Letter to the editor

Hey Big Daddy,

Imagine my shock at seeing the pseudonym “Big Daddy” attached to politically correct advice to the lovelorn. The Jesse Unruh I knew would be rolling his eyes.

“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.

Return with us now to the 1960s where, prior to the invention of the birth control pill in mid-decade, sex meant babies. Men were just as irresponsible then as now. It meant that “love,” as the song advised, “and marriage go together like a horse and carriage.” Then, suddenly, the “pill” changed the world. Men had an excuse for irresponsibility and women could retain the option without having to decide whether to wear a diaphragm that evening. Not coincidentally, many women ceased to wear bras while skirt lengths reached new “heights.”

The Legislature reflected this change in mores.

The idea that a male staffer would hit on a female Member was, of course, absurd.

The female Members (March Fong-Eu and Pauline Davis — charmingly nicknamed the “Graf Spea”) were untouchable. Men dominated the Legislature. Female staffers occupied the lower rungs of the vocational ladder — nonprofessional slots. While many could “type too,” one could not blame an unbiased observer from assuming they were chosen on the basis of their physical attributes (see dress code, above).

This was the ‘Age of Aquarius’: post pregnancies, pre-AIDS. Add in the post-session drinking recently referred to (nostalgically) by former Gov. Pete Wilson, and the evenings resembled an ‘animal house’ toga party.

As of Unruh’s own proclivities, I cannot speak firsthand. But shortly after his death I had the opportunity to read the late Bob Crown’s personal diary in which he recounted Unruh stories — possibly apocryphal — involving dalliances with the late President Kennedy and unnamed roadhouse waitresses. That Crown gave testament to such stories is a reflection of the period.

There was a dark side to all of this, too. I remember cautioning a new Member who had just hired a good-looking woman for that reason. “Relax,” he said. “I’m just looking. I’m different.” So different that sergeants found them together on the davenport in his office 10 days after he was sworn in. The relationship led to two divorces, no new marriages, a nervous breakdown and the end of the Member’s public career. Women who spurned the advances that seemed to “go with the job” were often summarily fired and blackballed for what that male society termed “disloyalty.”

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

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