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Secrets of Past Elections Revealed! (2004)

After every presidential election since 1984, Newsweek has printed the best gossipy stories, revealing all the whining and backbiting of America's greatest spectacle. Linda Rodriguez has gone through Newsweek's archives to pick out some memorable moments from recent elections. Today she wraps up with Bush v. Kerry.

In the midst of the Iraq War, on the heels of September 11, George Bush sought re-election. Everyone knows he won, but here's what happened backstage.

Cassandra complexes

It was a difficult election year for George W. Bush, 43rd president of the United States, and his daughters knew it "“ in fact, Jenna Bush, one of George's twin daughters, had a dream that her father lost the election. Though better known for boozing it up than for prescient dreams, Jenna took the dream seriously "“ it so frightened her that she and her sister, who had previously remained aloof from the political process, began campaigning for their father.

Alexandra Kerry, John Kerry's 30-something daughter, also had a premonition of sorts "“ unfortunately for the Massachusetts senator, however, his daughter's vision came true. After a particularly brutal day out on the campaign trail stumping for her father, Alexandra broke down weeping in her father's arms. She told the elder Kerry that she believed the Republicans would steal the election. Kerry comforted her in response, saying that he wouldn't let that happen.

Alexandra, a budding filmmaker herself, also worried about her father's stiff appearance on TV "“ so much so that she jokingly offered filmmaker Stephen Spielberg $5 to talk to her dad about how to come across better on television.

Money talks "“ and so does John Kerry

Kerry did his best to make sure that the Republicans didn't steal the election, including recruiting an army of 10,000 lawyers. Kerry, like Bush, also had access to some of the best political minds in the nation. Unlike Bush, however, Kerry couldn't seem to keep himself from calling them. He called them so much that his handlers took away his cell phone "“ twice.

Both candidates could afford the cleverest political operatives "“ this was the first election that broke the $1 billion campaign barrier, and both candidates had amassed more money than had ever been raised in presidential campaign in American history. Of course, the power of $1 billion in available campaign funds is a little undermined when your opponent has also raised the same amount, but that didn't seem to matter to our would-be presidents.

The bipartisan administration that could have been

kerry_mccain.jpg

John Kerry so badly wanted Republican Sen. John McCain to be his running mate that he offered to substantially "“ and officially "“ expand the role of the veep to include Secretary of Defense and complete control of the administration's foreign policy. McCain flatly refused, saying, "You're out of your mind. I don't even know if it's constitutional, and it certainly wouldn't sell."

The little known "Palme de Bitch-Slap" award

Mark McKinnon, the man behind Bush's television ad campaign, awarded himself his own highest praise for the "Troops-Fog" ad, which portrayed John Kerry as a flip-flopper on the issue of the Iraq war. The award was "the coveted Palme de Bitch-Slap," he called it, a play on the Canne Film Festival's Palme d'Or honor. For his birthday that year, a few fellow campaign staffers bought him a small golden "Palme de Bitch-Slap" statuette, which McKinnon proudly displayed on top of his television.

Karl Rove, Miller man

Among chief campaign strategist and possible Sith lord Karl Rove's favorite words and phrases: "Bloviate" (in reference to Kerry's debate style), "Yeah baby!" "Attawaytogo!" and "It's Miller time!" During the campaign, Rove also conducted Saturday morning planning meetings with a group he called "The Breakfast Club."

Super T rocks the White House

tyrone_smith 2.jpgBy Dec. 20, 2003, as the war in Iraq continued and the election loomed on the horizon, the Bush family was stressed out and in desperate need of some relaxation. The Bush twins, Jenna and Barbara, decided to use their First Kid privileges to hold a raging holiday party for their college friends at the Executive Mansion. Jenna, industrious in the quest of a good time, booked a favorite Southern party band from Nashville, known formally as the Tyrone Smith Revue. To their friends "“ which now includes the Bush family "“ the band is known as Super T. Set up in a room usually reserved for press conferences, Super T rocked the house "“ and led Laura, George and the twins in the "Super T Booty Green," a dance that seems to involve putting your hands on your knees, bending over and shakin' it.

Previously: 1984, 1988, 1992, 1996, 2000

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13 Great Facts About Bad Lieutenant
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Lionsgate Home Entertainment

Bad Lieutenant can be accused of many things, but one charge you can't level against it is false advertising. Harvey Keitel's title character, whose name is never given, is indeed a bad, bad lieutenant: corrupt, sleazy, drug-addled, irresponsible, and lascivious, all while he's on the job. (Imagine what his weekends must be like!)

Abel Ferrara's nightmarish character study was controversial when it was released 25 years ago today, and rated NC-17 for its graphic nudity (including a famous glimpse at Lil’ Harvey), unsettling sexual violence, and frank depiction of drug use. The film packs a wallop, no doubt. Here's some behind-the-scenes info to help you cope with it.

1. THE PLACID WOMAN WHO HELPS THE LIEUTENANT FREEBASE HEROIN WROTE THE MOVIE.

That's Zoë Tamerlis Lund, who starred in Abel Ferrara's revenge-exploitation thriller Ms. 45 (1981) more than a decade earlier, when she was 17 years old. She and Ferrara are credited together for writing Bad Lieutenant, though she always insisted that wasn't the case. "I wrote this alone," she said. "Abel is a wonderful director, but he's not a screenwriter. She said elsewhere that she "wrote every word of that screenplay," though everyone agrees the finished movie included a lot of improvisation. Lund was a fascinating, tragic character herself—a musical prodigy who became an enthusiastic and unapologetic user of heroin before switching to cocaine in the mid-1990s. She died of heart failure in 1999 at age 37.

2. CHRISTOPHER WALKEN WAS SUPPOSED TO STAR IN IT.

Christopher Walken had starred in Ferrara's previous film, King of New York (1990), and was set to play the lead in Bad Lieutenant before pulling out at almost the last minute. Ferrara was shocked. "[Walken] says, 'You know, I don't think I'm right for it.' Which is, you know, a fine thing to say, unless it's three weeks from when you're supposed to start shooting," Ferrara said. "It definitely caught me by surprise. It put me in terminal shock, actually." Harvey Keitel replaced him (though not without difficulty; see below), and the film's editor, Anthony Redman, thought Keitel was a better choice anyway. "Chris is too elegant for the part," he said. "Harvey is not elegant." 

3. HARVEY KEITEL'S INITIAL REACTION TO THE SCRIPT WAS NOT PROMISING.

"When we gave [Keitel] the script the first time, he read about five pages and threw it in the garbage," Ferrara said. Keitel's recollection was a little more diplomatic. As he told Roger Ebert, "I read a certain amount of pages and I put it down. I said, 'There's no way I'm gonna make this movie.' And then I asked myself, 'How often am I a lead in a movie? Read it, maybe I can salvage something from it …' When I read the part about the nun, I understood why Abel wanted to make it."

4. IT WAS ORIGINALLY SUPPOSED TO BE FUNNY.


Lionsgate Home Entertainment

"It was always, in my mind, a comedy," Ferrara said. He cited the scene where the Lieutenant pulls the teenage girls over as a specific example of how Christopher Walken would have played it, and how Harvey Keitel changed it. "The lieutenant was going to end up dancing in the streets with the girls as the sun came up. They'd be wearing his gun belt and hat, and they'd have the radio on, you know what I mean? But oh my God, Harvey, he turned it into this whole other thing." Boy, did he. 

5. THAT SCENE WITH THE TEENAGE GIRLS HAD A REAL-LIFE ELEMENT THAT MADE IT EVEN CREEPIER.

One of the young women was Keitel's nanny. Ferrara: "I said, 'You sure you want to do this with your babysitter?' He says, 'Yeah, I want to try something.'"

6. MUCH OF IT WAS FILMED GUERRILLA-STYLE.

Like many indie-minded directors of low-budget films, Ferrara didn't bother with permits most of the time. "We weren't permitted on any of this stuff," editor Anthony Redman admitted. "We just walked on and started shooting." For the scene where a strung-out Lieutenant walks through a bumpin' nightclub, they sent Keitel through an actual, functioning club during peak operating hours.

7. A GREAT DEAL OF THE DIALOGUE AND ACTION WERE MADE UP ON THE FLY.

The script was only about 65 pages at first, which would have made for about a 65-minute movie. "It left a lot of room for improvisation," producer Randy Sabusawa said, "but the ideas were pretty distilled. They were there."

Script supervisor Karen Kelsall said supervising the script was a challenge. "Abel didn't stick to a script," she said. "Abel used a script as a way to get the money to make a movie, and then the script was kind of—we called it the daily news. It changed every day. It changed in the middle of scenes." Ferrara was unapologetic about the script's brevity. "The idea of wanting 90 pages ... is ridiculous."

8. AND THERE WERE EVEN MORE IDEAS THAT THEY DIDN'T USE.

Ferrara said a scene that epitomized the movie for him—even though he never got around to filming it—was one where the Lieutenant robs an electronics store, leaves, then gets a call about a robbery at the electronics store. He responds in an official capacity (they don't recognize him), takes a statement, walks out, and throws the statement in the garbage. "And that to me is the Bad Lieutenant, you know?" Ferrara said. 

9. THE BASEBALL PLAYOFF SERIES IS FICTIONAL.

The Mets have battled the Dodgers for the National League championship once, in 1988. (The Dodgers beat 'em and went on to win the World Series.) For the narrative Ferrara wanted—the Mets coming back from a 3-0 deficit to win the pennant—he had to make it up. He used footage from real Mets-Dodgers games (including Darryl Strawberry's three-run homer from a game in July 1991) and added fictional play-by-play. But the statistics were accurate: no team had ever been down by three in a best-of-seven series and then come back to win. (It's happened once since then, when the 2004 Red Sox did it.)

10. THEY HAD HELP FROM THE COP WHO SOLVED A SIMILAR CASE.

The disgusting crime at the center of the film (we won't dwell on it) was inspired by a real-life incident from 1981, which mayor Ed Koch called "the most heinous crime in the history of New York City." The street cop who solved it, Bo Dietl, advised Ferrara on the film and had an on-screen role as one of the detectives in our Lieutenant's circle of friends.

11. THEY DESECRATED THE CHURCH AS RESPECTFULLY AS THEY COULD.

Production designer Charles Lagola had his team cover the church’s altar and other surfaces with plastic wrap, then painted the graffiti and other defacements on the plastic.

12. IT WAS RATED NC-17 IN THEATERS, WITH AN R-RATED VERSION FOR HOME VIDEO.

Blockbuster and some of the other retail chains wouldn't carry NC-17 or unrated films, so sometimes studios would produce edited versions. (See also: Requiem for a Dream.) The tamer version of Bad Lieutenant was five minutes and 19 seconds shorter, with parts of the rape scene, the drug-injecting scene, and much of the car interrogation scene excised.

13. THE "SEQUEL" HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH IT, NOR DID FERRARA APPROVE OF IT.


First Look International

Movie buffs were baffled in 2009, when Werner Herzog directed Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans, starring Nicolas Cage. It sounds like a sequel (or a remake), but in fact had no connection at all to the earlier film except that both were produced by Edward R. Pressman. Herzog said he'd never seen Ferrara's movie and wanted to change the title (Pressman wouldn't let him); Ferrara, outspoken as always, initially wished fiery death on everyone involved. Ferrara and Herzog finally met at the 2013 Locarno Film Festival in Switzerland, where Herzog initiated a conversation about the whole affair and Ferrara expressed his frustration cordially. 

Additional sources:
DVD interviews with Abel Ferrara, Anthony Redman, Randy Sabusawa, and Karen Kelsall.

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Big Questions
How Are Balloons Chosen for the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade?
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Getty Images

The balloons for this year's Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade range from the classics like Charlie Brown to more modern characters who have debuted in the past few years, including The Elf On The Shelf. New to the parade this year are Olaf from Disney's Frozen and Chase from Paw Patrol. does the retail giant choose which characters will appear in the lineup?

Balloon characters are chosen in different ways. For example, in 2011, Macy’s requested B. Boy after parade organizers saw the Tim Burton retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art. (The company had been adding a series of art balloons to the parade lineup since 2005, which it called the Blue Sky Gallery.) When it comes to commercial balloons, though, it appears to be all about the Benjamins.

First-time balloons cost at least $190,000—this covers admission into the parade and the cost of balloon construction. After the initial year, companies can expect to pay Macy’s about $90,000 to get a character into the parade lineup. If you consider that the balloons are out for only an hour or so, that’s about $1500 a minute.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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