Dear Big Daddy:
My Capitol friends and coworkers are constantly amazed at the inappropriate
attire of many of the younger women who work here. We haven’t seen this much
cleavage, clingy fabric, thong tops, bare backs and bare midriffs since our
last trip to Victoria’s Secret. I’m no prude, but this place seems to be
going downhill. Many women look like they could leave here at 5 p.m. and
then go do a shift at a corner in West Sac or Stockton Boulevard. Was it
this bad during your heyday? Your thoughts, please.
– Shocked and Amazed
Your inquiry raises the larger societal question of, “Just because you can
wear that out in public, should you?”
There was a time in our not-too-recent past when people dressed formally
anytime they were going to be out in public. Men actually wore coats, ties
and hats to day baseball games in the middle of August.
Times, as they say, have changed.
We have the luxury of living in a representative democracy and, for better
or worse, all segments of our society are represented in the Legislature.
Hell, there was a time back in the 1930s when the homeless had their own
representative in the Legislature. One of Artie Samish’s brewery clients had
an axe to grind with a particular assemblyman who he also thought had an IQ
lower than that of the liquor bottles Artie represented so well for so many
years. So, to prove his point that the incumbent wasn’t just a moron but
also an eminently beatable moron, Artie found a homeless man named John
Pelletier, put him in a suit, and ran him for office. He won handily and
served 10 years in the Assembly.
Nowadays, as you point out, there are Capitol staffers who choose to dress
in scraps of clothes (albeit designer scraps of clothes) almost as if they
were homeless people in very expensive shoes.
Was it like that in Big Daddy’s day?
Well, you’ve got to remember that in the first part of my day, the
Legislature didn’t have a lot of staffers gumming up the works of the place
because we were a part-time body–a part-time body that built the University
of California system, State Water Project, the greatest K-12 educational
system in the county, and a list of other items that’s too lengthy to
include here. Did I mention we did all of that and more while being a
Once the voters decided to professionalize the Legislature and make it a
full-time body, we took the word “professional” very seriously. I needed an
Assembly that was better and more knowledgeable than the lobby corps and the
governor’s office put together. That meant I needed an Assembly policy staff
that knew the budget inside and out, could write statutes, would be able to
analyze the impacts of bill proposals and much more.
Did Big Daddy enjoy looking at a pretty face and losing himself in the fine
scent of an attractive young woman’s perfume? That’s a rhetorical question;
of course he did. But I had absolutely no interest in having my Assembly
turned into a year-long summer camp for girls who had just escaped from
Catholic school and were coming to the Capitol to get their first taste of
cherry lip gloss, drinks with umbrellas in them, and the chance to wear
whatever strikes their fancy when they stumble out of somebody’s bed in the
The Capitol is–or should be–a professional work environment. How the
Assembly members and senators who employ these young women can allow them to
wear some of the things you described to work is beyond me. It cuts into the
credibility and professionalism not only of the people who look like they’re
coming in from a day at Folsom Lake, but also of the members they work for
and the institution as a whole.
Second, to those garment-challenged young women out there, congratulations
on having the legs, lungs and torso to stop a Phil Angelides press
conference dead in its tracks. But remember, there’s nothing wrong with a
little mystery to the package. Do you put presents under the Christmas tree
naked as a jaybird or do you wrap them in mouth-watering paper, ribbon, and
bows? My point exactly. If what you have to flaunt is truly as impressive as
you think it is, chances are it won’t escape the watchful eye of your male
counterparts even if it’s wrapped up under a Catholic school uniform (and
most men love a woman in uniform).