I must have been around 12 or 13 the first time I heard Peggy Lee’s classic Is That All There Is? Why a precocious boy would develop an affinity for this song about disillusionment is best left to the professionals, I suppose. But at the time, it replaced These Boots are Made for Walkin’ as my favorite song.
It may have had something to do with the second stanza of the song, dealing with the disappointment of going to the circus. I have a vague recollection of wanting to see Barnum and Bailey’s circus when it came to Dallas, only to have to settle for a lesser—much lesser—traveling show at the East Texas fair grounds. In any event, I haven’t been much of a circus fan ever since.
Last weekend’s Saturday Night Live opening proved conclusively that, while Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey may have closed down last May, there is still a circus to be seen. In just over seven minutes, SNL managed to ridicule and skewer Trump, his fixer, his doctor, his new lawyer, his press secretary, his wife, his Vice President, his daughter and his son-in-law. (I left out Omarosa, as she is a case unto herself.) And the real Stormy Daniels got to play herself and, notably, was not the butt of the joke.
So here we are, back at another circus. In Miss Lee’s song, there were “clowns and elephants and dancing bears and a beautiful lady in pink tights.” How much more disappointed would she have been if there had only been clowns?
But that’s only one ring in this three ring circus. The media has its own ring and its own cast of characters. From former Watergate prosecutors and former U. S. attorneys to anyone who ever worked for Robert Mueller. Plus Michael Avenatti, who is appearing more frequently these days in Michael Cohen’s nightmares and gay men’s wet dreams than he is on the multitude of cable news shows on which is booked.
(By the way, he looks all cute and stuff in his race car outfit, but could some of the paparazzi follow him to the beach? Asking for a friend. Several friends.)
And while the spotlights are trained on these two rings, there is that third ring that remains cloaked in darkness. Robert Mueller is the ringmaster there, and I think when his show goes on there may be some elephants and dancing bears. And maybe some bird acts, too. Canaries and pigeons. Singing and stooling. That sort of thing.
Thanks to big screen HD television giving us all a ringside seat, we’ve been teased and titillated so much that our toes are curling and our eyes are rolling back in our heads. And yet, there’s that nagging thought that this is, after all, a circus. We’ll see.
Strangely enough, Is That All There Is? turns out to be one of Donald Trump’s favorite songs. The New York Times quoted him from a 2014 interview with Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Michael D’Antonio as saying, “It’s a great song because I’ve had these tremendous successes and then I’m off to the next one. Because, it’s like, ‘Oh, is that all there is?’”
It is a testament to Trump’s “talent” to make all things, including Peggy Lee’s masterpiece, to be about him and his “tremendous successes.” Will “Is that all there is?” be what he will say to himself on the last day of his presidency.
We’ll see about that, too.