Dear Big Daddy,
Imagine my shock at seeing the pseudonym “Big Daddy” attached to politically correct advice to the lovelorn. “Big Daddy” is responding to the fantasies of a 20-something male staffer who is contemplating a sexual liaison with his female/boss/Member, providing a counsel of prudence. Using Unruh’s supposed persona for this nonsense is to shut the doors of history. The real Big Daddy, if approached by a female staffer asking advice about a sexual relationship with a Member, would definitely NOT have suggested the staffer seek new employment and so remove herself from the source of temptation. He would have hit on her himself.
—Bill Cavala, contributor to the California Progress Report
Thank you for your letter (only partially reprinted here). You pulled off a first. The editors here have forwarded me several complaints about being too crass. You’re the first to complain I wasn’t crass enough, and I salute you for that.
I especially liked the parts about short skirts and diaphragms. That really took me back. To a past I never experienced. You got me. I’m not really the ghost of Jesse Unruh.
In some ways I’m more like Shrek: Part of me is from olden times, part of me is from today times, and I never make up my own joke when a cheap pop culture reference will do. Of course, not too many smelly rugrats would be begging mommy to take them to the matinee and clamoring for the latest GHB-laden Happy Meal toy if Shrek spoke Old English and half the characters keeled over from the plague in every flick (parents, on the other hand …).
By that token, who actually has time to read the nonsense I spew each week? I’m picturing a 24-year-old scheduler with one eye on the page while holding the phone about a foot away from her head while some constituent goes on and on for the fifth time that day about how Senator So-and-So needs to come see the alien head they found in their yard that may really just be a rock but there are probably tax implications. I like picturing 24-year-old schedulers.
Given the prominence of so many esteemed old-timers in these parts, it can be easy to forget the Capitol is a pretty young place. Many of the jobs hardly pay better than a Wal-Mart greeter, which means they’ll be filled by idealists. Part of the definition of “idealist” is “under 30.” I could try to write a column that was absolutely true to Jesse Unruh — and you and Mervyn Dymally would read it each week (and still tell me how I got everything wrong).
Or I could use the past as a means of talking about the present. Part of the joke of this column is that these days Big Daddy would never get away with half of what I (he) pulled off back then. My womanizing, my drunken rages, my shirtless bodybuilding photos — you could imagine the sorts of Web sites folks would be building about me if I were in power these days. It’s the paradox of the press: The more salacious the gossip mongers, the more it forces those in power to live like good family men and women. They might never pass decent campaign finance reform, but the moral police sure have done a good job in limiting some of the more provocative perks of power.
My readers have to operate in this modern environment. The letter-writer is an underling in a modern office environment, not an overling in the age of diaphragms. Comparing my situation to his doesn’t work. I was untouchable; he could be fired for a sneeze that sounded a little uppity. And he never said “under the dome.” This town is a lot bigger than those few hundred schlubs working in the bowels of the Capitol. If his boss were a Member, I’d still tell him to be very careful messing around with Bonnie because she’s a vixen.
I saw your full letter, which you thoughtfully posted on the Progress Report. I think CW left out the best bit — the part where you compared me to Ann Landers. You got me dead-to-rights there. As I noted in a previous column, I’m really a middle-age woman. It’s given Big Daddy a whole new perspective. And that’s not just the menopause talking.