"Poor JFK . . ." Vaughn Meader dies

AUBURN, Maine (AP) – Vaughn Meader, who gained instant fame satirizing the presidency of John F. Kennedy in the multimillion-selling album “The First Family,” only to have his star plummet when the president was assassinated, died Friday. He was 68. When it came out in late 1962, poking gentle fun at JFK’s wealth, large family and “vigah,” “The First Family” became the fastest-selling record of its time, racking up 7.5 million copies and winning the Grammy for album of the year.

Even the president was said to be amused, picking up 100 copies of the album to give as Christmas gifts. He once opened a Democratic National Committee dinner by telling delegates: “Vaughn Meader was busy tonight, so I came myself.” Meader’s career was stopped short by news that Kennedy had been assassinated. It was also that day that Vaughn Meader died, he would say. He began going by his birth name, Abbott.

Supposedly, Lenny Bruce was scheduled to perform at a club on November 22, 1963. Obviously doing stand up on the night of a national tragedy was going to be tough. According to what I read, Bruce came out on stage, shook his head, and said, “Whew, poor Vaughan Meader,” and got instant applause.

There was a touching interview with Meader published in the Washington Post back in the spring. He was sick, and the years since had been very rough on him.

And here I was worrying no one would get the esoteric joke in the thread title . . .

I have the First Family album, and my favorite part is Jackie’s tour of the White House. “This is the Blue Room. We decided to keep it exactly as it was during President Blue’s administrstion . . .”

And the saddest part is that Meader did a great John F. Kerry impression and was right on the verge of a big comeback.

At least it wasn’t Fannie Flagg, whose Ladybird Johnson blows Meader’s JFK away.

I have that album, too! I used to love listening to it! I think I’ll drag it out this weekend and see if the turntable still works, and have a memorial listen.

My parents had that album. I used to like to listen to it, but I usually had to do it on the sly, because they didn’t feel it should ever be played again, after the assassination.

Gee, I still have that album, but haven’t played it in so many years. I’ll have to play it today.

Yes, I remember “President Blue.”

I certainly remember listening to the album. In fact, a few days after the assassination, we took the album out to listen to it, and laughed and cried simultaneously.

“I can’t just call and say, ‘This is the White House’, would you send over a pizza?’”

According to an ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY article in the past year about Vaughn Meader, Lenny Bruce’s actual line was “Vaughn Meader is f**ked.”

Well, he got a decent obit in the NY Times and a really good one in the LA Times. I’ve been playing the album this morning and some of it is quite funny (Jackie’s Tour is the high point–Naomi Brossart, by the way, was the flawless Jackie).

Poor S.O.B.

Vaughn Meader’s career died the year before I was born, but I read about him.

I found his story frankly kind of astonishing… and I think it says something about American celebrity culture.

He was originally a singer and comic, and found fame in his gentle ribbing of the Kennedy family. He was a major success, a real star.

Overnight, after JFK’s murder, Meader’s career went with him. At first, according to Richard Bojarski in his *Whatever Happened To…? * series, Meader wasn’t worried – he had lots more comedy material, and he was booked up through 1964 in various clubs and venues, all with pay-or-play contracts. He was getting paid a fortune to not show up, and by the time he needed work, he was quite sure there would be work. Surely, America didn’t think that JFK impressions were all that he could do!

He was wrong. He tried releasing a couple more comedy albums; neither sold for beans. His agent quit on him because no one would book him for stage shows. Meader’s career was quite dead.

Meader spent more than a decade fumbling through a lot of drugs, booze, and wives before he managed to really get back on his feet again, I’m told.

If anyone deserved some peace, it was Vaughn Meader.

RIP, bud.

He was, simply, brilliant. Three of my favorite bits:

Small boy: “Can Caroline come out and play?”

Kennedy (Meader): “No, I’m sorry, she’s in Italy with her mother this week.”

Small boy: “Oh, well, then… What is Lyndon doing?”

Johnson: “Mr. President! May I say something?”

Kennedy: “Must you, Lyndon?”

Radio Announcer: "Election Day is near. Go to the polls, and vote! Vote for the Kennedy of your choice, but vote!

For real?

Seems like I’ve heard an awful lot of people say, when talking about their reaction on 11/22/63, “…and then I went over to the hi-fi and I BROKE my Vaughn Meader record!” Because of this, when I recently found a copy of The First Family in MIL’s record collection, I thought it was worth money. Alas, no. Apparently there are hundreds if not thousands of copies in junk shops around the country.

Well, at least she let me keep it.

RIP, Vaughn.