A 1950s comedy shows little change in today's politics

Jack E. Kemp

For some reason, I recently recalled a nationally televised political satire, a play from the early 1960s (set in the 1950s) called "The Girls in Room 509." After efforts to find either a DVD of the broadcast or Broadway show production, I was able to secured a copy of the script from www.SamuelFrench.com and will shortly show how little things have changed in this quick witted comedy by Howard Teichmann (also co-author of the 1950s movie "The Solid Gold Cadillac").

Background Setup:

"The Girls in Room 509" is about a formerly wealthy aunt and her niece who checked into a then-fashionable New York hotel in 1932 just after Franklin Roosevelt won the Presidency and refused to emerge until a Republican was in the Oval Office. Artistically, they are the predecessors of Thurston and Lovey Howell - but on steroids - and eccentric to a raucus fault. When a story is written about their fading glory - and fading fortunes - in a New York newspaper, they draw the attention of a would-be journalist who gains access to their place and helps them discover that they are far from broke because their late father owned the patents for air conditioning and nylon. This news brings the attention of various fortune hunters - including separate visits from the National Chairmen of both the Republican and Democratic Parties. Both chairmen are played by the same actor wearing the same clothes. This all takes place in the buildup to President Eisenhower's second run for office in 1956. And the chairmen find that although these two ladies haven't read a newspaper or listened to the radio since 1932, they have a keen understanding of politics.

Here then is part of the conversation the older of the two women, Aunt Hettie Van der Wyck, has with Mr. Allen, the GOP Chairman:


Aunt Hettie: Mr. Allen, won't you sit down? Now, as for us going to a political convention, I'm very much afraid that is out of the question. My niece and I are quite shy, and I'm sure there are a great many people there. Besides, I'm not at all sure you'd want me there. I might ask questions.

GOP Chairman: What kind of questions?

Aunt Hettie: Where do you stand on taxes?

GOP Chairman: Oh, well. That's fine. Taxes? We're against them.

Aunt Hettie: Splendid.

GOP Chairman: Miss Van der Wyck, the Republican Party has always been against taxes.

Aunt Hettie: Good. And now that we're in Washington, we've eliminated them?

GOP Chairman: Well - not all of them.

Aunt Hettie: But some of them?

GOP Chairman: Uh-yes. I think that's safe to say. We've eliminated some of them.

Aunt Hettie: How gratifying. Which ones?

GOP Chairman: Which ones would you like to hear about?

Aunt Hettie: The Income Tax. Is it gone?

GOP Chairman: What else would you like to hear about?

Aunt Hettie: It's not gone, then?

GOP Chairman: Well- uh - Miss Van der Wyck, these are unusual times.

Aunt Hettie: What about the gasoline tax?

GOP Chairman: And such times call for increased sacrifices.

Aunt Hettie: The inheritance tax?

GOP Chairman: We must re-affirm our beliefs.

Aunt Hettie: Any of the Federal excise taxes?

GOP Chairman: We must pledge anew our loyalties.

Aunt Hettie: At least you've repealed the godd***n Social Security Tax?

GOP Chairman: We must see to it, Miss Van der Wyck, that our over-all superiority and leadership is maintained.

Aunt Hettie: In what? Taxes?


As the conversation goes from bad to worse, the GOP Chairman accuses Aunt Hettie of "not knowing what's going on." To this she replies:


Aunt Hettie: Oh, I know what's going on, Mr. Allen. What's going on is the same thing as when the Democrats were in. The only things that are different are the names of the politicians. Oh, there's a difference between Republican and Democratic voters, but not between their politicians.Those vultures not only stand for the same principles, they also have the same goals: the first is to get elected and the second is to stay elected.


This was written over 55 years ago - or was it 55 minutes ago?

Views: 826


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Comment by Phil McConathy on January 11, 2014 at 3:28pm

This is a great post! The bottom line is a majority of elected officials are all for a big federal government. The Democrats want it even bigger and the Republicans just think they can manage it better. Bottom line Americans are the losers. The Party's are beginning to lose a lot of the American voters in general. Problem with only 2 choices means we are screwed. If we start a 3rd party it will guarantee these same two major parties will just switch power every few years and the American citizen again gets screwed.

Comment by Gail Cohen on January 10, 2014 at 12:31am

The Communists infiltrated the Democrat Party in the 1960s, and now have gotten some via George Soros into the fold (i.e. John McCain) - we have few people in government and education that can be trusted to do the right thing - namely gut the government agencies that were not set up at the beginning of our Republic, get the Federal government out of our educational system and yes, vet those teaching our children and those in government as to whom they are loyal - our American Constitution - or the Communist Party.

Comment by Richie Laxton on January 10, 2014 at 12:16am

I have been saying for years that these folks are just flip--sides of the same ol' rusty coin...and the coin is a counterfeit!

Comment by Steve Merkel on January 9, 2014 at 9:37pm

Howard Teichmann was very perceptive. Nothing has changed in fifty years but the size of the national debt.

Comment by Shamus Jackson on January 9, 2014 at 7:11pm

Jack, great piece.

Comment by Roger Davies on January 9, 2014 at 6:10pm

Wilafret: I thought I was the only one who was SCREAMING Term Limits. Of course, that would be just the first step!

Comment by Wilafret on January 9, 2014 at 4:54pm

This is a good reason for term limits on all the positions held by politicians.

Comment by Robert M. Hellen, Sr. on January 9, 2014 at 4:08pm

We have allowed our politicians to become Royalty making us peasants under their rule.  How dumb was that?

Comment by Gerald V. Todd on January 9, 2014 at 2:59pm

No new sins, just new spins!

Comment by Russell Edmund Fowler on January 9, 2014 at 2:48pm

You are so correct Michael J. Larkin. He did not want Congress to give him a pay check but they force it upon him. Also he turn down many jobs in the private section cause all they wanted was someone from the president office with status. We should demand all politicians give up their retirement and live off their saving like the people do.

At lease Congressman Bill Posey of Florida has not taken a raise since he has been in office. He gives his pay raise back to the treasure everytime the politicians vote for a pay raise.

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