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Yetta Bronstein, the Imaginary 1960s Jewish Housewife Who Ran for President

It was 1964, and the U.S. presidential race was getting ugly. The incumbent president, Democrat Lyndon Johnson, had launched a campaign to shame Republican nominee Barry Goldwater for advocating the use of nuclear weapons in the ongoing Vietnam War. His campaign featured the famous "Daisy Girl" ad—which showed a little girl moments before a nuclear explosion—to imply that Goldwater was going to blow up everyone’s kids. But Goldwater struck back with a secret weapon: beloved movie star Ronald Reagan, who delivered a very popular TV speech backing the Republican candidate, in an effort to yank the undecideds back into the Goldwater’s corner. Things were touch-and-go.

Amidst the turmoil a quirky new candidate emerged, running as an independent write-in on the previously unheard-of Best Party: A Jewish housewife named Yetta Bronstein.

Despite the fact that no one had ever heard of her, Mrs. Bronstein got tons of media coverage right off the bat. Exuberant and chatty with a cartoonish Bronx accent, she was featured on dozens of radio shows every week, making some pretty weird promises. Among the perks Bronstein offered to her voters were a national game of bingo to decide which citizens need to pay taxes, free bagels, and a mink coat in every closet. She proposed to take members of Congress off of their salaries and put them on earned commission, and to allow guns in the home, but decrease the velocity of their bullets by 95 percent. She also wanted to spike the Senate drinking fountain with "truth serum" and to put a naked photo of Jane Fonda on U.S. postage stamps in an effort to ease the deficit—and give a break to people who couldn’t afford Playboy.

But even as Bronstein spouted one wacky policy idea after another, it seemed as though the press was taking her seriously. Not one interviewer ever suggested that the whole campaign might … just possibly … be a hoax.

It was one, of course, hatched by professional pranksters Jeanne and Alan Abel. The wife-and-husband team in New York City were the minds behind the Society for Indecency to Naked Animals (SINA), whose goal was to clothe naked animals in the name of public decency (they were best known for their catchy slogan, "A nude horse is a rude horse"). Somewhat conversely, Alan was also later responsible for the completely made-up Topless String Quartet, whom the Abels claim Frank Sinatra later offered a recording contract after seeing their photos.

In the Yetta Bronstein ruse, Jeanne, a skilled improviser, played the part of Yetta and ad-libbed a lot of her interviews, while Alan occasionally chimed in as her campaign manager with equally absurd bon mots. Because Jeanne was in her 20s and "clearly not a Jewish mother," she insisted on only booking radio spots and newspaper interviews, never appearing on television. As the hoax snowballed without getting called out, the pair began printing campaign materials and realized they’d need a photo of Yetta in order to sell the joke. They chose a picture of Alan’s mom, Ida, for their posters.

The Abels used a handful of different slogans for the campaign, such as "Vote for Yetta and things will get Betta," and "If you want simple solutions, then you gotta be simple." Yetta herself had a habit of bursting out into song during her interviews, specifically her self-promoting jingle (sung to the tune of "When the Saints Go Marching In"):

“There’ll be a change
There’ll be a change
There’ll be a change in government
When Yetta gets to be First Lady
and also President”

Jeanne Abel during the Bronstein campaign. Image credit: Alan and Jeanne Abel

As the campaign rolled on without being second-guessed, Jeanne landed hundreds of interviews, and the Abels got bolder and bolder. They staged political marches in Atlantic City, parading in front of the Democratic National Convention with "Clean Sweep with Yetta" signs featuring Yetta’s face on a broomstick. Yetta also wrote a letter to President Johnson, offering to drop out of the race if he’d take her on as his vice president. She even recorded promotional covers of "Nature Boy" and "I Want to Hold Your Hand" for some reason, which can be heard on YouTube today.

When November came, although she’d gotten plenty of attention, Yetta failed to win a single precinct (despite demanding a vote recount). LBJ retained the presidency in a landslide. Her failure didn’t deter her from running again in 1968 and publishing a book, The President I Almost Was, in the U.S. and UK while ramping up for her '68 campaign. She later ran for mayor of New York City and Parliament in the U.K. But she lost every race she entered.

Their losses haven’t stopped the Abels from pranking the country regularly ever since. In 2007, Alan and a friend, Paul Hiatt, picketed the White House lawn as "concerned color-blind citizens," protesting the Department of Homeland Security’s use of a color-based advisory system; they got as far as Condoleezza Rice, who laughed out loud when she read their flyer. They've also pretended to win the lottery at least twice, in 1990 and 2006, attracting reporters as they flashed doctored lottery tickets and staged flamboyant celebrations. Their daughter Jenny, along with her partner Jeff Hockett, wrote and directed a 2005 documentary titled Abel Raises Cain, chronicling her parents’ escapades.

Although it’s been a couple years since their last acknowledged large-scale public hoax—a fake campaign to "stop bird porn" in 2009, aimed at bird watchers they called voyeurs—Alan and Jeanne are still alive and kicking. And of course, with this being an election year, the Abels have been asked whether Mrs. Bronstein might run for president once more. In April, when Jeanne was asked on NPR’s Morning Edition whether Yetta had had any inclination toward throwing her hat (or babushka) into the 2016 presidential ring, she replied, "I don’t think Yetta has a place in this particular election season … The comedy’s already happening."

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Afternoon Map
The Most Popular Infomercial Product in Each State

You don't have to pay $19.95 plus shipping and handling to discover the most popular infomercial product in each state: AT&T retailer All Home Connections is giving that information away for free via a handy map.

The map was compiled by cross-referencing the top-grossing infomercial products of all time with Google Trends search interest from the past calendar year. So, which crazy products do people order most from their TVs?

Folks in Arizona know that it's too hot there to wear layers; that's why they invest in the Cami Secret—a clip-on, mock top that gives them the look of a camisole without all the added fabric. No-nonsense New Yorkers are protecting themselves from identity theft with the RFID-blocking Aluma wallet. Delaware's priorities are all sorted out, because tons of its residents are still riding the Snuggie wave. Meanwhile, Vermont has figured out that Pajama Jeans are the way to go—because who needs real pants?

Unsurprisingly, the most popular product in many states has to do with fitness and weight loss, because when you're watching TV late enough to start seeing infomercials, you're probably also thinking to yourself: "I need to get my life together. I should get in shape." Seven states—Colorado, Idaho, Kentucky, Montana, Nebraska, Utah, and Wisconsin—have invested in the P90X home fitness system, while West Virginia and Arkansas prefer the gentler workout provided by the Shake Weight. The ThighMaster is still a thing in Illinois and Washington, while Total Gym and Bowflex were favored by South Dakota and Wyoming, respectively. 

Kitchen items are clearly another category ripe for impulse-buying: Alabama and North Dakota are all over the George Forman Grill; Alaska and Rhode Island are mixing things up with the Magic Bullet; and Floridians must be using their Slice-o-matics to chop up limes for their poolside margaritas.

Cleaning products like OxiClean (D.C. and Hawaii), Sani Sticks (North Carolina), and the infamous ShamWow (which claims the loyalty of Mainers) are also popular, but it's Proactiv that turned out to be the big winner. The beloved skin care system claimed the top spot in eight states—California, Mississippi, Nevada, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Oregon, Tennessee, and Texas—making it the most popular item on the map.

Peep the full map above, or check out the full study from All Home Connections here.

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Design
A Florida Brewery Created Edible Six-Pack Rings to Protect Marine Animals

For tiny scraps of plastic, six-pack rings can pose a huge threat to marine life. Small enough and ubiquitous enough that they’re easy to discard and forget about, the little plastic webs all too often make their way to the ocean, where animals can ingest or become trapped in them. In order to combat that problem, Florida-based Saltwater Brewery has created what they say is the world’s first fully biodegradable, compostable, edible six-pack rings.

The edible rings are made of barley and wheat and are, if not necessarily tasty, at least safe for animals and humans to ingest. Saltwater Brewery started packaging their beers with the edible six-pack rings in 2016. They charge slightly more for their brews to offset the cost of the rings' production. They hope that customers will be willing to pay a bit more for the environmentally friendly beers and are encouraging other companies to adopt the edible six-pack rings in order to lower manufacturing prices and save more animals.

As Saltwater Brewery president Chris Gove says in the video above: “We want to influence the big guys and kind of inspire them to also get on board.”

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