Any journalist who’s covered the New Hampshire Primary over the past 25 years has had multiple encounters with Vermin Supreme, the protest presidential candidate best known for wearing a rubber boot on his head. I first met Vermin at a Bob Dole rally outside Milford Town Hall in 1996 and I’ve been writing about him ever since.
I bought my first pack of Topps Wacky Packages stickers when I was in elementary school and thought the idea of calling Crest toothpaste “Crust” toothpaste was absolutely brilliant. My locker and lunchbox were covered with “Wacky Packs,” as we liked to call them.
So imagine my shock when I opened a pack of commemorative 50th anniversary Wacky Packages and saw Vermin Supreme smiling back from a circus cage. How did it happen? How did the worlds of Wacky Packages and Wacky Presidential Candidates collide?
In an exclusive report for New Hampshire Magazine, I found the artist and got the scoop.
You can read the full story here.
By sheer coincidence, I also stumbled across another Vermin-themed Wacky Package from a few years ago:
What’s the woman on the package smelling?
A PULITZER FOR INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALISM, PERHAPS?
While hunting for baseball cards at my local flea market, I came across this unexpected relic:
Pretty wild that a French journalist who exposed an anti-Semitic plot to frame a Jewish army captain for treason in 1898 could compete for equal mindshare with Mickey Mantle. But in the 1952 Topps “Look ‘N See” trading card set, the infamous Alfred Dreyfus trial had a cameo.
For some perspective, take a look at who qualifies as a trading card hero for today’s kids: Hot dog eating champion Joey Chestnut.
So how did Zola wind up achieving American cardboard immortality? Likely due to “The Life of Emile Zola” being the 1937 Oscar winner for Best Picture.
Might a movie on Chestnut’s performance in Deep-Fried Asparagus Eating Contests also be in the cards?
Are you afraid you will eat 10 pounds of “mini” Snickers and Butterfingers the day after Halloween? Wondering what to do with all your surplus loot?
Here’s a snapshot of last November’s packing event:
Here are a few ways you can help:
1. If you know me and live nearby, bag up your leftover candy tonight and arrange for pickup later in the week.
2. If you believe that “the ends justifies the means,” then consider confiscating your children’s Halloween candy and donating it. When cute little Johnny and Susie ask where their candy is, tell them it is in Afghanistan and explain the modern marvels of air travel.
3. If stealing your children’s candy leaves a bad taste in your mouth, consider buying bags of Halloween candy tomorrow and Wednesday, when it is usually marked down to 50-75% off.
4. Volunteer at the next packing event in Nashua, NH on Nov. 9-12. Send an email to Volunteer@octnh.org or visit the Operation Care For Troops Facebook page.
5. Send a donation to: Operation Care For Troops, P.O. Box 1604
Nashua, NH 03061-1604. Operation Care For Troops is a 501(c)(3) organization and donations are tax deductible.
6. Write letters or holiday cards to the troops to be sent with the candy, toiletries and other items.
UPDATE (Nov. 10) – Huge thanks to the sweet-toothed employees of Onshape and New Hampshire dentist Matt Leighton for donating 70 pounds of chocolate for the troops. Much appreciated!
The only way to get better at writing is to keep on writing.
A fantastic reminder of that is this ancient music review I unearthed from my college newspaper archives. I was thrilled to get the opportunity to write about a Monkees concert I saw at Foxboro Stadium, although this article is now the only reminder I was there. I don’t remember even a 5-second vignette from that night.
This is a horrifically written review. It’s riddled with typos, cliches and simplistic observations – and quite frankly, it fails to capture The Monkees’ legacy.
According to the insightful 18-year-old me, all three Monkees “contributed to the success of the concert in their own way.”
- Lead singer Davy Jones was full of energy. Sometimes “skipping around like Pippi Longstocking.” And at other times, “marching around (like) Bono.”
- Mickey Dolenz “enthralled the crowd with his crackpot facial expressions.”
- And Peter Tork “gave it his all” while at the microphone.
I guarantee you this was the first and last time that Davy Jones was compared to the U2 singer and the world’s strongest girl.
At the end, I slam the band’s critics for daring to suggest they should play more of their own instruments. “But most of the big time critics love to look for the worms in the apple anyway,” I counter.
This Monkees article is the “Showgirls” of movie reviews, so deliciously bad that you just can’t stop reading.
If I could build a time machine, the first thing I would do after killing Baby Hitler would be to go to Ice Castles New Hampshire in mid-January 2016 instead of yesterday. This way I could have warned the world to stay far, far away from this ridiculously overhyped, money-sucking tourist trap.
Today is the last day Ice Castles is open this winter. If you already bought tickets, here’s some advice: Find your nearest Target or Wal-Mart and stare at the mounds of snow that the plows piled up in the parking lot. They are far more impressive.
Here’s what I thought I was bringing my family of four to see based on the Ice Castles website:
And here’s what greeted us when we got there, a really wide but not-so-tall snow fort:
Backing up, here is the view from the parking lot:
This place was the ultimate letdown. Based on the admission fees ($15.95 online, $20 at the door), I was expecting a Disney-quality attraction – not something the guys at my local DPW could slap together with a bulldozer and a ski resort snow machine. Continue reading
On the 40th anniversary of “The Bad News Bears,” I tracked down once-chubby catcher Mike Engelberg for his observations on the “Fat Panda” controversy with overweight Boston Red Sox star Pablo Sandoval.
You can read my interview at The Hall of Very Good baseball blog.
In the classic movie, Engelberg got melted chocolate all over his uniform and the ball. 12-year-old actor Gary Cavagnaro wound up losing 70 pounds and gave up his movie career. The producers didn’t think a skinny catcher would be “funny” in the sequel.
Cavagnaro, now a 52-year-old sales manager for a multinational electronics company (we all have to grow up), is a fascinating guy!
P.S. I recently defended the besieged Sandoval in a WBUR column, “We Are All Fat Panda.”
P.P.S. The awesome 1977 Mike Engelberg baseball card at the top of this post was designed by the Dick Allen Hall of Fame blog.
Completing My Goofy Election Trilogy: ‘Dinosaur Primary’ Joins Prequels About Babies and Superheroes
After reading today’s “Dinosaur Primary” photo essay in The Atlantic, longtime friends will immediately recognize a pattern.
During the 2012 New Hampshire Primary, I chronicled my then 9-year-old son’s “Superhero Primary.” He asked all the candidates if they could be any superhero in the world, which one would they be and why.
During the 2008 New Hampshire Primary, I photographed my then 5-month-old daughter with candidates for the “Baby Primary.” Many people commented that they could tell a lot about each White House hopeful’s personality by how they held a baby.
So why have I abandoned my kids in favor of a lifeless stuffed animal this time around? Simple. I still try to broaden my kids’ horizons with new experiences – but Dino is far more patient when it comes to listening to speeches about social security reform.
And as you can see from the above mix of pics (remember Herman Cain?!), these photo projects are all bipartisan and apolitical.
My fascination with the New Hampshire Primary began 24 years ago after chasing Vice President Dan Quayle around the Food Court at the Pheasant Lane Mall.
Six primaries later, I’ve been trailing presidential candidates around more upscale restaurants and diners (classier than the Food Court) for New Hampshire Magazine.
Here’s a fascinating tidbit that didn’t make the final edit.
The Red Arrow Diner, a popular haunt of local celebs like Adam Sandler and Sarah Silverman, honors its most famous customers with commemorative plaques screwed to the booths and countertops. You can plop your rear end on the same barstool as the Bare Naked Ladies or Rudy Giuliani!
But now, fans of former Democratic Vice Presidential nominee John Edwards no longer have a shrine to worship. When the Red Arrow ripped up its countertops during its fall 2015 renovations, the Edwards plaque mysteriously disappeared.
Might it have something to do with Edwards cheating on his wife Elizabeth while she had cancer and then illegally using political donations to pay off his mistress?
I bet all the “Bill Cosby Sat Here” plaques around the country are also disappearing. Continue reading
It’s been 20 years (!) since filmmaker Al Ward and I met Caroline Killeen, a.k.a. the “Hemp Lady,” at her presidential campaign headquarters – a homeless shelter in Manchester, NH. Following the lonely ex-nun through the slushy streets on the day before Christmas, we shot the first scenes of our first documentary, “Why Can’t I Be President?”
Produced for PBS stations, “Why Can’t I Be President?” highlighted the quirkiest feature of the New Hampshire Primary – that ANY American (age 35 and up) who pays $1,000 can run for President.
In most other states, who gets on the ballot is determined by the political parties, the Secretary of State or by gathering tens of thousands of signatures of registered voters (which requires a huge organization and lots of money.) In New Hampshire, the dream is yours – a permanent place in history – for a thousand bucks.
Some “fringe” candidates, like the Hemp Lady, devote their candidacy (and resulting media attention) to a serious cause. Some use their candidacy as a resume line to sell books and get higher rates on the speaking circuit. And some are just simply crazy, like your local Town Meeting crank – but with a much bigger megaphone.
It’s fascinating to consider how the term “fringe” has evolved since then. Continue reading