Before I bestow the honor of being inducted into the Hall of Influence on new members, let us first refresh the collective memory and recall who has already been previously enshrined. On 9/27/09 the inaugural member was my Lord & Savior Jesus Christ. Then five months later in February 2010 we inducted The Rooney Family (owners of my beloved Pittsburgh Steelers), the greatest fictional detective of all time Sherlock Holmes & his creator author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and The Chairman of the Board Frank Sinatra.
Today we celebrate three new honorees from the worlds of music, literature, and politics.
While Mr. Sinatra always did and still does seem to get most of the attention & respect of fans of mid-20th century popular music, I submit that there is another member of the legendary Rat Pack that deserves just as much admiration for his immense talent and unmistakably smooth, rich baritone. That man was born Dino Crochetti in 1917 just a couple of hours up the highway in Steubenville, OH, but we all know him better as Dean Martin. Dino was the very definition of multi-talented. He could sing, he could act, and he was what I like to call quietly funny. Lots of people…Jim Carrey, Robin Williams, Chris Rock, Eddie Murphy, etc…are hilarious in a sort of loud, obnoxious, crude way, and that is fine. Whatever works. But I tend to be drawn to humor that is more casual, caustic, & low-key, probably because it reflects my own personality. Martin honed his comic chops while working as zany partner Jerry Lewis’ “straight man” in the 40’s & 50’s and perfected his shtick as part of the Rat Pack in the 60’s. He also conquered the world of films, starring in over 50 movies…everything from screwball comedies with Lewis to war dramas to westerns. Then he became a television star in the 70’s. However, it is the music that stood the test of time. About 15 years ago I was in the car with my sister driving to a family dinner. I put a CD in and the soothing sounds of Dino emanated from the speakers. My sibling looked at me strangely and said “Oh my God…you’re turning into Dad”. At the time I just chuckled & shook it off. Now I realize that it might be one of the best compliments given me in my lifetime, not only because my father is undoubtedly among the finest men I’ve ever known, but also because somewhere along the line I was taught to appreciate good music and respect the wonderful gifts that God bequeaths to his children.
Our second honoree is one of the best writers that America has ever produced. Samuel Clemens, aka Mark Twain, wrote some of the greatest books of the 19th century, and 150 years later most of them are still being read by millions of appreciative bibliophiles. Works like The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, and Pudd’nhead Wilson have left an indelible mark on the hearts & minds of readers everywhere, including your humble Potentate of Profundity. His writing is an interesting marriage of humor & societal contempt that I adore. Twain himself is a true piece of Americana, having grown up on the shores of the Mississippi River and tried his hand at a fascinating variety of gigs, including riverboat pilot, newspaper reporter, gold miner, and printing apprentice. Everything I have ever read by & about Twain indicates that he was just the sort of fellow I might have gotten along with famously…witty, charming, and self-educated, with just the right mix of intellectual curiosity & wanderlust to fuel the creative juices. I have tremendous respect for almost any writer that manages to get their stuff published & read by the masses, and when those stories are still being enjoyed centuries later it is worthy of the deepest admiration.
The third and final new member of the Hall of Influence is the man I like to refer to as The Godfather of Conservatism. I am, of course, speaking about Rush Limbaugh. I grew up and still reside in the hardcore liberal state of West Virginia, where we hate rich people, love unions, and rely on the government to take care of our every need. My Dad has always voted a straight Democrat ticket, as did my grandfather. From a very young age I had an affinity for politics and fondly recall being fascinated by the memorable keynote address of New York Mayor Mario Cuomo at the 1984 Democrat National Convention when I was 12 years old. Then I went to college and met my friend Greg. Strangely enough Greg grew up just 15 minutes down the road, but we’d never met until the fall of 1991 when I was a resident advisor at Marshall University in my sophomore year and he was a freshman on my floor. Though we couldn’t be more different on the surface we quickly found out that we had much in common and were soon, as Forrest Gump might say, just like peas & carrots. I forget the exact circumstances and sequence of events, but it was Greg who first introduced me to Rush. At first I was reluctant. I don’t know how Greg managed to escape the Appalachian liberal indoctrination, but it was firmly entrenched in my mind that Republicans were mean, evil crooks that didn’t give a damn about poor people, and poor people were pretty much the only kind I knew. But I’m a bookworm who respects the opinions & recommendations of my friends, so when Greg gave me a copy of Rush’s first book, The Way Things Ought to Be, I gave it a whirl…and it changed my life. Everything Rush said made sense and the veil was lifted from my eyes. Rush taught me about conservatism and shed new light on things like media bias, the BS about feminism, environmentalism, & racism, the truth about economics, and the value of liberty, rugged individualism, and self-reliance. In the ensuing 20+ years I have read Rush’s second book, See I Told You So, and for a long time was a regular listener of his radio show. In the past few years I have become less intensely involved in sociopolitical issues simply due to age, spiritual growth, and the conscious choice to concentrate on things that bring me more tranquility & quiet pleasure. However, I still listen in on occasion and would buy a new book by Rush in a heartbeat. I wholeheartedly agree with most of what he says, and become aggravated by those who criticize him without really reading or listening to what he says versus what others say about him. My only regret is that I was not exposed to conservatism far earlier in my life. I sincerely believe in the greatness of our nation and that, even though not everyone will succeed, everyone has the opportunity to succeed if they are taught the right values, provided access to the proper tools, and given the freedom to attempt to succeed. That is the biggest problem with government – so many people never really try, because not only are they taught that they aren’t good enough, smart enough, good looking enough, or rich enough, but they are taught that these deficiencies aren’t an issue because they’ll be taken care of no matter what. No need to overcome obstacles, no need to make tough choices, no need to go out on a limb and try something outside the comfort zone – just sit tight and let Big Brother pay your bills, put food on the table, and take care of everything from clothing to housing to medical expenses and it’s only getting worse. There’s only so much a lone radio host can do to fight this moral & ethical decay, but for over two decades Rush has done more to combat such destructive attitudes than anyone could have ever expected, and for that I salute the man.
- Rush bust for Hall of Famous in Mo. (politico.com)
- “Christian Apocalyptic Conservatism”: It’s Barack vs The Bible, Or Is It? (mykeystrokes.com)
- A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court (historybibliophile.wordpress.com)
- Rush Limbaugh Picked to Join Hall of Famous Missourians (fox4kc.com)
- Donovan McNabb wants into the Hall of Fame (ballhyped.com)
- Rush Limbaugh And Jesse James – Famous Missourians (duanegraham.wordpress.com)
- Sculptor Of Bust Honoring Rush Limbaugh Speaks Out (huffingtonpost.com)