Those who are old enough or have a sense of history beyond the last Kardashian scandal may remember the names of Lillie Langtry and Charles Lindbergh. Many younger people may not.
Lillie Langtry was an English actress during the late Victorian era. She had, to put it in the terms of the time, a “reputation” outside of her stage work. She had been a mistress to several powerful men despite being married. One of those men was Prince Albert, aka Bertie and later known as King Edward VII, or as otherwise known as the Old King. Miss Langtry, as styled at the time, was a decent actress, though not a great actress. But she was a beauty of the Victorian type. And she was the first actress to endorse a product. She endorsed Pear’s Soap. When her lithographic image appeared on a box of Pears Soap the sales of the soap shot up like a skyrocket. In fact, one old and half crazy Texas Justice of the Peace, Judge Roy Bean, the self proclaim Law West of the Pecos, fell in love with the woman based on only photographs and lithographs of her. In other words, the woman became an endorsement who sold a lot of soap and had a town named after her because she was a beauty.
In the 1930s Charles Lindbergh visited early Nazi Germany and declared that a modified version of Nazism was the future of the world and that no other nation could hope to match the might of the Nazi German air force. Between 1938 and 1941, despite the open grasping of the Nazi German government for territory outside of the Versailles Treaty Lindbergh made speeches in support of Nazi Germany and how the Nazis were really Yankees with a Deutcsher accent. This whole mess was part of the very old America First movement. The English version was the English Blackshirts led by Oswald Mosley and his wife Diana Mitford (who was considered the most beautiful woman in England) and the Irish Blue Shirts. The American version was the Silver Shirts.
Lindbergh was considered an American hero because he was the first man to fly an airplane across the Atlantic from the United States to Great Britain. In other words, he accomplished a mechanical and personal feat based on the works of others. All he had to do was fly an airplane while it was the people at Ryan Air who made the plane that could accomplish such a feat. But he was a handsome man who had lost a child by kidnapping and murder, so he was a bit of “hands off” at the time And because of his support for the Nazis before the attack on Pearl Harbor and Germany’s declaration of war on the United States he was considered a bit of a Solon among the populace and the press. But once the bombs started dropping on Pearl Harbor and Germany had declared war on the U.S. both he and the populace seemed to have forgotten that he was in the pocket of the Nazis, and, in fact, an almost lobbyist for Herr Hitler and associates. All of a sudden he was Captain America, but performed his role as an adviser to the military against the Japanese and not the Germans for some reason. And many Americans followed his advice because he was an awfully handsome fellow and seemed to represent, when he was young. “American Youth” because he seemed to have grit and smarts. He had the image as did Lillie Langtry.
Then we come to the late 1970s and early 1980s. We have a person who calls herself Madonna. She not a great singer and she’s not particularly attractive to the eye. But she knows how to market herself. She is, in a sense, the new Lillie Langtry without the princes in her bed, but almost everyone else who can get her to where she wants to be. And because she’s considered “transgressive” at a time when most of the people on Main Street thought that the word applied to advanced electronics, the hipsters and homosexuals got into her. Like an awful fungus growing out of one’s rafters she became hip and hep and all that, and the fungus spread to the wider culture to the point that she became almost ubiquitous. Because one cannot turn on a radio without hearing her moaning, screeching or murmuring the poor woman seems to think, like Lillie Langtry, selling soap, or like Lindbergh promoting a form of fascism, that she can sell her political opinion.
The sad thing is that she probably can. She and her cohorts, because they can sing, act or make a touchdown know that there is a certain segment of the greater society that thinks that because they can make a living acting like children they are wise or smart while their fathers and mothers, their grandfathers and grandmothers were are are awfully dumb because nobody knows their names and they lived in a split-level ranch or Cape Cod instead of a mansion that would make the old DuPont’s blush.
What has happened to us?