In track 6 ("What Reagan Didn't Know") of his 1987 spoken-word No More Cocoons release, Jello Biafra pokes fun at the memory lapses that plagued Mr. Reagan during his presidency. We may chuckle up our collective sleeves both at The Gipper's buffoonery, and Biafra's colorful characterization: "Grandpa Caligula". "Talking gila monster with a pompadour". Funny stuff.

What makes this schtick stand out from the rest of Jello's lovable rants, is the appeal to a back-up source for his continued assault on Reagan's character. Biafra cites the 1986 publication, by Dan Moldea, entitled Dark Victory: Ronald Reagan, MCA, and the Mob. (I found it ironic that Biafra clearly calls him "Don", not "Dan", though.)

Reagan "couldn't remember" how it came to pass that the U.S. sold weapons to Iran (the Iran Contra Affair). So too, 25 years earlier, his memory inexplicably failed him in court, in the matter of a corrupt bargain between MCA (one of the biggest Hollywood companies) and the Screen Actors Guild. Reagan was the president of the SAG, and MCA profiteered tremendously from the exclusive arrangement whereby they acted as agent to their own talent. This allowed MCA to conduct business-as-usual while competitors contended with a SAG strike.

Moldea's investigative journey starts with the government crackdown on the New Orleans sin rackets around 1919, which spurred many jazz artists (and undoubtedly not a few gangsters) to migrate to Chicago. He navigates the intermeshed webs of organized crime, politics, labor unions, and the entertainment industries from 1919 to Reagan's election in 1980, to expose Reagan's ride to the "highest office" on the corruption train.


I had known of the book for a long time; it only recently occurred to me to try the e-tailer out-of-print affiliate programs for a copy to read. The day after I received it, my favorite video store also happened to have a copy of the 1939 Bette Davis movie, Dark Victory. I'll leave deeper analysis of the film to another noder; Reagan has a peripheral role as one of the playboys ("Alec Hamin") in Bette Davis' social circle, who steps aside as a suitor in deference to her neurosurgeon. What little we see of him is a jovial, shallow dilettante, whose main function seems to be to mouth some pretty sentiments in a late scene.

Why is this still relevant today? Power does not die (or grow senile) with individuals; rather, it simply attaches to new front men. Any old spider could have held the strands of corrupt power together, Reagan happened to be handy and charismatic. The organization that shielded him from justice in the MCA-SAG scandal was never dissolved, and justice was confounded again in the Iran-Contra Scandal. As Reagan's VP, George Bush would have to be deeply implicated in the seamy side of Reagan's network - if the Prez goes down, the VP has to be informed and involved enough to keep things rolling. Do you really think Dubya's star would shine so brightly if he wasn't tapped into the same power grid as dear ol' Dad? Keep an eye on Dick Cheney's energy interests for late-breaking developments.

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