Dave Barry

Democracy saved by Beach Boys

(This classic Dave Barry column was originally published in 1983. We think. Maybe not.)

Just when you begin to think the federal government is nothing more than a bloated, unresponsive, slime-producing, brain-damaged leech, something happens to remind you that we really need it after all. Only such a truly representative institution can decide whether We the People want Wayne Newton or the Beach Boys to sing at the Washington Monument.

This is not the kind of decision that can be left in the hands of one man, even if that man is a major high-level buffoon in the Reagan administration. I refer, of course, to James Watt, secretary of the interior.

One of the federal properties Watt is responsible for is the Washington Monument, which is a gigantic object sticking up in Washington to remind us that George Washington was very modest. Every July 4 there's a concert there that attracts all kinds of drunken, rowdy, drug-crazed insane criminal elements, such as you get at football games. Watt decided that these elements were being attracted by the Beach Boys.

Actually I think Watt may have a point. Some Beach Boys songs do seem to encourage element-type behavior. I am thinking particularly here about Be True to Your School, which, as I recall, has a verse that goes like this: "I got a letterman's sweater with a letter on the front, I got for football and track; I'm proud to wear it. Now when I cruise around the other parts of the town, I got my decal in back. So be true to your school." Any impressionable youth exposed to this type of sentiment would inevitably develop behavioral problems.

So Watt decided not to invite the Beach Boys back, and instead invited Wayne Newton, who is much more wholesome inasmuch as he performs in Las Vegas, where crime is illegal.

Watt also invited the U.S. Army Blues Band (I am not kidding), which is a good example of Your Defense Tax Dollar at work. Members of this crack unit can assemble and disassemble a field trombone in 30 seconds, or parachute onto a battlefield and be in reasonably good tune moments after their feet touch the ground.

With this talent lineup, it looked as though Watt had guaranteed that the July Fourth crowd would not be rowdy, or even awake. But this is where democracy enters the picture, because in a free country such as this, even a man as powerful as the secretary of the interior sometimes finds he can't ignore the wishes of an unimportant, powerless and totally insignificant citizen, namely Vice-President George Bush.

It turns out that George is a close personal friend of the Beach Boys, and his spokesperson told Watt's spokesperson so in no uncertain terms.

So the bottom line is that Wayne's going to perform this year, and the Beach Boys were invited back. They declined the invitation, but it proves this is still the greatest country on earth, and anybody who doesn't think so should visit Communist Russia, where the people are given no choice in these matters and are routinely forced to listen to Barry Manilow.

© 2010, Dave Barry

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