UNITED STATES—The advertising wiz Bernard Lukasey deftly spurned overtures from Hitler’s people to do work for the Fuhrer. It became a calling card that he had some scruples. On the other hand, Bernie did advise Willy Long, and he later came to rue his undeniable role in the creation of the King of Louisiana.
“You have to ditch the bib overalls, Willy, and the straw in the mouth, Willy,” said Bernie. “People make the make the mistake of assuming that because they dress at the same level that they will put people at ease and earn their vote.”
Bernie had been looking forward to working with Willy for a long period. The spirited young self-taught lawyer with the Licolnesque biography show real promise, and Bermie Lukasey gave Willy his best. “Donate all your overalls to the poor, generate some good publicity.”
“Here’s what you do,” said Bernie. “You go the best tailor in Manhattan and get yourself a good wardrobe. People will look up to you. You can’t be seen as a yokel anymore. He got the finest cut and poplin and zephyr wool Harris tweeds, tattersol and seersucker, and fine vests. And he soon built a national following on the Mutual Broadcasting network that fervent followers formed clubs.
“Share the wealth” and his detractors said, “Share the wrath.” Sam Delaney had extra reasons to fear to Colossus of Tulane-Lafourche Parish. “He speaks the truth. That’s a dangerous quality in a politician. He’s going to the White House.” In his radio talks, he was bringing Sam into the spotlight. Sam suffered. Since a young man he had the gift of invisibility, he could turn it on and off at will. He used this rare trait to advantage and could turn it on at border crossings and when in questionable company. Willy Long was, above all, a local politician; it all came out of Louisiana, the soft underbelly of the continent shaped by Manifest Destiny, and mapmaking. By gosh we were going from sea to shining sea.
Willy Long honest in on the popular belief that a cadre of oligarchs and politicos remorseless in their craftiness, controlled everything. Markets and individual lives were controlled by them. If you had a heart of gold/ wouldn’t it be cold. As speaker at meetings of the Louisiana Railroad Commission he honed his oratorical prowess at heated hearings and made a name for himself. His barbs broadened from Big Oil Corporation to this thing which can become bigger than life and gob up the life of the man who started in all.
And he just happened to pick on the Allied oil company that had built an immense refinery in Baton Rouge, that helped turn it into a real capitol city.
Clearly Long was itching to move out of the Senate. Surely he would ride this whale to the post Allied-fruit war. He had his eye on the Roosevelt White House, no doubt about it. His gospel of ‘Share the Wealth,” capping fortunes at 50 million and monthly paychecks for every family.
Sam’s right-hand man said, “Boss, you sure are sore. I remember how you were when Julius Welch wanted to collect taxes at Puerto Cortes.”
“There you had a fat-cat banker,” Sam said in his thick Russian accent. “Long here is channeling for the masses. And they worship him.”
“You know why the Creoles hate him,” Sam Delaney confided to his ad wiz. “They hate, loath and despise him because he still got that hayseed appeal underneath the New York tailored threads and the gaudy ties. Long appeals to the outsider. God knows I got something of the outsider in me. The Jews didn’t want me in their Country Club, either, and the good old boys Country Club was restricted, so I built my own private golf course.” Sam was from Moldova, Bessarabia.
Thank goodness they left before the Soviets under whom Sam, as Jew, would have had no nationality.
They used ethnicity, the slick sons of bitches. Once you reached the age of 16 you could choose if both parents not same ethnicity, drawbacks, Russian, Moldavian, Armenian, but if both were Jewish as in the case of Sam’s parents. They were issued internal passports, they forcibly carried and it limited their jobs, and it made appealing a wicked incentive to marry outside the faith. There was no Soviet nationality. It was sneaky a way to bring ethnicity into it, and those labeled Jews paid a high price, being deprived of Soviet daycare, university, visas routinely rejected even to eastern bloc Bulgaria.
To be continued. . .
Graydon Miller is the Wizard of Fiction. His latest story collection, “Watsonville Stories,” which has drawn comparisons to Dubliners, can be browsed here https://amzn.to/3zx0rti.