Burriss: Do you recall Vaughn Meader?

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The last few weeks have seen an outpouring of remembrances about President John Kennedy, and the impact of his assassination 50 years ago. We have seen retrospectives of his life, analyses of the assassination, and considerations of what might have been.

But there are also a plethora of little-known stories that also deserve retrospection, analysis and consideration.
How many of you recognize the name "Vaughn Meader"? I bet if were born during the Kennedy years or later, that name means absolutely nothing to you. But for many Vaughn Meader represents the vicissitudes and uncertainty of the entertainment industry, and how fickle destiny, and the public, can be.

Meader was an impersonator who created only one album, but it sold more than seven million of copies and won a Grammy Award for Album of the Year in 1963. He appeared on numerous television variety shows, and was featured in several magazines.

The album was titled "The First Family," and it poked fun at Kennedy's service in the navy, Jackie's White House redecoration projects, the Kennedy children, and a number of national and international crises.

Initially the album met strong opposition, and some government officials said it was degrading to the president, and would be a detriment to United States' prestige overseas. But Kennedy himself gave the album as Christmas presents, and joked about it at press conferences.

Then came the assassination, and both the album and Meader himself all but disappeared from public view.

Looking back, it is almost unthinkable that someone would publicly have poked fun at presidents Roosevelt, Truman or Eisenhower. But the Kennedy years are often seen as a turning point in the American psyche in national and international affairs, and in entertainment as well.

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Larry Burriss
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