book reviews, politicians, politics

Repost: Reviewing The First Family Detail: Secret Service Agents Reveal the Hidden Lives of the Presidents…

Happy Sunday, y’all. It’s already creeping up at 2:00 in the afternoon, and I find myself a bit uninspired after I wrote a fresh travel post. Since I’m a little blocked and don’t have a fresh topic in mind, I’m going to repost a book review that somehow never got put up in the earlier days of this blog.

This book review was written for the original Blogspot version of OH on November 23, 2015. I’m keeping it mostly as/is, so please pretend it’s 2015.

I just finished reading Ronald Kessler’s 2014 book
The First Family Detail: Secret Service Agents Reveal the Hidden Lives of the Presidents.  Although I’m not usually one to follow politics, I do think celebrities are interesting.  Let’s face it.  A lot of high level US politicians are really celebrities more than anything else.  Ronald Kessler is an investigative journalist who has written for The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post.  Many of his books are about politicians and government agencies.  The First Family Detail is Kessler’s book about what it takes for Secret Service agents to protect presidents and vice presidents and their families.  Kessler interviewed Secret Service agents who worked with all of the most recent presidents, throwing in some anecdotes about US history and what it was like for earlier presidents who didn’t have Secret Service protection.

According to Kessler, the Secret Service is underfunded and agents have no home lives.  They work long shifts and don’t get much time to sleep, let alone spend time with their families.  Many of the people who work as Secret Service agents are the type who are instinctively protective.  It’s their job to take a bullet for those they are tasked with protecting.  However, sometimes protectees don’t make it easy for them.  In fact, sometimes those being protected by the Secret Service deliberately sabotage their efforts to safeguard them from those who might do them harm.

Kessler includes stories about Jenna Bush Hager and Barbara Bush and the hellraising they did, particularly when they were in college.  He writes of Joe Biden and his frequent expensive trips to Delaware, requiring agents to stay well out of sight.  Hillary Clinton gets a lot of mentions as well.  She is supposedly very difficult, something that one of Bill’s co-workers, who once had some dealings with Mrs. Clinton, verifies.  Nancy Reagan is likewise reputed to be very hard to work for.  By contrast, Laura Bush and Barbara Bush are supposedly much loved and respected by Secret Service agents.

There are some times when Kessler repeats himself.  For example, he writes several times about Mrs. Clinton and her famously nasty disposition.  He writes more than once about how Secret Service agents work all the time and are underfunded.  He repeatedly writes about Bill Clinton’s trysts with mistresses.  On the other hand, I did learn a lot about presidents as I read this book, including a few I forgot ever existed because they didn’t last very long.  

I also felt that sometimes Kessler was too political.  To me, he came off as being pro Republican.  Everybody knows that George W. Bush was a very polarizing president.  A lot of people dislike him intensely.  Kessler makes him out to be this great guy who isn’t how he seems in public.  By contrast, Bill Clinton was a very popular president, but Kessler depicts him as a complete scumbag.  While these characterizations may have truth to them, they also make Kessler seem a little biased.  It seems to me that this book should have been more objective.  Kessler should have made the observations more obviously those of the agents working with the presidents and less like they are his personal opinions.

A number of reviewers on have noted that The First Family Detail is much like an earlier book Kessler published.  One reviewer went as far as to comment that this book is more like an updated version of Kessler’s In The President’s Secret Service, which was published in 2009.  I haven’t read the earlier book, but enough people have mentioned the similarities between the two that I probably won’t bother with it.

Overall, I thought this was a good read, though it would have been better with a thorough editing to remove the redundancies.  It held my attention and informed me, though I will admit that some of the revelations are a bit gossipy.  I would recommend it to those who haven’t already read the other book and those who find presidents interesting.  This book puts a human face on people the vast majority of the public will never meet in person.  At the same time, the look Kessler gives to presidents and their families confirms to me that anyone who runs for president must pretty much be a narcissist.  And, if I am to believe Kessler, Hillary Clinton is likely the antichrist.  He as much as flat out says he hopes she won’t be president… or, at least many folks working for the Secret Service hope she won’t.  

ETA in 2023… I wonder what he thinks of Trump. He probably thinks Trump is awesome. Obviously, this book is a bit outdated by now.

As an Amazon Associate, I get a small commission from Amazon on sales made through my site.

bad TV, good tv, movies, nostalgia, TV, videos, YouTube

Angel Dusted, Desperate Lives, ended with a Final Escape…

Happy Saturday to everyone. It’s cold and grey here near Wiesbaden, Germany. Good news, though. My new Thunderbolt cable just arrived, so now I don’t have to hang around the house waiting for the delivery guy. Or maybe I do. There is one more package I’m waiting for before I declare my Christmas shopping done for 2021. It could show up today. It probably won’t, though.

It’s been quite a dramatic month so far, and it’s really flying by. Pretty soon, it’ll be 2022, and people are already noticing…


Actually, I’m not that afraid of 2022. Being fearful of the future isn’t productive. It will happen no matter what. Besides, we’ve already survived 2020 and 2021. How much worse could it be? Don’t answer that!

I’ve decided that today, I’m going to write one of my “fun” (for me, anyway) TV nostalgia pieces. I don’t feel like ranting about irksome behavior from strangers, opining about people who are in court, or writing very personal stuff about my life. Nope, today I’m going to write about some stuff that was on TV when I was a child. I love to watch old crap from the past on YouTube, and I’m grateful to content creators who are there for me with an impressive collection of that stuff. It’s always a bit unsettling to realize how long ago the early 80s were. It seems like yesterday.

Over the past 48 hours or so, I’ve watched some 80s era TV that was universally entertaining, but for different reasons. It’s easy to forget that the 80s were very different for a lot of reasons. For one thing, for a good portion of the decade, there were only three major networks, plus public television. If you had access to cable, you might have had 20 or 30 channels. I think when my parents got basic cable in 1980, we had about 12 or 14 channels, which seemed like a lot at the time. Consequently, there were a lot of movies of the week and TV shows that everyone watched. Some of the TV fare available in those days is truly laughable today.

In 1981, I was 8 or 9 years old. I was 8 until June of that year, anyway. And one movie that aired and I missed was called Angel Dusted, which premiered on NBC in February of that year. In fact, I had never heard of that movie until I stumbled across it, totally by chance, yesterday morning. It starred the late Jean Stapleton (aka Edith Bunker) and her son, John Putch, as well as the late Arthur Hill. Helen Hunt also has a role. Gosh, she was so pretty when she was a teenager!

There are a couple of videos with this movie on YouTube, but I’m uploading this one, because it also includes ads from 1981. They are a hoot to watch, especially since I remember them well and realize how strange they are 40 years later!

Back in the 80s, there was a lot of press about drug abuse. That was the “Just say no!” era, championed by Nancy Reagan. Drug abuse is a serious problem, but some of the films put out about them in the early 80s were truly ridiculous. I’m happy to report that Angel Dusted is actually a very well done film, save for the hokey title. I never saw Jean Stapleton in much besides All in the Family, so it was a pleasant shock to see her in this film with her talented son, John Putch.

Putch plays Owen Eaton, a high achieving college student who attends an excellent university and is under pressure to make top grades in a demanding major. One night, Owen smokes a marijuana joint laced with PCP– angel dust– and it makes him have a psychotic breakdown. The doctor at the infirmary where he attends school calls Owen’s parents, Betty and Michael Eaton (Stapleton and Hill), and they rush to the other side of the state to pick up their boy. They arrive at the infirmary to find him strapped to the bed, screaming and wrestling. The doctor at the infirmary, played by familiar and prolific character actor, Jerry Hardin, tells them that Owen needs to be hospitalized.

Betty and Michael soon find themselves plunged into a crisis, as their son is put in a psychiatric hospital for several weeks, completely unable to function and surrounded by people who have organic mental illnesses. Betty is the dutiful doting mother. Michael is ashamed and withdraws. Their other three children, Mark (Ken Michelman), Lizzie (Helen Hunt), and Andrew (Brian Andrews) are forced to deal with the shifting focus in their family as Owen recovers from the psychotic reaction.

Parts of this film are very 80s and make me feel older than dirt. It was weird to see nurses in white dresses and caps, remembering that in those days, that’s how they looked. I also noticed things like the house, with all its wallpaper and big boxy televisions. This was all normal when I was a child, but now it’s different. We have flat screens, textured walls, and people don’t necessarily have dinner in the dining room. A lot of newer houses don’t have dining rooms! Some of the dialogue is also pretty dated, too.

But– I really thought this film was well acted and had a compelling story. I also liked that touch of early 80s cheese and over the top drama that made it interesting and entertaining in 2021. There’s a lot more to Jean Stapleton than Edith Bunker, that’s for damned sure! I don’t know how common it is for people to smoke PCP laced marijuana joints these days, and we certainly have a very different attitude about marijuana nowadays. But I do think Angel Dusted is well done and worth watching if you have a couple of spare hours and enjoy movies of the week circa 1981. The cast is excellent, too.


The next film I would like to mention is another one from the same time period. It also featured Helen Hunt. This time, she wasn’t playing a put upon sister who was inconvenienced by her brother’s ingestion of PCP. This time, Hunt is the one who goes a little crazy!

The film is called Desperate Lives. In the past, the whole thing was posted on YouTube. Nowadays, it looks like only a few of the funnier clips are available there, although I did find the whole film here. I’ve seen that movie enough times to comment on it, though. It aired in March 1982, and it was very entertaining, but for very different reasons than Angel Dusted was. Desperate Lives was also about the evils of drugs and the terrible things they do to young people. But instead of realistically focusing on what can happen when someone gets on a bad trip, this film employs really stupid special effects and bad acting to get the point across. Below are a few clips I’ve found on YouTube.

A song by Rick Springfield, who was big at the time.
Diana Scarwid, who played the adult version of Christina Crawford in Mommie Dearest, is a high school guidance counselor who tries to shave everyone’s buzz.

It’s the beginning of a new school year in California. Young guidance counselor, Eileen Phillips, has arrived all bright eyed and bushy tailed for her new job. She is newly graduated and enthusiastic for what she expects will be a rewarding career, shaping young people’s lives as they embark on adulthood. But the school where Eileen works has a terrible drug problem and all of the adults who run the school are turning a blind eye. Eileen is determined to straighten everybody out and, in the meantime, entertains viewers with some truly ridiculous scenarios.

Oh lord… this scene is particularly infamous. Helen Hunt jumps out a window, lands on her back, and gets up physically fine as she screams.
“I’m glad we’re all SANE!”
An ad for Desperate Lives. Actually, you could watch this ad and get most of the funniest scenes in the movie.

Doug McKeon, who was in On Golden Pond, tries to add some credibility to this film. He’s a special student and a swimmer on the swim team, which puts him closer to Eileen, as she’s also the swimming coach. Helen Hunt, God bless her and her prodigious talent, really gave it her all playing a “crazed” girl on PCP. But this movie, compared to Angel Dusted, just sucks. However, it IS entertaining, just because it’s unintentionally hilarious. I definitely got the point that drugs are bad, mmm’kay? This might have been a better movie with a different leading lady. Diana Scarwid was very attractive in the early 80s, but she’s not a very good actress, in my opinion. Diane Ladd and Dr. Joyce Brothers also make appearances!

And finally, I would like to comment on a 1985 episode of the New Alfred Hitchcock Presents. I remember when this episode, titled “Final Escape” originally aired. I was really affected by it at the time. At 13, I was the kind of viewer television executives loved. I could easily suspend disbelief for the sake of enjoying a TV show.

Season Hubley plays a nasty bitch in prison who has a scary end…

Season Hubley plays Lena Trent, a woman who has been in and out of prison, and has a history of escaping. She’s shown having been convicted of murder, and sent off to a life sentence in the big house, Mojave Prison, where just four hours after her arrival, she gets into it with the prison queen bee. But Lena is very manipulative, particularly toward men. She charms the warden, again played by Jerry Hardin, who was also in Angel Dusted (and also had a couple of memorable turns on The Golden Girls). The warden yells at Lena for getting in a fight, but then inexplicably gives her a job that gets her away from the other inmates and puts her at a level of lower security.

Lena then works in the prison infirmary, where she meets a kindly Black man named Doc (Davis Roberts) who has super thick cataracts and can barely see. Doc helps out on the ward and buries the prisoners who die. The dead prisoners are buried outside of the prison walls. Lena is nice to Doc at first, listening to him moan about how the state doesn’t want to give him the money to get cataract surgery so he can see better. She soon realizes that he has free access to the outside of the prison, when it’s time to bury the dead; this causes her to hatch a new escape plan.

One day, a letter from the state arrives for Doc. In it, Doc is notified that he has been granted the money for the surgery. But Lena has another plan. She breaks Doc’s glasses on purpose, effectively making it impossible for him to see. Then she reads the letter, telling him that his request has been denied. Naturally, Doc is disappointed and pissed! Lena tells him she has a lot of money and will give him the money to get his surgery if he’ll help her escape.

Doc agrees… with tragic and scary results.

If you haven’t yet watched the episode and don’t want spoilers, stop reading here. I do recommend watching the video if this description has piqued your interest.

Lena asks Doc to bury her with the corpse, and then dig her up a few hours later, when the coast is clear. Doc initially refuses, telling Lena that she’ll suffocate. But Lena assures Doc that she can hang for a few hours, and once he’s done her this favor, Lena will pay for his eye surgery (which of course, she wouldn’t, because she’s a nasty bitch). Doc tells her to come to the infirmary and climb into the coffin with the corpse, which Lena does.

Sure enough, she gets buried. It’s never explained how two bodies managed to fit in one coffin. It’s also never explained why no one noticed how much heavier the coffin was, with two bodies in it, one of which wasn’t embalmed.

We see Lena in the coffin, somehow with enough air to talk to herself. She’s sweating and seems uncomfortable, but she has her eyes on the prize– a final escape from Mojave Prison, with Doc’s help. Finally, after a few hours, Lena starts to worry. She somehow lights a match, which would have used up some of that precious oxygen. That’s when she realizes that the corpse she’s sharing the coffin with is Doc! And no one else knows she’s been buried!

Of course, this could never happen. Even in the 1980s, there’s no way someone with Lena’s history would score a job with lower security standards. And there’s no way she would fit in a coffin with another corpse. And there’s no way she would light a match in a coffin like that… But it did make for compelling and scary television, back in the days when people didn’t mind suspending belief.

Well… it’s been fun writing about these old gems from the 80s today, instead of kvetching about people who piss me off, exploring psychology and narcissism, and dishing about the Duggar family. I suspect this post won’t get a lot of hits… or maybe it will. Sometimes, people surprise me. I know that Desperate Lives is a guilty pleasure film for a lot of people. And I can see on YouTube, that I wasn’t the only one who was permanently traumatized by that episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents. Angel Dusted is less notoriously cheesy, but is probably the highest quality production of the lot, at least in this post. Perhaps if this post is well-received, I’ll write another. I love watching this stuff.

book reviews, politics

Repost: A review of First Women: The Grace and Power of America’s Modern First Ladies

This review appeared on my original blog on July 18, 2016. It’s posted here as/is.

I’ve never been one to follow politics too much.  They don’t interest me as much as they probably should. However, like most Americans, I’ve been exposed to politics despite my best efforts to avoid them.  Some time ago, I decided to read Kate Anderson Brower’s 2016 book, First Women: The Grace and Power of America’s Modern First Ladies.  I see on that this book was released in mid April, just a few weeks after Nancy Reagan’s death at age 94.  She was obviously still living at press time because Brower refers to Mrs. Reagan as if she’s not dead.  Nancy Reagan, along with several other first ladies, gets plenty of airtime in Brower’s book. 

I was surprised by how interested I was in reading about America’s modern first ladies.  Brower has an engaging writing style and includes a lot of information about Jacqueline Kennedy, Lady Bird Johnson, Patricia Nixon, Betty Ford, Rosalynn Carter, Nancy Reagan, Barbara Bush, Hillary Clinton, Laura Bush, and Michelle Obama.  She showed how important and stressful the job of First Lady can be and illuminates how each of the First Ladies highlighted in her book tackled the role. 

Brower also includes some fun tidbits about relationships between First Ladies.  Some of her descriptions are more flattering than others.  I was surprised by how much regard Brower seems to have for Lady Bird Johnson, a First Lady who served before I was born.  I was less surprised by how Nancy Reagan is described.  Brower paints her as a woman who was extremely devoted and overprotective of her husband, yet something of a bitch to most other people.  Barbara Bush was apparently much beloved among White House staffers, while Michelle Obama evidently can’t wait to move out of the White House.

While I did mostly enjoy Kate Anderson Brower’s book, I do have one major criticism.  This book is not written in a chronological manner, so the First Ladies’ stories are mostly presented in a hodge podge way.  Sometimes it felt like I was rereading passages I had already read.  I think that had she presented each First Lady in her own chapter, it would have been easier to keep everyone’s stories straight. 

I also felt like it took too long to get through the book.  I’m a fairly speedy reader, especially when I’m reading something interesting.  It took me a few weeks to finish First Women.  This book could have used another round or two with an editor for streamlining and clarifying. 

Overall, First Women is a somewhat entertaining read and I did learn some new things about life in the White House, as well as gained some insight into some of the women who have served as First Lady.  But, even though it took me awhile to get through the book, I was kind of surprised when I finally hit the end of it.  It didn’t seem like Brower really summarized anything, so when the end of the book finally came, I was left thinking “That’s it?”

This is the first book I’ve ever read by Kate Anderson Brower.  She is apparently a well-regarded author and previously published The Residence, which was a bestseller.  Others who have read The Residence claim that First Women includes too much repeated information from the first book.  Since I haven’t read The Residence, I can’t be sure if that’s true.  However, having read follow up books from other authors, my guess is that there’s truth in the claim that some information is recycled.  So I would recommend that anyone tempted to read First Women after having read The Residencegive it some time.  Although I know many authors rehash things in subsequent books on similar subjects, it can feel like a rip off when that happens.

For me personally, First Women was a decent read because I’m not a trivia geek when it comes to U.S. Presidents and their wives (thus far).  Those who already know a lot about First Ladies of the 20th and 21st centuries may find this book a little too pedestrian.  And again, I do think that this would have been a stronger book had the First Ladies been presented in a more linear way with less redundant information.  I think I’d give it 3.5 stars.

As an Amazon Associate, I get a small commission from Amazon on sales made through my site.


“Oh, for God’s sake, shut up and go shit in your hat!”

Back in 1995, I happened to read Kitty Kelly’s unauthorized book about former first lady, Nancy Reagan. I found it in one of the libraries run by Americans in the Republic of Armenia, either at the U.S. Embassy or the Peace Corps office. I wasn’t particularly interested in Nancy Reagan as much as I was dying to read something in English. As I was reading about the 40th president’s wife, I came across a passage about Ronald Reagan and his first wife, the late actress Jane Wyman. I knew of Ms. Wyman from watching her play Angela Channing on the 80s era nighttime soap, Falcon Crest.

Evidently, Ms. Wyman got annoyed with Reagan, who was yammering on about something boring when he was president of the Screen Actor’s Guild. Wyman, who had grown tired of his tedious talk, shouted in frustration, “Oh, for God’s sake, Ronnie, shut up and go shit in your hat!” By contrast, Reagan’s second wife, Nancy Reagan, was famously adoring of her husband and listened to every word he spoke with reverence and devotion. While Ms. Wyman was probably saying what everyone else was thinking, and what she said may have even been something Reagan needed to hear, it was Nancy Reagan who soothed her husband’s ego. They were married for many years. Did Nancy Reagan truly enjoy listening to her husband drone on? It’s hard to tell.

I never watched The Sopranos. Maybe it’s time I did.

For some reason, I was thinking of that passage this morning. It made me laugh when I read it the first time, and it still does now. I like that expression, “Go shit in your hat.” Maybe I’ll start saying that instead of the shorter, but more common and less colorful, “Fuck off.” Seems to me that “go shit in your hat” is a saying with lots of age and history behind it, but I never hear people saying it. Maybe it’s time to bring back that expression, even though not everyone wears hats these days. If they did, can you imagine them taking a dump in one? The mental image makes me giggle.

I did buy a new hat a couple of days ago. In 2017, I bought Bill this awesome charcoal grey flat cap from Aran Sweater Market. I’ve admired it ever since; it looks adorable on him, and he gets many compliments on it. I bought myself a blue suede flat hat in Ribeauville, France, although it was made by a German company. I don’t wear it very often, though. In a fit of loneliness and shopping compulsion, I bought a sweater, a wrap, and one of those Irish wool flat caps for myself, only the one I bought is blue. Blue is my color. I may not wear it often enough for people to tell me to go shit in it, though. In fact, I might end up giving it to Bill, since he’s balding and needs hats more than I do.

Right now, I’d like to tell several specific people to go shit in their hats, just so I can see the undoubtedly shocked and dismayed expressions on their faces. Some of them obviously have no problem verbally abusing and insulting me. Why shouldn’t I respond in kind? I’d like to be one of those saintly people who just forgives and forgets every slight. I’d like to pretend I’m Buddha, who doesn’t react when a person comes at me with anger and disrespect. Instead of accepting the insults and taking them to heart, I’d like to simply stand there blankly, or maybe with a serene smile on my face. Alas, I was not built that way. People who are shitty to me incur my wrath. So maybe it’s time I started saying “in your hat” to them.

Apparently, “in your hat” is a more polite way of saying “go shit in your hat.” I read on the Straight Dope messageboard that back in the 30s, actors weren’t even allowed to say “in your hat” in a movie, because it was deemed indecent, even without the words “go shit” before it. That seems kind of laughable today, doesn’t it?

Anyway, I won’t shit in my hat or yours… but I might suggest it to other people. I know the person with whom I’d most like to start… But I probably won’t, because deep down, I’m a fucking lady.

So what do you think? Is it me?