The critic's critics, and an occasional supporter, reply. . . .
A Dec. 18 column, "Ho, Ho, Ho--It's TV Time for Ronnie," drew the biggest and most spirited recent mail response. It noted TV's preoccupation with President Reagan during the holiday season, particularly on CBS where "An All-Star Salute to Dutch Reagan" toasted the President and a "60 Minutes" segment questioned his ability to separate reality from movie fantasy. The "60 Minutes" segment included a World War II veteran's charge that a Medal of Honor winner referred to by Reagan in a speech was actually a fictional character in an old movie.
Other opinions in this batch of mail are directed at a previous letter writer who correctly blasted me for making "fat" jokes at Raymond Burr's expense in a Nov. 29 review of "Perry Mason Returns"; "TV Stars in the Toy Store," a Dec. 20 column noting children's programs tied to toys; and a Dec. 11 review of the CBS comedy "Foley Square."
It was an embarrassment to me as an American to read your article about our President. You had better be glad you are in this country to write such an article. In any other country, you would be thrown in jail and the key thrown away. I can't imagine any newspaper having you on their staff.
Let me assuage your anxieties: I'm not running for the Senate. No matter how tempting a target Sen. Cranston provides, I'll stick to my tawdry mountebank trade. It thus follows that I'll never be President, save possibly in yet another cinematic incumbency. Of course, you must still endure me on the screen, both large and small. Well, you can avoid the former and you're paid for the latter. As Jack Kennedy, another extraordinary President/performer put it, "Who said life was fair?"
Political leadership involves performance. You seem distressed at the idea of an actor in such a role. You'll recall that Winston Churchill rallied the West in the darkest days of World War II, not with his strategic insight nor his parliamentary skills, but his acting ability.
Of course, politicians must be good actors. Heads of state, to succeed, must be better than good. Consider not only Churchill, J.F.K. and Ronald Reagan, but De Gaulle, F.D.R., Castro . . . not only the performances, but the props and wardrobe.
I must also disagree with your comment that I "endorsed Dutch's performance in the White House" (though I do). I submit that I instead explored the burden and significance of his function as President. I think it illustrates what seems to have escaped you . . . the function of performance in leadership.
The question at the end of the column--"Where do we find such men?"--has an easy answer. We didn't find Ronnie. He was foisted on us in 1966 by a clique of hyperconservative moguls who picked him for the lead in their play for power in Sacramento. They knew he had the artfulness to impersonate a governor, dutifully sticking to the script they'd written for him. The mystery is what did we ever do, then or now, to deserve Dutch? And why does his reign of error still draw crowds?
I recall being slack-jawed upon reading Reagan's response, as reported in the press, when he was asked to comment, as governor-elect, about his victory and his plans for the future. He replied, "I don't know. I have never played a governor before."
Please bear with those of us who--having been inundated, surfeited and overdosed with the so-called Kennedy mystique propagated and promoted ad nauseum by the media--finally have people in the White House who represent our way of life, our values, our views. We soak up like sponges Ronnie's leadership, intelligence, agelessness, optimism, wit and charisma, and Nancy's devotion, loyalty, poise and elegance.
I want to confirm the Medal of Honor recipient our President was referring to. The pilot's name was Lt. Kelley and it happened in the Philippines in December, 1941. How do I know? I was there.
I thank you for the sentence (in a column about children's shows linked to toys, Dec. 20): "On the receiving end are children . . . fiscal bottom line . . . exploitative marketing extravaganza." We make a great to-do these days over physical abuse of children. However, it is the mental abuse that starts far earlier and that in the long run is the more damaging, with more obstacles in the way of recovery.
PAUL H. LOGAN
I read with interest Deborah Appleby's letter in your column. Unlike Appleby, I haven't reached the point in my eternal struggle for self-esteem that I can call myself a Big Beautiful Woman. Having an aversion to cutesy-pie euphemisms, I describe myself merely as fat and let it go at that.
The aforementioned eternal struggle for self-esteem is an uphill battle in this thin-obsessed day and age, and it is not helped by the continual onslaught of snide and sneering references to fat people in the media.
I always find it odd when I read such remarks by people like yourself, who so eloquently speak out against prejudice in the media and their stereotyping of racial, religious and ethnic groups and women in general. Apparently fat people are the last group in America for whom public derision is still socially acceptable.
I take great offense to a line in your column (Dec. 11) reviewing the new show "Foley Square." You lament a "lame opening script" that "asks us to believe in" an attractive 30-year-old professional woman who "is so desperate to meet a man that she advertises for one in the personals." I ask you to wake up and look around. Numerous quality publications run personal ads from attractive professional men and woman of all ages.
At age 29, as an attractive, self-employed professional public relations consultant, I ran a personal ad in the National Singles Register. I received 52 letters from primarily attractive professional men in their 30s. I married one of them--a CPA partner in his own accounting firm--and we are celebrating our one-year wedding anniversary.
Obviously your cynicism prevents you from encouraging people to find happiness in whatever way works for them. Stop being such a snob.
ELAINE WINER SMITH