100 Greatest Scandals
3 out of 5 stars
Reviewed for Coffeerooms by Mike Jefferson
What was the most astonishing scandal in modern history? The Red Scare? Watergate? Jonestown? The four-wheeled Molotov cocktail we called the Ford Pinto? You'll get to be the judge when you listen to Shout Factory's "100 Greatest Scandals." The diverse CD features many familiar and forgotten quotes torn from the headlines that trace many of our countries more public and embarrassing moments. Call them historical, or better yet, hysterical bloopers.
Not surprisingly, many of the most scandalous scandals involve politicians literally taking the law -- or their constituents -- into their own hands. Remember Bill Clinton paging Monica Lewinsky? Gary's "lack of" Hart? How about the dirt on New York's former Governor, who persecuted consumers of the world's oldest profession and wound up #4 in a sexy strumpet's little black book? Elsewhere politicos stick to ruining their own lives or soiling the law, such as Richard Nixon proving he was indeed a crook with each incriminating word, Tom Delay, trying to postpone his resignation, and Scooter Libby trying to dodge the blame.
The most ironic clips involve people thrust in the limelight for their fifteen minutes of fame. You'll remember, squirm and chuckle at the Nancy Kerrigan/Tonya Harding skating war in 1984; millionaire Claus Van Bulow turning his wife into a Sunny in 1980; Jimmy Swaggert, Jerry Lee Lewis' Bible belting cousin, continuing the family's fine tradition of stimulating the economy and himself through prostitution; Lorena Bobbitt, practicing circumcision without a license, and the Rodney King trial, which asked the eternal question, "Can't we all just get along?"
Some of the sound bites fall into the "Who dat?" category, such as a 1962 clip highlighting the plight of one Billy Sol Estes (yet another politician receiving favored treatment from officials in the government); the suicide of Iraq war advisor Dr. David Kelly (and this was recent history, 2003!); the censure of unbrotherly Father Coughlin by the Catholic Church in 1938; the fate of the Hollywood Ten" screen writers who were suspended for refusing to admit or refute to being Communists ("So few fired by so many"), and Wilber Mills, yet another politician done in by his overactive libido.
Other clips fall under regrettable and career crippling, such as Don Imus' non PC critique of the Rutgers girls' basketball team. Imus' comments pale in comparison to Earl Butz's butt-headed inflammatory racial slur made against "coloreds" in 1976, and James Watt's description of who'd been appointed to the Lenos Commission: "I have a black, a woman, two Jews and a cripple." Watt's dim witted flippancy drew a fiery response from Congressman Joe Moakley from Massachusetts; "James Watt has done what Don Rickles in his best skit could never do; offend nearly our entire population in just one sentence."
Events, some forgotten, some indelibly etched in the memory, also draw their share of attention: the shameful Red Scare trumped up by Senator Joe McCarthy; minor league mobster Joe Valachi's testimony, which undressed the Mafia; Jonestown, in which seemingly sensible people acted like lemmings; and the endless search for Jimmy Hoffa (check your dog's Purina lately?).
One problem with "100 Greatest Scandals" is that some of the clips are straight news casts from small radio outlets voiced by minor league reporters. There's also too much intervention by unidentified reporters instead of having the comments come directly from the subjects in question. One also gets the feeling any ole clip'll do. I'm certain there were better broadcasts, both in terms of sound quality and information. Some of the segments sound as if they were cribbed from a two watt broadcast in Radio Idaho or Mulkeytown, Illinois. Yes, sound bites from the stations that broke the news would have been more expensive, but they would help peak the listener's interest.
You don't have to stop at just a hundred scandals. Shout Factory has produced four other CDs chronicling 100 other greatest moments in other categories, including "100 Greatest News Stories" (remember Elvis' death? Chernobyl? Agnew's Resignation? No? These clips will jar your memory and provide you with a 60 second SAT education.) The other CDs in the series are "100 Greatest Personalities" (sure to be some cross pollination with the folks featured on "100 Greatest Scandals"), "100 Greatest Speeches" (with lots of inspiring words from the likes of Winston Churchill, F.D.R., Martin Luther King, and...ta da, Barack Obama!), and "100 Greatest Sports Moments" spotlighting Cassius Clay's astounding victory over the seemingly indestructible Sonny Liston, the 2004 Red Sox's improbable comeback over the evil Yankee empire, and Brett Favre's 2007 "retirement."
"100 Greatest Scandals" is perfect for kids and adults who are too caught up in the daily trials and tribulations of life to sit down and learn about our history through the Internet or God forbid, by cracking a book. It's a dreamy, seamy, and steamy reminder of what makes memorable history - disgrace, humiliation and dishonor.