Fact Check

Bigot Repaid

Was a bigot who demanded the local military provide suitable escorts for his teen daughters given his comeuppance?

Published Mar 26, 2002


Legend:   Bigot who demands the local military provide suitable escorts for his teen daughters is given his comeuppance.

Example:   [Collected on the Internet, 2002]

President Lyndon B. Johnson once had a reputation for calling on military agencies and demanding special services. The following conversation took place when he called to the Marine Basic School in Quantico, VA:

"Good morning, The Basic School, how may I help you?"

LBJ: "This is President Johnson. We're hosting a formal get-together at the White House tomorrow night, and I need two lieutenants, tall and good-looking, to serve as escorts for my daughters, and they need to be there at six o'clock, you got that?"

"Yes, sir. Two lieutenants, tall and good-looking, six o'clock, sir."

LBJ: "And no damn Mexicans!" (Remember, he was a southerner and a Texan and this was the 60's...)

"Right, sir. No damn Mexicans."

The next night, at six o'clock, Mrs. Johnson answered the knock at the door, and sure enough, there were two tall, good-looking Marine lieutenants standing there.

"We're here to escort your daughters, ma'am."

"But you're both black. There must be some mistake."

"No, ma'am," one of the lieutenants spoke up, "Captain Rodriguez never makes mistakes."

Origins:   This story has been part of the humor canon for decades upon decades, so those encountering it for the first time should not trustingly accept that just because the account they've

been favored with asserts it as a Lyndon Johnson anecdote that it actually is. A version circulating on the Internet in 1993 is an almost word-for-word match to the above, with the exception that it was an "uppity white mom" who insisted upon "no Mexicans!" who was served her comeuppance by that self-same "Sergeant Rodriguez" of the Johnson rendition.

Other versions cast a Jewish officer as the put-upon military man who is imperiously ordered to supply escorts for someone's daughters, so in those accounts it's "Commander Rosenthal," "Major Goldstein," or "Captain Cohen" who sends black officers in response to the "no Jews!" restriction. Likewise, where this has supposedly happened changes from telling to telling — in one account we'll be told the call went to a Marine base, yet in another it was a Naval base that was approached by the one looking for "suitable" escorts, and in still another it'll be an Air Force squadron that was required to send some men.

[Woods, 1967]

During World War II, a local society leader asked that a few soldiers from a nearby army camp be sent to her home for Thanksgiving dinner, specifying that they do not send any Jews.

On schedule, two Negro soldiers arrived at the home. "There must be some mistake," said the embarrassed and disconcerted hostess.

"No, there could be no mistake, ma'am," said one of the Negroes. "Major Rabinowitz never makes mistakes."

The oldest print sighting of this tale hails from 1919. Notice that despite its appearance in a newspaper as a news item, it lacks checkable elements, such as the date of the party, the city in which it was held, and the name of the hostess:

[Union, 1919]

She Barred Irish and Jews: Negroes Sent To Her Dinner

Camp Devens, Ayers, Mass. — A woman living in a nearby Massachusetts city notified camp officials that she would be glad to entertain fifty soldiers at her home at Sunday dinner. The only stipulation she made was that there should be no Celts or Hebrews. The fifty men were sent. They were all from the Sunny South — fifty colored troops from the 13th Battalion.

Well, let us be thankful for that. She could have had no more grateful, brave or loyal guests.

A tale lacking the racism element yet displaying facets similar to this legend (i.e., woman reeking of a misplaced sense of entitlement makes demands on local military; compliance is granted but not in the manner envisioned) circulates about Barbra Streisand, a lady long rumored as making excessive demands on those around her:

[McCaslin, 2002]

During the filming of The Prince of Tides, Barbra Streisand apparently didn't endear herself to the locals [of Beaufort, South Carolina].

She rented one of the historic homes and promptly erected a 10-foot-high black fence, to deter the curious . . . Around 6 a.m. one morning she was awakened by the sounds of jets flying overhead from the nearby Marine air station (this being during the Gulf War).

[ . . .]

Streisand then complained by phone to the local commanding officer and told him she didn't want it to happen again. He reportedly responded, "I'll see what I can do about it."

The next morning the jets roared over at 5 a.m.

We don't know if the Streisand story is true, but we can tell you that the "she phoned the local base to complain about the noise of the jets" aspect of it was scuttlebutt common to Beaufort during the filming of Prince of Tides in 1990. Possibly the bit about the fly-bys taking place in the early morning was added during the decade that followed, along with a base commander who obliged by sending the planes in an hour earlier — it does make for a more enjoyable story when dressed with such flourishes, including one that better sketches the "Streisand as impossible diva" caricature. (We suspect that had she made such a call it would have been as the harried director of a large-budget film who had seen one too many otherwise usable takes ruined by jets blasting by overhead, and that this story has been time-shifted towards the dawn hours to transform it into a tale about a self-centered woman decrying her loss of beauty sleep, but that's no more than an educated guess on our part.)

Barbara "what's up doctored" Mikkelson

Last updated:   2 August 2007

  Sources Sources:

    Dollar, Steve.   "'Tides' Gets Rolling."

    St. Petersburg Times.   6 July 1990   (Weekend, p. 12).

    McCaslin, John.   "Inside the Beltway: Greetings from Beaufort."

    The Washington Times.   26 March 2002.

    Woods, Ralph.   The Modern Handbook of Humor.

    New York: McGraw Hill, 1967   (p. 439).

    Union.   "She Barred Irish and Jews; Negroes Sent to Her Dinner."

    22 February 1919   (p. 1).

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