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Ed Driscoll

The Warts were Pretty Off-Putting as Well

February 1st, 2011 - 1:44 pm

I’ll never forget the first time I saw the Morton Downey Jr. around 1987 or 1988. After years of rather staid TV chat shows, Downey’s show resembled one of those Twilight Zone or Outer Limits episodes where the mad scientist discovers he can tune in a distant planet or alternative universe by fiddling with the dials on his TV set. Only this time around, I felt like I was watching the TV feed piped in from Hell. Although one assumes Beelzebub would dress more confidently and subdued than Mort’s unchanging look of red socks, flashy gold chain wrist bracelet, button down Ralph Lauren shirt with the polo pony logo, tasseled loafers, and ever-present Merit Ultra-Light dangling from his capped teeth.

But then, if one assumed Mort himself was Satan’s favorite Republican, one would be incorrect:

It’s only a trailer, so naturally, the movie’s preview leaves out a few things. According to the official Morton Downey Jr. website (curated by his widow) Mort was “an Officer of the Democratic Party” and “a Presidential consultant to Robert F. Kennedy.”

Mort’s passion for politics and serving the people led him to run for the Demorcratic [sic] (you read that right!) Presidential nomination in 1979.

Oh, don’t worry, Mrs. Downey — some of us saw that “bombshell” coming a hundred yards away…

The other overarching theme of the film Evocateur, judging by the trailer alone, is Downey’s phoniness. He was that most unfortunate of creatures: a born performer with no talent.

That Downey is (unconvincingly) pretending to be a right-wing loudmouth is obvious in even the shortest clips. Even his publicity photos show a man desperately uncomfortable in his own skin, and with the persona he’s adopted to become a star.

That conservative pundits “don’t really believe what they’re saying” is a familiar progressive meme. Somehow we’re expected to believe that three hours a day, five days a week, live on the airwaves for 25 years, Rush Limbaugh has been pretending to be someone he’s not and 20 million listeners a day believe the scam. Yes, Rush makes $50-million a year, but while that’s an unbeatable incentive, surely that would also be a physically and mentally impossible task, whatever the monetary compensation. To pull it off, Rush would’ve had to have made a pact with the very Devil that leftists don’t believe in.

Then again, I guess if you believe in “global warming,” you’ll believe any number of bizarre theories.

According to this New York magazine profile of Mort from the early shock days of show, he seemed to have had some sort of pro-life epiphany in the early 1980s, but having his show bankrolled by MCA and produced by the man who helped launch MTV did give it a bit of a false-flag operation feel. In any case, Firing Line, it wasn’t.

G.K. Chesterton would understand. Though Mencken would have seen a poseur like Mort coming from a mile away.

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