James Madison strolls confidently into the room, chest puffed in a dignified yet pompous posture, that greatly exceeds his stature. At a mere 5’4 and 100 pounds, he is the shortest and slightest president to ever grace the States. He is draped in a black cloth jacket and black pantaloons cut off at the knee, revealing his black silk stockings and black buckled shoes, the original “Man in Black.” His puffy white ascot adds a touch of monochromatic flair. Like all of the presidents, Madison is excited for the grand feast and the evening’s pugilism pageant.
At his side is that unstoppable, unflappable social butterfly, the unparalleled Dolley Madison. Her iconic red velvet dress flaps in the wind as she rushes bust first to socialize, wasting no time to circulate and chirp continuously with the other presidents. The consummate host and party planner, Dolley has jumped at the chance to take charge of the evening’s dinner menu and reception. In just a few days, she has completely transformed the Shangri-La drawing room from a pallid parlour into a wondrous spectacle, ablaze with splendor.
James Madison. Despite my sleight of height, to which I owe the attribution of the dissolution of my constitution, I managed to become the Father of the Constitution.
Twain inspects the entirety of his short frame, marveling at the bigness of his being. It doesn’t take much time or movement of the eyes to take him all in.
Mark Twain. What was that famous line of yours - something about angels?
James Madison. “If men were angels, no government would be necessary.” Every word of the Constitution decides that all-important question between power and liberty.
Mark Twain. Power is not free; freedom is not power.
Twain takes some more deep puffs on his pipe, wondering just how he will capture all that has transpired here in Shangri-La, this “paradise of power.” Suddenly, he is stuck by an epiphany, nearly jumping to his feet, but just as quickly regaining his composure. He thinks has finally found a way to leverage all he has seen into a long fictional work.
Mark Twain. Eureka!
Ronald Reagan looks up quickly with a face of sudden recognition at the word “Eureka.” He drifts into warm, folksy nostalgia.
Ronald Reagan: Ah, the old alma mater, where I discovered myself as a radio announcer for the Chicago Cubs. I figured out how to do play-by-play using telegraphs.
Twain takes another puff with an air of curiosity.
Mark Twain. Interesting…
Ronald Reagan. Then I was elected president in 1947.
Mark Twain’s eyes open wide. He wonders if the old man is having memory issues again.
Mark Twain. Aaaaa… Mr. Reagan! Are you perchance a bit befuddled? Maybe it’s all the excitement of being here…
Reagan truly does look confused, but finds himself and affirms his statement.
Ronald Reagan. Yes! Yes! President! President of the Screen Actors Guild!
Reagan’s memory hadn’t failed him after all. In fact, after first being elected in a special election in 1947 after the resignation of the previous president and six board members, Reagan went on to be reelected in 1948, 1949, 1950, 1951, and almost a decade later in 1959.
Twain’s surprise quickly dissolves into a hearty laugh.
Mark Twain. Oh, yes, of course you were.
Ronald Reagan. During that time, I was very proud to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee about the spread of Communism in Hollywood.
Ronald Reagan was one of the paranoid pioneers leading the way during the Hollywood Blacklist era. Mark Twain is unamused. He takes another puff.
Mark Twain. Hmmm….
Reagan, now emboldened by his Red busting retrospection, continues to saunter down memory lane.
Ronald Reagan. And of course, after the wall fell, I kept a chunk for myself along with my presidential limo and plane. I’m very sentimental.
Mark Twain. Of course…
Reagan’s train of thought derails.
Ronald Reagan. I don’t quite remember why there was a wall in the first place, but when it tumbled down, I was sure glad to get my fair share.
Mark Twain. Didn’t you just mention the spread of Communism?
Those are fighting words to the Gipper.
Ronald Reagan. I did? Are you calling me a Communist, comrade?
Mark Twain. Why no, but all along the Mississippi we shared everything from stories to riverboats to freshly caught river fish. Is that what you mean?
Reagan, now a bit nervous and afraid of losing his footing, quickly changes the subject.
Ronald Reagan. I did a lot of shooting in my day.
Mark Twain. I thought it was you that got shot!
Reagan grabs his left side protectively.
Ronald Reagan. No, I mean for pictures! In Hollywood!
Mark Twain. Mr. Reagan, you were shot in our nation’s capital, not Hollywood.
Ronald Reagan. No, not got shot! I did a shoot in Hollywood!
Twain turns away for another draw on his pipe to regroup, thinking that was probably why he never understood “Reaganomics.”
Mark Twain. Shoot... shot... I need a shot of something. Any bourbon in the house?
Waiter Antonio Johnson, right on cue in Pavlovian subservience, sidles up to Twain and hands him a glass of Scotch.
Antonio. I feel your pain, Twain. To ease the strain to your brain.
Mark Twain inspects and swirls the fragrant caramel colored liquid, sniffs it and takes a sip with a gratified wince.
Mark Twain. Ahh, Scotch. My pet of all brews. Perhaps my bourbon days are numbered.
Jacqueline Kennedy has just made her grand entrance, a small entourage in tow, arriving after her husband in a custom pink 1961 Lincoln Continental with a conspicuously closed convertible top. She is wearing her pink suit with matching pillbox hat, a line-for-line copy of a classic cardigan-style Chanel. The suit came from Chez Ninon, a Park Avenue Salon that created her clothing, following her taste for simple lines. Dolley Madison is immediately shocked by Jackie’s appearance as they first meet face to face.
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