When I moved to Washington D.C. the one column I was committed to reading every day was “Inside the Beltway” by John McCaslin. He humanized political figures, introduced readers to emerging leaders and, of course, honed in on the stories that make the area unique. Sound familiar? McCaslin’s column is one of my inspirations in combining politics and pop culture.
McCaslin, a native of Alexandria, Virginia, has been called the “unofficial mayor of Old Town.” He grew up in the area, left for a few years to pursue a journalism career, and then returned to the area to work for the White House Press Corps. After almost 20 years of writing the “Inside the Beltway” column, McCaslin has taken on a new challenge as co-anchor of America’s Morning News, a talk radio show produced and syndicated by the Talk Radio Network. Prior to hosting his own show, he guest-hosted for Rush Limbaugh, Oliver North and Michael Reagan.
In addition to being a widely published travel writer, McCaslin is the author of two books, Inside The Beltway: Offbeat Stories, Scoops, and Shenanigans From Around the Nation’s Capital and Weed Man: The Remarkable Journey of Jimmy Divine. McCaslin is probably one of the few authors to get praise from Michael Reagan, Katie Couric and Tommy Chong of Cheech and Chong fame.
As a 21 year-old aspiring writer working in the conservative movement, McCaslin’s writing was an introduction to the many personalities in a politically incestuous town. Eleven years later, I’m still star-struck when I see the “mayor” walking around Old Town.
1. If there were a television channel that only showed one movie over and over, what movie should it be?
MCCASLIN: The Fighting Sullivans, the 1944 movie about the lives of Thomas and Alleta Sullivan of Waterloo, Iowa, and their five Navy sons, all of whom perished in World War II — one of the worst family war tragedies in American history and a much-needed reminder today of the sacrifices so many have made and continue to make for our unparalleled freedom.
2. What’s one of your favorite movie quotes?
MCCASLIN: Toss-up between “Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer” (Al Pacino – The Godfather II), and “Here’s Johnny!” (Jack Nicholson – The Shining).
3. In A Clockwork Orange, Malcolm McDowell is strapped in with his eyes propped open and forced to watch images until he was “cured.” If you could give President Obama the “Clockwork Orange treatment,” what movie would you make him watch?
MCCASLIN: Sleeping Beauty, to remind him (albeit economically speaking) of the reality realized by Princess Aurora: he who saves your butt owns it.
4. What pop culture souvenir do you own that people would be surprised to learn that you cherish?
MCCASLIN: The December 1992 Penthouse issue/pictorial of Gennifer Flowers, which to my astonishment arrived in my mailbox — personally autographed (across naked breasts) by Bill Clinton’s alleged flame, who scribbled that I was her best interview ever.
5. What’s your current “guilty pleasure” non-news television show?
MCCASLIN: “The Andy Griffith Show” — guilt only because I’ve seen all 249 episodes a gazillion times.
6. Which movie, television or rock star would cause you to lose your ability to speak if you ever met?
MCCASLIN: [Actress] Claire Forlani
7. What was the first rock concert you ever attended and where did you sit and who went with you?
MCCASLIN: Johnny Winter — seated in the nosebleed section with my 15-year-old girlfriend, Claudette.
8. What do you remember most about going to the movies as a kid? How has that experience changed for the better or worse for your kids?
MCCASLIN: The tremendous number of seats/overall sheer size of the grand old movie theaters — so overwhelming I couldn’t make up my mind where to sit. But drive-in theaters on hot summer nights, when all of us kids were crammed into the front seats of myriad station-wagons, are my favorite movie memories, which my daughter unfortunately never experienced.
9. Many have said that Washington D.C. is like Hollywood for ugly people. How do you think DC is like Hollywood? How is it different?
MCCASLIN: As reminded beneath the title of Janet Donovan’s excellent column, Hollywood on the Potomac, Jack Valenti summed it up best: “Celebrities and politicians spring from the same DNA.”
10. Who has been your most interesting interviewee?
MCCASLIN: Ronald Reagan
11. If Republicans and Democrats had theme songs for 2010 what would they be?
MCCASLIN: Democrats: “If I Can’t Be Number One In Your Life, Then Number Two On You.”
Republicans: “Thank God and Greyhound She’s Gone.”
12. Tell me about the moment you decided to enter the political arena.
MCCASLIN: The moment you become a member of the Washington press corps you enter the political arena, albeit as an observer. Today, unfortunately, as the Fourth Estate continues its crumbling, the line has grown ever so fine between reporting and punditry, with more and more reporters turning up lost every day.