humorist, author and one-time sports-journalism brother published “First Hubby/A Novel About a Man Who Happens to be Married to the President of the United States.”
It’s an occasionally absurd tale. The narrator, a good ole boy named Guy Fox, is a writer of modest accomplishment whose spouse, Clementine, has risen through the political ranks to the vice presidency on a third-party ticket. Then, when President DaSilva—his first name never is revealed in the book’s 285 pages—dies when struck by a fish (yes, absurd), Fox suddenly finds himself being “the first male First Lady of the Land.”
There are plenty of puns, silly song lyrics and signature Blount wisecracks. Guy Fox expounds on the Secret Service, social issues, sex, race, the media, politics and about feeling self-conscious to be chewing tobacco in the First Lady’s office. (He relates that the long tradition of tobacco-chewing in the White House included Warren Harding popping whole cigarettes in his mouth and Andrew Johnson once mistaking a senator’s hat for a spittoon.)
There are quirky historical tidbits about several former First Ladies, Fox’s thoughts about raising kids and his observations on the overwhelmingly (and, he insists, unnecessarily) large staff assigned to him. Plus, of course, there is the deliberation on how he ought to be addressed.
“People don’t actually call you Mr. First Spouse, do they?”
“People call me Guy,” he says.
When Blount penned this novel, the closest anyone had come to the fictional Guy Fox’s situation was John Zacarro in 1984, after his wife, Geraldine Ferraro, was chosen by Walter Mondale to be the first female vice-presidential candidate representing a major American political party.
(Mondale didn’t come close to stopping Ronald Reagan’s re-election, and it didn’t help Ferraro that Zacarro, like a certain 2016 Presidential candidate, was a Queens, N.Y., real estate developer who inherited his father’s business and was caught in some bank-financing skulduggery.)
Now, of course, one William Jefferson Clinton could wind up being the first real First Hubby. (During his wife’s original presidential campaign, former President Clinton told Oprah Winfrey in 2007 that his Scottish friends suggested he call himself First Laddie. In recent months, possible titles of First Matie, First Gentleman and First Dude have been thrown around.)
But, about Roy Blount as a political prophet:
Included in “Now, Where Were We?”—a 1989 compilation of his essays from publications such as The Atlantic, Esquire, New York Magazine and Gentleman’s Quarterly—is the piece, “Why It Looks Like I Will Be the Next President of the United States, I Reckon.” In that, Blount envisioned a “brokered” convention, “somebody waiting in the wings” at the end of a chaotic Democratic Party primary that sounded a lot like the Republican’s (un)civil strife this season. Blount wrote how, unlikely as it may have seemed, political bigwigs had to settle on him, someone “perceived as too abstract and austere. A writer, not a politician.”
Which could be overcome, he wrote, by
- Easing folks’ minds.
- Setting an example of the feasibility of getting away with things.
In “First Hubby,” slipped in with his account of romancing Clementine, his thoughts about The Muppets and how he has no interest in autographing pictures for schoolchildren who write in at their teachers’ behest—“Tell them to go climb a tree. That’s what I did when I was their age”—are some fascinating dialogue and situations that could have come from current politicians and pundits.
From Blount’s imaginary President DaSilva:
“People ask me whether I’m not put off by some of the panhandling tactics of the urban homeless. Well, you know it’s not only homelessness that’s up, it’s also shamelessness. If Donald Trump can behave the way he does, then why shouldn’t people go up to strangers in the street, get right up in their face and ask for money?”
A disapproving Donald Trump reference. Right there on Page 170 of a 26-year-old book. The DaSilva character also sounded a bit like Bernie Sanders at times:
“We need a middle-class revolt, which forces the rich to pay for programs that help the poor aspire to that old-fashioned goal, a decent living….”
And what about this Blount song lyric in “First Hubby”?
You got big old hair and a little bitty heart.
I should’ve known about you from the start.
Your pompadour is a work of aaaaaaart—
You got big old hair and a little bitty heart.
I don’t know. I think I could vote for Roy Blount. Even if that would cause his “First Hubby” effort to remain pure fantasy.