Sunday, October 23, 2016

Joe Jackson – "Sunday Papers" (1979)

You can read it
In the Sunday papers

When I was flipping through my Sunday Washington Post last week, the headline of the obituary of retired  diplomat Joseph Verner Reed Jr. caught my eye:

Noted diplomat and protocol guru made one memorable gaffe

Reed was descended from a man who came to America on the Mayflower — in other words, he was a true New England blueblood.  

Joseph Verner Reed Jr.
After graduating  from Deerfield Academy and Yale University, he became an assistant to the chairman of Chase Manhattan Bank, David Rockefeller, who later described him as “a man of elegance, grace, wit, flamboyance and razor-sharp intellect.”

President Reagan appointed Reed ambassador to Morocco in 1981.  In 1985, he became Undersecretary General of the United Nations.

 In 1989, President Bush chose Reed, who was a lifelong friend, to be his Chief of Protocol.   

Reed with President Bush and 
Soviet President Gorbachev
A Chief of Protocol’s duties include arranging for official visits from foreign heads of states, accompanying the President on trips abroad, and serving as the liaison between the American government and the foreign diplomatic corps.  

From a 1989 New York Times article about Reed:

In his Savile Row suits, monogrammed shirts, pocket handkerchief and boutonniere, the tall, slim, ruddy-faced Mr. Reed is a cross between an old-line WASP and a Parisian dandy.  He wears white flannel pants on the tennis court as Bill Tilden did.  When he donned a Yale sweater and white bermudas to jog along the Via Veneto, even jaded Italians sitting at the Cafe Doney were distracted from their afternoon aperitivi.

For more than a decade, Mr. Reed has been handing out custom-made ballpoint pens engraved with his name, title and the American flag to everyone he meets.  He signs off his telephone conversations and handwritten notes with ''Aloha,'' because, he says: ''It is the only word in the English language that means, 'Hello, goodbye, I like you, and come again.''

Reed at the United Nations
He likes to drive guests around the family farm in a golf cart, showing off his rare botanical collection that he amassed with Mimi, his wife of 30 years.  It includes a Chinese scholar tree from the arboretum of Deng Xiaoping. . . .

In Mr. Reed's four years at the United Nations, he earned the nickname “Cuffs” for the way he discreetly shoots his cuffs so they properly frame his jacket sleeves.  The nickname stuck despite two burglaries from his suite at the Carlyle Hotel that deprived him of his $55,000 collection of cufflinks, studs and pocket watch. 

In other words, they don’t make them like Joe Reed any more.

So what was the “memorable gaffe” that the Washington Post headline writer chose to zero in on?

Queen Elizabeth – a/k/a "The Talking Hat"
It seems that when the height-challenged Queen Elizabeth II visited the White House in 1990, Reed and his staff neglected to provide a step for her to stand on when she addressed those who attended her arrival ceremony.  The result, Reed later told an interviewer, was that “all you could see was her hat bobbing up and down behind the microphones.”  

But the “talking hat” incident was not taken seriously by the five-foot-four British monarch, who joked about it years later at a dinner on the royal yacht that Reed attended.

How would you like it if the headline of your Washington Post obituary reduced your threescore and eighteen years on earth to a “memorable gaffe” and ignored everything else?

*     *     *     *     *

“Sunday Papers” was released in 1979 on Joe Jackson’s debut album, Look Sharp.

I haven’t kept up with Jackson’s more recent recordings, but the songs on his first few albums were as smart as anyone’s.

Here are a couple of other noteworthy lines from “Sunday Papers”:

Well, I got nothing against the press
They wouldn't print it if it wasn't true


Here’s “Sunday Papers”:

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

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