How I Foiled My Chances to Be President

As scandals continue to erupt in our nation's capital, political reformers inevitably will band together to form the latest version of a Good Government Party. They will search for candidates who are above reproach, responsible citizens who can restore respect for the system.

And when they look in my direction, I will already be heading for the tall grass. My reputation would be chewed into bite-sized pieces if I were foolish enough to dip my toe into the media shark tank. No closet is big enough to hold the skeletons from my past. Denouncing any allegations would be futile because of my tendency over the years to behave in a questionable manner in public.

An early, spectacular example took place one night at college in the spring of 1975, during a campus celebration known as The Chancellor's Ball. As part of the festivities, I participated in a low-brow cabaret show that was performed on a small platform outside the student union. For the opening act, I portrayed a pompous mind-reader named The Great Mentalo and was outfitted with an elegant blue turban.

My feats of bogus telepathy elicited a mixture of amusement and incredulity from onlookers. Then, tossing inhibition to the wind, I returned later as AIvan Killer Kolbassi, a villainous wrestler garbed in a mock leopard-skin tunic reminiscent of Alley Oop.

Energized by the raucous applause of the audience and my own reckless impulses, I proceeded to wage campy, physical combat with a guy dressed in a gorilla suit. One of my cohorts from the school radio station provided ringside commentary over the public address system and also took photographs for posterity.

If I announced my intentions to seek any office higher than the local school committee (which I now hold), you can bet these photographs would be splashed across the pages of every tabloid newspaper in the country. I can see the headlines now: "Bizarre Photos Raise Questions About Candidate's Judgment, Mental Stability."

I can't think of any reason to subject myself or my family to such an ordeal, even for the good of the people. Had I realized that I was jeopardizing a career in politics by engaging in such carnival hijinks, I might have done a few things differently.

My biggest mistake was not wearing some kind of disguise. An altered appearance can provide a crucial element of deniability. I still don't know who was inside the gorilla suit, but he was smart to keep his face hidden.

Someday, he may be president.

* Jeffrey Shaffer is the author of 'I'm Right Here, Fish Cake,' and 'It Came With the House,' collections of humorous essays. He lives in Portland, Ore.

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