Who You Callin’ Willard?
Editor’s note: This post is part VII of the Etch A President Saga, a satirical series on the 2012 Election campaign.
“For the most part, the school broke down along the usual lines of jocks and brains, popular kids and introverts, all trained with the expectation of joining the next generation’s elite. The students gave one another chummy nicknames. There was Moonie and Butch, the Kraut and Flip. Romney, his name short to begin with, was playfully teased with chants of Wiiillard, Wiiillard by his friends.”
“Wiiillard! Wiiillard!” chant the students at Cranbrook School in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, taking a break from their dance instructions, teacup-holding lessons, and training on how to properly shake a man’s hand.
On the opposite side of the quad, a young student turns red in the face and begins to shake.
“My . . . name . . . is . . . Mitt!” responds the teenager, ashamed of his first name, Willard, which had been one of 400 most popular American names until 1960, when it fell off a cliff into obscurity.
“Wiiillard! Wiiillard!” taunt Moonie and Butch, the Kraut and Flip.
“You’re jealous because it’s a rich name!” Mitt shouts back, and he’s right about that. He is named after family friend and hotel magnate J. Willard Marriott, also a devout Mormon. While the name Willard remains less than cool today, it sometimes pays to be named after a tycoon: one day in the future, J.W. and Richard Marriott would each give $750,000 to Mitt’s presidential election campaign. But still, given the history, it’s really no surprise that the future Republican presidential candidate would five decades later lie about his legal first name during a televised political debate.
“Too bad your dad’s car company is so cheap!” shouts Moonie, and he’s also right, because American Motors (now part of Chrysler) was then considered the worst of the Detroit auto makers with its Rambler and Gremlin.
“Willy-Willy-Wiiillard! Wiiillard!” the taunts continue.
And Mitt has to stand there and bear it because he’s waiting outside the dorm of a young student named Ann Davies. He’s recently moved on from Mary Fisher, daughter of diplomat Max Fisher, the finance chairman to his dad’s political campaigns.
Ann finally emerges from the building, primped and ready for their first date.
“I think Willard is a handsome name,” says Ann.
“Oh Wiiilllard, kiss me Wiiilllard!” Butch yells.
A younger student, John Lauber, walks through the quad. More known for his presumed homosexuality than for his popularity, Lauber enjoys seeing the teasing of spoiled son of the wealthy state governor. Lauber can’t resist but join the taunt, yelling “Wiiillllaaaard” across the quad.
The campus goes silent. A butterfly bobs across the lawn. A sparrow begins to let out a peep, but is promptly attached and beheaded by a swooping blue jay, which is then eaten by a swooping falcon. (Fact: the blue jay, while pretty, is a vicious crow-family carnivore that eats fellow birds.) Blood is in the air.
“Now that’s a predatory business strategy,” mumbles Mitt.
Lauber is noticed tip-toeing away.
“Hey, where do you think you’re going?” says Flip.
“Yeah, where do you get off taunting Mitt like that?” says the Kraut.
“Think you’re something special with that weird hairdo?” says Moonie.
“Everybody was doing it,” says the boy.
“I’ll get you, punk,” says Mitt. “Don’t even think about trying out this year for Glee Club, Pep Club, Blue Key Club, Homecoming Committee, Speculators Club, or the American Field Service.”
Lauber can’t resist the comback. “Pep Club? You mean the cheerleading squad?” he says.
“What’s wrong with showing a little school spirit?” asks Moonie.
“Spirit for school? I’m not even sure what that means,” says Lauber. “Show a little shame instead of prancing around in those short shorts because you weren’t athletic enough to make the actual team?” says Lauber. “And Glee Club, really?”
“Now what’s your problem with Glee Club?” asks Romney, embarrassed that his date with Ann is getting off to a terrible start. “We made it to regionals last year!”
“And you think I’m gay?” says Lauber.
“C’mon Mitt,” says Ann, “I thought you were taking me out for a Vernors ginger ale.”
To be continued . . .