“Laughing at Myself: My Education in Congress, on the Farm, and at the Movies” by Dan Glickman (University of Kansas Press, $34.95)
Dan Glickman believes the lack of humor in the current political environment is no laughing matter.
“I do think there’s a toxic partisanship — an excessively partisan atmosphere in politics at the federal level,” the former Democratic congressman from Kansas’ 4th District said. “Even at the state level, people are too wedded to their political party. There are not enough independents, not enough people who are willing to work with people on the other side of the aisle and that’s created a lot of ill will and it’s created a system where we can’t seem to solve many problems. ”
Glickman discusses how a sense of humor helped him succeed in politics and much more in a new book, “Laughing at Myself: My Education in Congress, on the Farm, and at the Movies.”
He isn’t suggesting that politicians need to be stand-up comedians but says the ability to share a smile or tell a self-deprecating story can sometimes bridge the gap between political opponents.
Glickman was the 4th District’s congressman for 18 years. He served as U.S. Secretary of Agriculture from 1995 to 2001, then headed the Motion Picture Association of America (which represents major studios and assigns ratings to films) from 2004 to 2010. He’s now part of a Washington think-tank.
Glickman, who covers his upbringing in Wichita in the book, said in an interview that his parents were the dominant influences in his life.
“My father was kind of a bon vivant around town. He wore his long white hair in a pony tail and drove a red Jaguar around town. He and my mother were in the oil and scrap iron business. Both had this tremendous sense of humor. People knew them as being very funny, warm, hospitable people.”
The fact that they were part of the city’s fairly small Jewish population never hindered him politically, Glickman said.
“I actually found it to be an asset. (Voters) liked the fact that I spent a fair amount of time talking about it.”
Asked who in politics exemplified the sense of humor he admires, Glickman appropriately enough reached across the aisle. “Certainly, Kansas had Bob Dole and Pat Roberts. They were both funny in their own way.”
Glickman said had been thinking about writing a book for many years before getting some free time to do that last year.
After saying he doesn’t get back to Wichita as much as he’d like, Glickman remembered the time he flew in after there had been an accident at the Titan nuclear missile site in Sedgwick County. The commander of McConnell Air Force base used a napkin to quickly diagram the situation for Glickman. The commander later panicked when the napkin disappeared. “I still remember our national security secrets were on a napkin,” Glickman said. “I don’t think the Russians got it.”
Glickman remains active in several food and nutrition-focused organizations, an interest dating to his days as agriculture secretary.
“I’ve been very involved in the last few years in trying to get good nutrition in the health care discussion.”
Glickman, 76, said he’s tried to eat healthier as he ages, not always successfully.
“At times I have varied from the truth. I’m an addict for chocolate and sweets.”
“Honky-Tonkers and Western Swingers: Stories of Country Music in Wichita, Kansas” by Orin Friesen (Mennonite Press, $19.95)
Orin Friesen was attending a release party for a book about the history of rock and roll in Wichita when the idea for his second book hit.
“The place was just packed with people,” he said. “Every time I walked around somebody would say ‘Hey Orin, you need to do this for country music.’”
Four years later, Friesen has produced “Honky-Tonkers and Western Swingers: Stories of Country Music in Wichita, Kansas.” Friesen, a radio personality and musician, also wrote “Goat Glands to Ranch Hands — The KFDI Story,” published
In his new book, Friesen writes about country music makers who were either born here or had some other significant connection to the place, as well as the venues where they performed. The stories date from the 1920s to the ‘90s, and Friesen said researching and writing about early performers was probably his favorite part of the work.
The first character he introduces is Billy Burkes, a Wichita native who played guitar on recordings by Jimmie Rogers, widely considered the father of country music.
There’s fascinating history about “radio bands” — popular pre-television groups who were hired to promote and perform on radio stations — including the Ark Valley Boys, the KFDI Ranch Boys and Corky’s Corral Gang. Gage Brewer, the Wichita bandleader credited with introducing the modern electric guitar, gets a section. There are also chapters on bluegrass, western swing and gospel music.
Friesen recounts how Roy Clark, Charlie Daniels and Shoji Tabuchi — the Japanese-American fiddler known as the “King of Branson” — all spent significant time performing in Wichita before achieving stardom. Daniels, fronting a band called the Jaguars, had a regular gig at the Hi-Ho Club at 47th and Broadway.
Thanks to Friesen’s long career in radio, he’s personally acquainted with many of the performers he chronicles, including Martina McBride, who got her start singing at the old Fireside Club. Friesen’s own background as a musician — he’s performed in the Prairie Rose Wranglers and other bands since moving here in 1966 — undoubtedly helped.
“It’s great to be able to be involved and count some of these people as my closest friends,” he said.
Win these books!
Tell us what’s on your reading list this summer and you could win a new book by former Congressman Dan Glickman or radio personality/musician Orin Friesen.
To enter, send us the name of a book you have read or plan to read this summer and a sentence or two about why. We’ll hold a drawing and choose two winners to receive books. We will publish a summer book list in our next issue.
Send your entries to The Active Age, 125 S. West St., Suite 105, Wichita, KS, 67213; or email email@example.com (please put “summer book contest” in the subject line).