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“I, BETTY CROCKER,” (from the Paul Steven Stone archive)

I was born at the age of 42.

Some of you might regard that as a handicap, but at the time I assumed everyone was born fully grown in a corporate test kitchen. In fact, I still think of it as an advantage; like being born with a silver spoon in my hand.

My parents were industrious and successful advertising icons themselves. Mom was the housewife on the Crispy Cornpads cereal boxes, Dad the cartoon character in the Gillette Safety Razor commercials who always stroked his chin and declared, “Feels smoother, too!”

“What a klutz!”

My parents were proud of me from the start and encouraged me to think of myself as more than a mere advertising symbol. They knew from their own experience how difficult life could be for someone who never had a childhood, an adolescence or even an early adulthood. They arranged for me to play with other celebrities like myself. Thus, I led a very active social life, and still fondly recall those days when the Gerber Baby, the Morton Salt Girl (what a klutz!), the Ivory Snow Mother and myself would stay up till all hours of the night exchanging recipes and baby care advice.

It’s easy to judge one’s parents by today’s standards, but in truth it was a far different world back then. So, it’s not surprising that my parents wouldn’t allow me to play with Aunt Jemima and Uncle Ben, or that my father threatened to lock me up in the kitchen if I so much as sent an idle glance in the direction of the Marlboro Man.

“Not the lover I expected with his smelly cigarette-reeking breath.”

Ah, the Marlboro Man! There was a fellow to watch, girls! A hard-smoking, ill-educated callous-handed macho man who could turn the head of any woman who spent most of her days on the front sides of cake mix boxes. But like most things in life, the dream was far more interesting than the reality. Later on, when I had the chance to date Mr. Marlboro Icon Himself, I found him to be dull, insipid and totally lost without his horse or a mirror in which to watch himself.. Not only that, there was an aura of stale smoke always hovering around him and fouling his breath. It was all you could do to let your nostrils open for even the smallest intake of smelly cigarette-reeking air.

I laugh now to think of my father’s Victorian attitudes, but having worked in men’s magazines his entire career, he had seen too many unsuspecting females whose advertising careers were tainted or ruined by associating with the wrong type of commercial characters. So, except for a brief platonic relationship with that boy who got sand kicked in his face in the Charles Atlas comic book ads, I was never allowed to go out on dates until the start of the second World War.

Modesty forbids me telling the intimate details of our relationship.

The War Years, with their food shortages and rationing, were lonely years for me, and I recall staring down long empty supermarket aisles waiting for a chance to wave at the Gorton’s Fisherman or Tony The Tiger as they went by. By then, I had developed a line of hot breakfast cereals that put me on the shelf next to the one real love of my life.

Modesty forbids me to reveal the intimate details of my relationship with the Quaker Oats Quaker—or ‘Quaky’ as we used to call him—but you’ll most likely remember from the fan magazines that we were seen at all the “in” places, dancing till dawn, burying ourselves in confetti, drinking champagne from Buster Brown slippers.

Buster Brown could always be trusted with a secret; the dog, not so much!

Sad to say, it was an affair fated for an unhappy ending. Inevitably, gossip about our relationship reached into the corporate headquarters of both our companies, and rulings came down from both mountaintops forbidding fraternization between competing brands. Quaky went into brief seclusion while I was given the first of my “new looks” by my personal illustrator, a total revamp that not only changed my look but my entire personality as well.

To be honest, with my new personality I suddenly discovered new appetites rising up within me, so that stuffy old icons lie Quaky and the Ivory Snow Mother began to have about as much appeal as cold oatmeal. Shocking to say, I began seriously looking around for the kind of relationships my father always worried about.

And so, girls, I began to experiment with more exotic spices.

NEXT: “No Kitchen Could Hold Me,” Betty’s raw and honest look back at her “lost years,” as starkly seen in her torrid, love-hate relationship with the Pillsbury Doughboy.

MARIONETTES’ DANCE

“Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!”

1st Marionette: Wow! What was…? Wait a second!

2nd Marionette: What’s up, man? You okay?

1st M.: Didn’t you see it? The sudden change of script? The background scenery suddenly shifting from dark gray clouds and gloom to clear skies, all sunshiny bright, as the song goes?

2nd M.: Now that you mention it, I did notice something. A shift—very slight—Thought it might have been something I ate at lunch.

1st M.: Sorry, friend, it was a bit more profound than that. Did you notice the music we’re dancing to hasn’t changed, but the lyrics have…? I was dancing to the Amy Klobuchar Waltz, and you were tap dancing to…?

2nd M.: …the Peter Buttigieg two-step!

1st M.: Exactly! And now we’re both toe-tapping to …?

2nd M.: Oh my god, could that be…? Is that the Joe Biden Ragtime Quartet that we’re all dancing to?

1st M.: Playing “Canciones de Mi Padre?”

2nd M.: When did that happen?

1st M.: Could it be it was so quick that nobody noticed?

3rd M.: What about me (a gravelly-toned voice questions from behind)? Talk about sudden changes. I was dancing to the tune of a front runner, and now I’ve been put in my place.

2nd M.: (chuckling) Yeah, your second place…?

3rd M.: I hate to say it, but this has a very familiar feel to it? Kind of 2016-ish. Know what I mean?

1st M.: Hey guys; I don’t want to be alarmist, but… Does this feel a little bit like a conspiracy? Anybody getting that vibe?

2nd M.: You mean because Bloomberg turned off his money spigot at the exact same moment two other presidential hopefuls surprised everyone by stepping out of the race prior to Super Tuesday, all relevant parties coincidentally throwing their endorsements to the least dynamic candidate in the Democratic race? Is that what you mean by conspiracy?

Hmm, was there a conspiracy afoot?

1st M.: Well, not only that, but by the mainstream media’s total acquiescence in accepting Biden’s sudden and apparently non-controvertible ascendance. Also, by employing a similar speed and acquiescence in portraying Bernie’s instantaneous fall from front runner to also-ran.

3rd M.: I’m sorry, guys. I’m only a dancing marionette. This conspiracy stuff is way above my pay grade. 

2nd M.: Me too, but wait. What’s happening…? The music’s changing…!

1st M.: Recognize it…?

3rd M.: I did. I’m certain it was playing “Yankee Doodle…”

2nd M.: Yes, but now, if you listen carefully, it sounds like a Russian folk song.” 

1st M.: Okay, you guys know I love, honor and esteem you even as I tell you to shut up and keep dancing, right?

I mean what other choice to we have?

THE LEGEND OF SWAMP CREATURE

Folks in these parts recall how this damn nasty swamp you see in front of you was once a modern Capital City, name of Washington, D.C. Then, of course, as the legend goes, Swamp Creature moved into the environs and, quick as a jumping frog on a hot stove, started draining the swamp, as he repeatedly promised, to get himself elected President of These United States.

Capital City Before Swamp Creature

‘Course Swamp Creature never exactly mentioned which swamp he’d be draining and to where he’d be releasing the stinking, toxic swamp effluence. As it later turned out, he was talking about draining the swamp filled from his business dealings back in New York City, which contained all the swampy murkiness of Swamp Creature’s previous questionable dealings; like his improper bank loans, his serial bankruptcies; his bogus charity; his questionable real estate transactions; his unprovoked acts of sexual aggression. And, of course, his falsified tax filings and other mob-like shenanigans. 

Capital City After Swamp Creature

Truth is, when you drain one swamp, reason dictates, somewhere there’s a swamp getting swampier from the draining. In this case, the locale of that swampier swamp was that aforesaid Capital City mentioned above. 

But anyone who believes bringing in Swamp Creature to drain a swamp will result in anything ‘cept more swampiness deserves to spend two hours at lunch with Mitch McConnell. You remember Mitch, if only from remembering the one kid in grade school you wanted to punch in the face; the kid you could always count on to snitch on everyone else in class. Mitch was only one of the many swamp denizens enlisted by Swamp Creature to do his bidding and to help transform Capital City into a nightmarish City of Swamp. 

Transmogrified Republicans For The Rule of Trump

Nobody, least of all the citizens of Capital City, expected Swamp Creature to so quickly transmogrify normal, rule-of-law Republicans like Mitch McConnell, Ted Cruz, Rand Paul and Lindsey Graham into soulless, lying and cheating, ass-kissing Swamp Creature sycophants. But he did, and without raising a sweat.

Swamp Creature’s Illegitimate Offspring

Swamp Creature’s other top henchmen included Billy “The Kid” Barr, enlisted to shoot up and tear down the once proud Department of Justice; Mike Pence, particularly effective as “The Smiling Stooge” who immediately gave Swamp Creature the patina of Republican respectability he needed after his Russian-assisted election victory. And then there was Mike “The Ass Kisser” Pompeo who would sacrifice his own children, as well as the entire Department of State, on the altar of Swamp Creature’s thirst for a second elected term. 

Back for a second term

A second elected term, legend has it, in which Swamp Creature could finish draining the United States Treasury to pay for all his Florida golf expeditions. And to complete the job of desecrating all the familiar landmarks and traditions that once made the Capital City a beacon on a hill for the planet’s meek, humble and poor.

And, as legend declares, a second term to finish the task Vladimir Putin had set for him before his first term…the destruction of American democracy and America’s network of Western allies who once, in the time before Swamp Creature moved to Capital City, stood together like a solid wall as a bulwark against Russian aggression. 

Swamp Creature loves walls.  

But not that one.

TRUMP SHOOTS FIFTH AVENUE PEDESTRIAN, REPUBLICANS INSIST “NO CRIME COMMITTED!” (SATIRE REDUX!)

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(updated from an earlier essay to reflect the shameless and cowardly behavior at Trump’s senate trial)

In a bizarre twist on the politics and unpredictability of the Trump Impeachment imbroglio, Donald J. Trump, 45th President of the United States, yesterday shot and killed a homeless man as he was crossing Fifth Avenue in New York City.

When asked why he chose to shoot a total stranger, President Trump explained, “I was working on reducing homelessness in America. No crime, no collusion, it was a perfect shot.” Trump went on to explain, “Being more brilliant and observant than any previous president, I noticed Fox’s Nielsen ratings were starting to sag after my acquittal in the United States Senate. As the star of the impeachment drama, and a member of the Screen Actors Guild, I was obligated and uniquely qualified to boost Fox’s TV ratings whenever and howsoever necessary. I figured the shooting was good for a 30% viewer spike.”

“You want some of this?”

“According to the 2nd amendment of the Constitution,” Trump continued, “the President cannot be tried for crimes committed in office, not that reducing homelessness is a crime. I just sincerely hope the fellow I shot was a Democrat,” he added, the sound of Trump family laughter rising up in the background.

With the congressional impeachment saga now behind him, Trump’s latest criminal “outrage”—as the Democrats define it—is just one more minor obstacle on the rocky road Republican senators must travel in these days of a wild and wooly Trump presidency. A road on which they must travel blind, wearing blinders in some cases, in order not to see (or judge) the president’s myriad crimes and transgressions.

Is this Lindsey Graham’s “Nothing burger with cheese, bacon bits and special sauce?”

Trump’s erstwhile congressional defenders were the first to reject the notion that the shooting would have any impact on the President’s ability to play golf, hold political rallies, manage his investments or run the Department of Justice, all highest priorities for our 45th president. Senator Lindsey Graham rejected the idea of Trump’s criminal liability for the shooting, calling it “A nothing-burger with cheese, bacon bits and special sauce,” while Republican House defenders Jim Jordan and Doug Collins refused to accept that a crime had been committed. “How could the President know the gun was loaded?” Jordan asked. “And where was Hunter Biden at the time of the shooting?” 

Republican Senators are expected to ignore all of President Trump’s crimes and misdemeanors in an effort to remain fair and impartial should he once again face impeachment or any other attempted restraint on his self-bestowed freedom to do whatever the hell he wants.

“P.S. I Fucked You!”

(The following is my idea of a never-delivered Donald Trump commencement speech at Trump University)

“Dear Graduates of Trump University,

“Today is a proud day for all of you. I offer my congratulations and best wishes, along with a treasure trove of advice that should put you one step ahead of the competition—and the law—as you pursue your journey towards untold wealth and public admiration.

“Most of what I am about to say was taught to me by my mentor, Roy Cohn, a man of prodigious talent and wisdom who was almost single-handedly responsible for America’s  internecine chaos under McCarthyism. 

“Roy always told me there were five essential rules to success, no matter what endeavor you take on. As the cherry on your cupcake here at Trump University, I am about to reveal Roy’s five essential rules for success.

Rule Number One has three parts: Cheat, Cheat and Cheat Yet Again. Not just cheating your adversaries, Roy advised me, but friends, family, employees, vendors and virtually anyone dumb enough to trust you or take what you say on faith.

“If you are pursuing a billionaire’s career in real estate, like we train you for at Trump University, always cheat on the square footage you are selling or buying. If selling, add a 10% increase to the square footage. If buying, protest that you’re being cheated by a 10% overcharge on the footage. Either way, it’s unlikely anyone will bother to check. 

Rule number One applies in any field you can think of. In politics, for example, if you’re running for office, steal ballots, falsify results, and blame your opponent for every crime you can think of. When you’re desperate, claim he’s a pedophile, then doctor photographs so he’s shown hanging around schoolyards with his hands in his pockets. 


DJT and his Trump U. cheerleaders

“Basically you have to use your imagination. One of my favorite cheats was to build my Trump towers two stories higher than the building permits would allow. Most times nobody checks on that sort of thing, but when they did I pleaded ignorance and threatened to sue them if they bothered me any further. If they still persisted, I would grudgingly agree, express my regrets, then reduce the building by a single storey.

“It’s worth noting that nothing works better or more efficiently than the threat of a lawsuit, especially from someone with enough wealth to drain all one’s savings in lawyer’s fees.

In order to deal with the aftermath of Rule Number One, you must then employ Rule Number Two, which is simply Lie, Lie, And Lie Again. 

“As you can easily see, Rule Number Two works hand in glove with Rule Number One. When anyone accuses you of cheating, immediately accuse them of slander. And even if they have proof of your cheating, double down on your denials and once again threaten to sue.

Rule Number Three is a two-parter, as well as an outgrowth of Rules Number One and Number Two: Never Admit To Your Crime and Never, Never, Never Apologize. If they catch you with your hand in the cookie jar, admit to nothing except perhaps conducting a cookie jar inventory. If you have cookie crumbs around your mouth, insist you are being framed. If they catch you actually chewing cookies, deny it adamantly and try not to spit crumbs into anyone’s face as you do it.

Rule Number Four only makes sense when you’re in a position of power or higher leverage. Put simply, Rule Number Four requires you to Scare The Living Shit Out Of Your Adversaries. And for this exercise, assume everyone in the world is an adversary. It’s a simple fact that the more successful you become the more adversaries you will accumulate. Scaring The Living Shit Out Of Your Adversaries requires you to throw tantrums, physically intimidate lowly employees, sue people at the drop of a hat and fire anyone who resists your orders or calls out your bad behavior. And, as a last resort, use force or the threat of force to coerce your adversary so he understands your absolute rights in any situation. 

E. Jean Caroll was allegedly “taken” in a Bergdorf-Goodman changing room.

“Roy’s last rule is built on the assumption you are ready to employ Rules Number One through Four. Put in its simplest terms, Rule Number Five insists that you Take Whatever You Want. If you want something bad enough, be it real estate, a romantic partner or a business deal, once you find that it isn’t nailed down, locked up or beyond your grasp, take it, and take it for keeps.

“And so you have my—and Roy Cohn’s—Five Rules For Success. As with most of what you’ve been offered at Trump University there is no charge for the offering, only an enormous service fee to cover my expenses and any class action suits that may arise from your involvement with Trump University.

“As my final words, I close with a postscript usually included at the bottom of most of my subpoenas, legal filings, excessive invoices and letters to adversaries. Please take it as a sign of my respect and appreciation for all you’ve donated during your attendance at Trump University.

“P.S. I fucked you!”