By- Dr. Jeffrey Lant
I have been researching for some items I need for my next article. And as it often happens, I have discovered another story as interesting as the original. Getting off the track is almost a certainty.
In this case it concerns an organization that no longer exists, and a peerage which is now extinct, and me quite possibly the only person still alive who could tell the tale. The organization in question was the Primrose League founded in 1883.
The Primrose League was a Conservative organization that met monthly in the House of Lords. Each month a well-known, usually aspiring politician came in black tie with a fulsome dinner speech in his pocket. The result was sure to be a rollicking evening and an illustration of why the British talk about being drunk as a lord for the good supply of that on hand.
I was the only American to be a member and never missed a monthly dinner or my chance to meet any number of peers and MPs. The members befriended me and overlooked the fact that I was a student at Harvard on the route of where Paul Revere galloped towards Concord. Let bygones be bygones.
One of the people I knew best was John Buchan, second Lord Tweedsmuir. His father had written the best-selling book, Thirty Nine Steps in 1915 and became Canada’s first Governor General in 1935.
Johnnie was born in 1911 and had a distinguished career. He was a colonial administrator and naturalist, but also a true-life adventurer. He has been described as a "brilliant fisherman and naturalist, a gallant soldier and fine writer of English, an explorer, colonial administrator and man of business.”
Dinners with him were always fun. The whiskeys flowed and so did the stories. I think he liked me because I had the mandatory awe-struck glint in my eye that Americans retain for members of the Royal family and glamorous peers of the realm. As a trustee of the Primrose League, he was expected to attend all the meetings and events sponsored by the organization and to make appropriate remarks.
This included an outing we made annually to Benjamin Disraeli’s home, Hughenden Manor where we placed a wreath of Primroses festooned with these three words, “His Favorite Flower.”
I knew a secret about this wreath that I learned in Windsor Castle where I was then working in the Royal Archives. Even Lord Tweedsmuir didn’t know. It was generally thought that the wreath and flowers were placed by Queen Victoria in memory of her favorite Prime Minister, Benjamin Disraeli. However, they were actually placed in honor of her husband Prince Albert. Hence “His Favorite Flower.” How could it be anyone but Albert?
John Buchan, 1st Baron Tweedsmuir
Tweedsmuir laughed, gave me a swig of whiskey and laughed again. He didn’t mind the inaccuracy so long he didn’t have to talk about it in public. He minded that quite a lot because our excursions to Disraeli’s home were 99% women who liked to fuss over him, after all he was a Lord of the Realm. I was a good shield.
The Primrose League exists no longer and there are no more dinner in House of Lords no matter how much they love the UK. Started by Lady Randolph Churchill, Winston Churchill’s mother, it was kept going largely because of Evelyn Hawley, CBE. She worked hard for this decoration and she wore it daily. Then after 45 years of loyalty, she stopped and the Primrose League did too.
Now it is all gone, all except for me. I miss the comradery, the deep belly laughs that came so often, and the chance to meet even the highest Cabinet members and quiz them affably.
Johnie is gone, and there is no heir. Who places the wreath at Hughenden now?
by Dr. Jeffrey Lant
Author's program note. Her name was Phoebe H. Dutcher, and she occupied the exalted elected office of Recorder of Deeds in DuPage County, Illinois circa 1960. As such she was an important part of the Republican Party apparatus in what was arguably one of the two most important counties (the other being Cook) in the key state of Illinois, the state that (in the event) determined who would become "Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the next President of the United States..."
Phoebe and my grandfather Walt Lauing were political pals. Grampie, a blunt, plain-spoken man of Hanoverian provenance was a pillar of the GOP, knew all the wheels therein, had them all visit the house he built out of good Midwestern flagstones, about the only thing as tenacious and unyielding as he was. His habits were exemplary; his word was his bond; and he never watered his liquor for himself or any man he respected and befriended, especially if that fortunate one was a Republican.
On this basis his construction company prospered... and, bit by bit, he used some of its profits to build his network, keep the GOP green and flush, whilst keeping the free-spending socialist Democrats (tinged mit Communists no less) at bay, especially his arch nemesis Richard J. Daley, his honor of Chicagoland (mayor 1955-1976), the master of every political chicanery, including his legendary talent for voting the dead and voting them often, thereby sending John F. Kennedy to the Oval Office; one of the greatest swindles of all time and a matter of unending chagrin and the bluest of language from Grandpapa.
All that was ever required to see Grampie emerge as Hoch Deutsch, Gott Mit Uns was to whisper in his ear that well and fully hated name; an explosion was guaranteed, and of course knowing the means of producing it ensured that I, his oldest grandchild and the only one with political interests, would provoke it, but only after I had tormented his ridiculously coddled and slothful cat enough and needed something to amuse me.
Perhaps he thought the red leather autograph book he gave me in anticipation of a steady stream of Republican worthies would give me something to do and save Tommie from torment. It didn't, for I was capable even then of multi-tasking as was soon apparent to all, angelic smile and demeanor always ready for covert action.
Thus did Phoebe H. Dutcher, whom I recall as a jolly soul not above a tasty toddy of my grandfather's practised invention, visit the house where to visit meant autographing my book. She was in fact the first to do so and was promptly followed by Samuel Wittwer (soon-to-be unsuccessful) candidate for the Senate, then Congressman Elmer G. Hoffman, a man of consequence in Downers Grove, the safest of safe seats, a man whose true opinions on the issues confronting Fortress America were as pat, predictable, and pedestrian as a guaranteed lifetime position in Washington could ensure. His visit to the kitchen of Victoria Burgess Lauing was an event... and of course I had a prominent position and in due course an expansive autograph in my notable album.
Higher... and higher.
By now you may imagine that I loved my autograph book; more and more as each person of significance bent low over it, glad to sign, glad to have their importance recognized and confirmed by my respectful request and awe, for they were all entitled to that. This was particularly true with the next panjandrum who was, we knew, a great man indeed because hardly a day went by when his name (and photo too) were not found in Grampie's newspaper, the "Chicago Tribune".
The fine folks at "The Trib" knew their business, he averred over and over again; he followed their editorial line with punctilious and total regard. The fact that in 1948 they announced to the world that Dewey defeated Truman, the biggest media blooper in the annals of the Great Republic, was a fact never, ever to be mentioned... or even thought.
The man whose photo and stirring deeds were featured every day was, of course, William G. Stratton, now running for his third term as governor of the land of Lincoln. My grandfather was just as excited as I was when he told me that I as chairman of the Puffer Elementary School Republican Party would be greeting him and offering the remarks and sentiments thought de rigueur for such occasions. It was an honor to do this, as good as a telegram from on high that my future political career was a cinch, as good as launched.
It was late October of the year; Stratton, tired, gray, shop worn was running with the full burden of nearly eight years of governing on his care-worn shoulders. He was running on empty, but he was a seasoned pol and he knew the game. The helicopter containing the great man came into view, the entire Puffer School contingent was out, squealing students, teachers, administrators, our friends and neighbors, the most fervent Republicans...
And, of course, my grandfather who had helped build the school, not just as director of the project but with his own tough leathered hands and cunning fingers, laying bricks like a connoisseur. He was a man who believed in the virtues of work and spent a long lifetime displaying them. How proud he must have been when the most important citizen in the state, the most important Republican motioned to me that I was to come aboard.
"Local lad flies high" declared the Downers Grove Reporter newspaper, the "lad" a play on my middle name, Ladd. Stratton said, "Hold on, boy" and told me to smile and wave. Just 13 years old, I knew this was living, although I may not yet have understood its cost, why so many like Stratton give up so much to grasp the greasy poll, so ephemeral and unpredictable, so exciting and addictive.
"Smile and wave," yeah, I could do that... and I did. I was flying high indeed with higher still to go. It turned out to be the only autograph I ever got off the ground... and was certainly the last time he was asked to sign anything other than an admission of guilt. For Governor Stratton was crushed by the restless and determined electorate and shortly thereafter found himself in federal prison on a fistful of charges, autographs derided, degraded, disdained. Had Grampie known this I wouldn't have been allowed to get in that helicopter and imagine a possible future. Thus, knowing the future is not always a good thing.
Richard Milhous Nixon.
If you were alive and of voting age in 1960, would you have voted for Nixon or Kennedy? 97% of you would now say Kennedy, especially given the fact that I am writing this 50 years after President Kennedy's assassination, his name, election and administration being much in the news. Of course you would voted for Kennedy; any other action would have been disloyal, disrespectful. But the first rule of history is that you must be willing and able to give up your clairvoyance and make your decisions and judgements solely based on the facts then known, incomplete though they were.
And so... "Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the next president of these United States... Richard Milhous Nixon"... since 1946 servant of the people as Congressman, Senator from California and since 1953 Vice President to that most popular of presidents, Dwight David Eisenhower.
Nixon had oodles of relevant experience. Kennedy didn't. Nixon was a prodigious worker. Kennedy was a party boy. Nixon was a devoted family man in love with a good woman. Kennedy was a scandal waiting to happen, in flagrante delicto a very real possibility. Nixon was plodding and cautious; the kind of guy to do your taxes. Kennedy was reckless, cute, fun on a date and.... very ill, dying in office a very real possibility, a fact virtually unknown.
The reasons went for Nixon... but Kennedy had an incomparable asset, his father Joseph P. Kennedy, a man of the deepest pockets and an axe to grind, the ultimate mick on the make. And this trumped everything...
That's why my mother invited me to sit down at the kitchen table one day after the November 1960 election. She hand wrote her letter to Hannah Nixon, the Vice President's mother, while I addressed my loyal sentiments to him. That started the process that showed me off to the world, the photo pictured above running in the Trib, an adamant Republican paper, a strong Nixon advocate. They ran my story with alacrity and pugnacious loyalty.
My smile was incandescent, Nixon's signed campaign poster on the wall, a signed family portrait in hand, his message warm, honest and personal; the kind of letter almost no politician writes today; a small measure of our declension as a nation and our rampant political malignities, sharp, toxic, rancorous, all-consuming, pointless.
Had Nixon shown more of this, allowed himself to show more, how different the history of the Great Republic would have been... for Kennedy's margin was tiny, his victory the result of Daley's frauds and Nixon's unwillingness to call him on them, so sparing the Great Republic from shocking insights into the electoral process.
I have often wondered if Nixon ever regretted this civic-spirited decision. Certainly no Kennedy with Papa Joe at hand would have done that. The Kennedys played politics the old-fashioned way, as the blood sport it was, vengeful, manor houses burnt at midnight, the howls of menacing banshees carried in the wind, a warning to lesser men; the single word "Remember" their charge for life, branded on every Irish heart, no mercy given, nothing forgiven, nothing forgotten. The presidency was worth all this and more...
Against this immemorial rage and fierce determination, Nixon hurled his inadequate weapons of fair play, integrity, the decency of his Quaker heritage; a campaign he refused to get dirty. Oh, yes, and one resounding, upbeat American melody, "Buckle Down, Winsocki". You can find it in any search engine.
It was the parody of a typical collegiate gridiron tune, go-team-go, rah-rah-rah. Written for the 1941 Broadway show "One Step Forward" by Chris Hillman and Bill Wildes the Nixon camp altered the words to "We can win with Nixon/ If we buckle down." But this wasn't good enough to carry the day, not nearly good enough. Thus did events take their course, for good and ill.
My parents took me to a huge Nixon rally very near election day. The special guest was Mrs. (Pat) Nixon. To warm up the crowd on this typical Illinois fall day, the grayest of atmospheres, helpers handed out sheets with the updated "Buckle down, Winsocki" lyrics. It was sung rapturously by the partisans, the only time I ever heard the tune and felt the certainty of victory. I recall it all so clearly. No, sometimes it is not a good thing to know the future...
'Some of these days, Oh, you'll miss me honey... your big fat mamma!' 'Dr.' Leslie Berlowitz' nonexistent doctorate roils one of the nation's most respected institutions and the 'little people' get their revenge.
by Dr. Jeffrey Lant.
Author's program note. Remember Leona Helmsley (1920-2007), widely known as "the Queen of Mean"? She had the great good fortune to marry one of the Great Republic's richest men, hotelier Harry Helmsley... which she thought conferred on her God's permission to belittle, disdain, demean, denigrate all the "little people" of her big bath towel empire; oh, and skip taxes, too, a point of view with which the IRS did not concur...
... and so sent her to the pokey where she tried to bribe her cell-mate to do her prescribed tasks. She vowed not repentance (that was definitely for the "little people") but revenge. And so she left her dog Trouble a twelve million dollar fortune (later reduced as excessive by the court to a mere two million), and so burnished her well-earned reputation as the unchallenged sovereign of gratuitous nastiness, "unchallenged" that is until now, for "Dr." Leslie Berlowitz, (born 1944), gives even Leona a run for the money and that really is saying something given Madame Helmsley's mastery of the stinging put-down and designed-to-hurt insult. But even here "Dr." Berlowitz excels.
The scene of hurtful outrage.
Appalling though this is, you have probably lived every one of your days in complete and total ignorance about the august American Academy of Arts and Sciences, headquartered in Cambridge, Massachusetts, a comfortable walk from where I am writing you today. It occupies spacious digs on five leafy acres in one of the most desirable areas on Earth, hard by Harvard and its unparalleled ability to lift the hitherto obscure to universal prominence and acclaim. Once there, and not a minute sooner, your invitation to membership in the Academy was sure to be in the next post and so it had gone on since this pantheon of certified worthies was established in 1780 by three of the American Revolution's greatest leaders, scholar-patriots John Adams, John Hancock, and James Bowdoin.
This was their noble mission, "To cultivate every art and science which may tend to advance the interest, honour, dignity, and happiness of a free, independent, and virtuous people." Since then, and upon this laudable basis, over 10,000 fellows have been inducted, including Thomas Jefferson, John James Audubon, Washington Irving, Augustus Saint-Gaudens, J. Robert Oppenheimer, Willa Cather, T.S. Eliot, Edward R. Murrow, Jonas Salk, Eudora Welty, Duke Ellington... whilst among the distinguished foreign Honorary Members you find M. le marquis de Lafayette, Charles Darwin and Alec Guinness. It was an unmatched constellation of the legendary, the immortal, and the merely great and celebrated.
In 1996, "Dr." Leslie Berlowitz became the Academy's 45th president, with an endowed chair, the William T. Golden Chair, granted to give the lady a suitably comfortable place to ensconce her embonpoint. Only problem was... as reported by The Boston Globe, June 3, 2013, she had falsely claimed -- on documents submitted to federal authorities on grant applications and elsewhere -- that she had an earned doctorate in English from New York University, which she certainly did not, according to NYU sources.
But "Dr." Berlowitz was a woman in a hurry, and she wasn't about to let lack of a simple sheepskin hold her back. No way! So... she invented a character called "Dr." Leslie Berlowitz. Here was a woman of consequence who put the actual woman with her comparatively meager credentials in the shade. These included a master's degree from Columbia University and her duties as an administrator at NYU. There are questions about both of these.
Her master's from Columbia, absent any subsequent doctorate, suggests what is known in the trade as a "terminal master's". Here people who are told they are not doctoral material are given the distinctly inferior consolation prize of the Master of Arts degree and advised to go back to Dog Patch whilst their more favored classmates advance to the eminence of the earned Ph.D. Odds are this is what happened to "Dr." Berlowitz.
As for her work experience at NYU, it too is questionable and under scrutiny. NYU sources said that what "Dr." Berlowitz claimed on her resume and the facts do not add up. NYU employment records show that she held a different, lesser job title in one case and held another job for far fewer years than stated in another. It was, in short, a pattern of prevarications, misrepresentations, and deliberate deceits.
On this basis she presented herself as a candidate for President of the Academy and was selected. Incredibly, no one on the selection committee seemed to ask about that all-important doctoral dissertation. She was now "Dr." Icarus, with her own Daedalus (the Academy's quarterly journal since 1955), and she flew high... for 17 increasingly dazzling, opulent years.
Item. Her total compensation package for 2012 was $598,000, 3 times what her peers in similar organizations were paid; far more than most college presidents.
Item: She always dined first class as a matter of course, and of course always flew first class, economy being a word she never countenanced.
Item: Her staff kow-towed and catered to her, picking her up at her superb residence overlooking the scenic Charles River, returning her thither of an evening.
It was exactly the life fictional "Dr." Berlowitz would have had. OK, she must have constantly rationalized to herself, I lied. But I deserve everything I got. I earned everything. This must have been her constant belief, refrain, and creed. As such it certainly trumped the petty fact that she was every single day living a lie. Results, after all, were more important than mere honesty and integrity. And it must be said, she was a titanic worker, the ultimate micro-manager.
As such she had two key constituencies crucial to her success: her board of directors and her staff. She succeeded brilliantly with the first and miserably with the second... and herein lies the crux of the matter, the reason "Dr." Icarus has fallen and will fall further.
The Board of Directors, seduced, enfeebled, hobbled, clueless.
In theory the designated CEO of any nonprofit organization is subservient to the Board of Directors. In practice, however, every CEO works overtime to ensure that the Board of Directors is subservient to her. This ensures her power, her position and, most important, her pay and perqs. Here "Dr." Berlowitz excelled as we can easily see. When, for instance, a "palace revolution" brought on by staff complaints of her abusive and abrasive treatment almost brought her down just about one year after her appointment, the Board sustained her... and "Dr." Berlowitz got the message: romance the Board morning, noon, and night. It worked.
So did doing everything possible to ensure her board candidates were elected... Thus when the current scandal broke, the Board was her poodle... immediately issuing a statement of unqualified support; only very slowly and with obvious reluctance distancing themselves from the "Dr." who had catered to their every wish and whim... something the Board had valued above all, including the humane values they were in business to promote.
"Dr." Berlowitz would take care of everything, and if a few of the "little people" complained, well, you can't make omelettes without breaking eggs. And so we arrive at the "little people", the Academy's staff, in constant turnover humiliated, ignored, angry, aggrieved., resentful, smoldering. Their moment in the drama has now arrived...
Right from the time when The Boston Globe broke the first news it was obvious that Academy staff past and present, with their appalling stories of how mauled and mistreated they were, would be a factor as important and influential as her misuse of a non-existent doctoral degree. And here "Dr." Berlowitz did herself in, treating the staff with constant disrespect, no day complete without its hurtful quota of abuse, snide commentary and disparagements, all public, all played out before their colleagues. Thus did the malice and contempt of "Dr." Berlowitz turn the ancient Academy into a snake pit of uncertainty, anxiety, and fear.
In this pernicious environment, "Dr." Berlowitz, micro-manager, ruled all. Not a paper left her office that she had not seen. Thus, when she claimed that her negligent staff was responsible for the misuse and misstatement of her bogus credentials, there was a gasp of disbelief at the Academy; the "doctor" had brass, no doubt about it. She had spent decades lying; if one more lie, more or less, was necessary to prevail at this crucial moment in her dissembling career, so be it.
This time, however, the lady is sore beset on all sides... by past and present staff who have bided their time and are tumbling over themselves to tell the now attending media about their particular woes... by Board members who begin to see how to get peace and quiet they enabled their creature to outrage their core values and the clear mission of the Founders... and by state and federal authorities set to discover whether and how "Dr." Berlowitz broke the law and may be deserving of a punishment long days coming. All that will come out in the wash as further details emerge.
For now her petted directors have put her on leave, whether with her bloated stipend or not was not announced. "Dr." Berlowitz, of course, will fight, and pertinaciously, too, for every penny and privilege until her effete Board says, "basta", whereupon Miss Berlowitz, as the world will then know her, will no doubt take a copy of her book on management and climb the great steps of Harvard's Widener Library, there to read from her business insights found in her deliciously titled tome ,"Restoring Trust in American Business": Then to belt out Sophie Tucker's anthem for brassy dames everywhere, dames who will do anything, absolutely anything to prevail.
It's "Some of These Days", first recorded in 1911. Go now to any search engine and listen to these acid lyrics, perfect for Miss Berlowitz and her affecting case of chagrin and rue :
"Some of these days/ You'll miss me, honey/Some of these days/ You're gonna be so lonely.
You'll miss my hugging/ You'll gonna miss my kisses/ You'll gonna miss me, honey/When I'm far away...
Gonna miss your big fat mamma, yo' mamma/ some of these days." It might even work...
Dr. Jeffrey Lant, Harvard educated, started writing for publication at age 5. Since then, he has published over 1,000 articles and 63 books, and counting.