DC at Night

DC at Night

Sunday, August 19, 2012

The Bitch Made Me Do It, Sucking the Toes of Hookers, and I Am Not a Crook: A Tour of DC's Most Sordid, Sleaziest Scandals

A Sarah Palin look-alike stripper: Is this the next great DC scandal?
Washington is America's capital, so it makes sense that D.C. would also be the capital of political scandals, shenanigans, and skullduggery. And when it comes to the sordid, the sleazy, and the downright sickening, D.C. officials are very, very good at what they do.

The names have become part of our history. Watergate. Teapot Dome. AbscamIran-Contra. Then there are the nicknames of the colorful characters - The Argentine Firecracker, Hot Military Stud.Com, Tricky Dick. There are break-ins, money laundering, money passing to FBI agents dressed like Arab sheiks, deadly duels, crack smoking, blackmail, phone taping, illegal wiretapping, naked Playboy posing, provocative picture passing, a House of Representatives gay prostitution ring, hot, steamy sex behind the columns of the Capitol, illicit sex in the White House, and even a double castration. High-level hijinks here have placed 2 words in our everyday vocabulary - lobbyist and hooker. And, long before there were internet memes, came one of the great slogans of all-time for when your wrongdoings get captured on videotape - "The bitch set me up".

From Founding Father Alexander Hamilton (sexual blackmail, fatal duel) to modern-day former Congressman Anthony Weiner (self-shot photos of "personal junk" emailed to admiring young females), there's no shortage of scandal to digest. If the subject interests you, you can read about it. But, if you want more active exposure, you can take the Great American Scandal walking tour, one of several free walking tours offered by DC Walkabout.

The two-hour tour begins at Lafayette Park, just across the Street from the White House, where guide and company owner Sean Williams tells you "we can spend a long, long time here but we have to move on." So you receive the Presidential high points (or maybe low points would be more apt). Andrew Jackson (duel). Grover Cleveland (father of an illegitimate child, recipient of the "Ma, Ma, where's my Pa?" campaign chant, legal guardian of an 11-year-old girl whom he married 10 years later in the only White House presidential wedding ceremony in history). Warren Harding (Teapot Dome where part of an illegal payoff was given in cattle). John Kennedy (Fiddle, Faddle, and Marilyn Monroe?). Richard Nixon (Watergate). Bill Clinton (Monica Lewinsky, thongs, cigars, a blue dress, and a different way of serving your country by servicing your  president).

As you wind your way toward the Capitol, you will make several stops and receive point-outs to other places. The Willard Hotel (President Ulysses Grant would come there to escape the pressures of the White House with a cigar and a glass of brandy. He would be besieged in the lobby by people seeking favors - thus the term lobbyists). The Jefferson Hotel (where political operative Dick Morris used to make late -night phone calls to President Clinton while enjoying sucking on the toes of his favorite prostitutes). And speaking of prostitutes, you will see the area of D.C. where Union troops preparing for the Civil War once frequented brothel tents. So many of the men were under the direction of General Hooker that his name was given to the breed of girls we now refer to as hookers.

Congressman Mills and Ms. Foxe
During the tour, you will be pointed in the direction of the Silver Slipper strip club where Congressman Wilbur Mills first hooked up with Fanne Foxe, the end result of which was one of Washington's greatest sex scandals. In October, 1974, Mills, a powerful Arkansas Congressman, was involved in a traffic incident in DC.  His car was stopped by U.S. Park Police late at night because it had no lights.  Mills was intoxicated, and his face was injured from a scuffle with Annabelle Battistella, better known as Fanne Foxe, a stripper from Argentina.  When police approached the car, Foxe leaped out and jumped into the nearby Tidal Basin in an attempt to escape. Despite the scandal, Mills was re-elected to Congress in November 1974 in a heavily Democratic year with nearly 60% of the vote. On November 30, 1974, Mills, seemingly drunk, was accompanied by Fanne Foxe's husband onstage at The Pilgrim Theatre in Boston, a burlesque house where Foxe was performing now under the name of the Tidal Basin Bombshell.  Soon after this second public incident, Mills stepped down from his chairmanship of the Ways and Means Committee and acknowledged his alcoholism.

Mr. Barry
But federal officials aren't the only politicians with great escapades. Local D.C. government leaders have provided their share, too. And none of those is more known that that of former Mayor Marion Barry, who began his political career as one of the key figures of the Civil Rights movement. He later became Mayor of DC and served 3 terms, until he was captured on videotape smoking crack with a well-known prostitute. Barry's defense became infamous - "The bitch set me up." he said. However, Barry, after a short prison term and a brief self-imposed political exile, was returned to a 4th term as mayor and today, at 76, still serves as a DC City Councilman. After describing Barry's tale, Williams pointed to the spot outside the John Wilson Building where Barry likes to park his silver Porsche. Ironically, in a city government where 2 council members have already been forced to resign this year for illegal activities and the mayor is under a cloud of suspicion for a $630,000 shadow campaign, Barry, when he isn't making disparaging remarks about immigrants, is becoming regarded as one of the city's moral rocks (which shouldn't be confused with the rock cocaine he used to smoke).

Ms. Jenrette
And just when it seems your brain can't handle another piece of scandal information, you arrive in view of the Capitol and its shining dome where Williams says "we could spend a ridiculously long time here." However, once again time constraints allow for only the quick modern highlights. Senator Ted Kennedy (Chappaquiddick drowning incident) Rep. John Jenrette (who according to his then wife and later Playboy poser, Rita, an engager of consensual sex on the Capitol steps) Senator Strom Thurmond (an anti-integrationist who among other things served in the Senate longer than anyone else, fathered a black daughter when he was in his 20s, and even in his later years, kept such a reputation as a lothario that a fellow senator said "When Strom finally dies they're going to have to beat his pecker with a bat to get the casket closed"), Rep. Robert Bauman ( a staunch conservative prone to criticizing the state of morality in America who was accused of soliciting oral sex from an underage 16-year-old boy, then having the charges dropped when he sought treatment for alcohol addiction, and at last writing the book The Gentleman from Maryland: The Conscience of a Gay Conservative, which was published in 1986), and, finally, the aforementioned Mr. Weiner.

"So what does it all means? What's the moral?" Williams asked with the wry smile and engaging humor he had shown throughout the past 2 hours. "I don't know. I just give out the information. The rest is up to you."

Tales, Tidbits, and Tips
OK. So let's tackle Williams' question - what does all this scandal in Washington mean? I suppose you could look long and hard to some quotations for answers. For example, to err is human, to forgive divine. Or power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely. Or maybe, politicians are just like you and me, only their egos and their sins are bigger (you won't find that one anywhere; I just made it up). In the end, I have to agree with Williams. I am not sure what it all means. But I do know that if you take the Great American Scandal Tour you will find it informative, interesting, and highly engaging. You will also find yourself wanting a shower. But I'm not sure if that is because of all the heat and humidity that hangs here in DC or because of all the disgusting political dirt you've just encountered. 

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