Last week USA Today did a story about the political candidates who have poured the most of their own money into their campaigns (http://www.usatoday.com/news/washington/2009-11-09-self-fund_N.htm). Linda McMahon — the erstwhile CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment, now running for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate in Connecticut — led the list, having “self-funded” 99.9 percent, or $3,496,778, of her $3,501,684 raised.
Less than $5,000 raised for a campaign that is projected to spend $30 million? Get that lady a copy of Bake Sales for Dummies!
For some reasoon, that reminds me of a story from 1984.
This was the breakout year of the then-World Wrestling Federation’s expansion from a regional promotion in the Northeast to one spanning North America. It was also the year of the great “babyface” turn of bad guy Sgt. Slaughter, who became the troupe’s second-most-popular wrestler (behind only Hulk Hogan) in the wake of a feud with Iran’s hated Iron Sheik.
And it was the year of Ronald Reagan’s reelection, the house on the hill, Rambo, superpatriot camp, the hijacking of Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the U.S.A.” — in other words, a lot like 2009, only tamer. The nervous breakdown of American popular culture was just getting warmed up.
From that phenomenon emerged Robert (Sgt. Slaughter) Remus, who became so full of himself that he got into a dispute with Vince McMahon over his fair share of the revenues from his action figures, tried to organize the boys into a union, and got himself fired. He took the act over to Verne Gagne’s hapless American Wrestling Association, but the magic was gone.
But during that silly summer of 1984, Slaughter fronted a series of spots on WWF syndicated television shows in which he proclaimed himself the honorary chairman of the fundraising campaign of the Statue of Liberty Foundation. A special post office box donation address flashed on the screen at the conclusion of the spots.
Curious, I wrote to Lee Iacocca, the auto executive who was the real chair of the foundation, to find out him how much money the good sergeant actually raised. I didn’t get a response at first, but I persisted. Finally, an assistant wrote back.
“We received $63 in donations,” she reported, “and several nice notes.”