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I'm Short, Not Stupid Presents: 'The Silly Bastard Next to the Bed'

This short explores the humorous history of White House Liaison Ernest Carlton and the way he bungled press relations during John F. Kennedy's presidency.

by VICE Staff
Jul 25 2014, 5:48pm

It seems as if everyday our culture grows more obsessed with celebrity worship and shaming. Maybe it’s the fact that we’ve never before had more interesting people to thrust our feelings on? Or, more likely, it’s the fact that as a society, we’ve evolved past simple vicarious living and have developed the ability to fully imitate and inhabit those celebrities. People invented a video game to be Kim Kardashian and have paid thousands of dollars to not simply dress like icons, but transform themselves into the icon—Justin Bieber, Kim Kardashian, Jennifer Lawrence, Barbie, Ken, etc...

The truly disheartening fact is that this back and forth on who’s doing what and fucking who's and who has been happening for decades—centuries even. Since the inception of populist or mainstream media, those sensationalist human interest stories started popping up and our preoccupation with the mundanities of the lives of public figures began. We’re constantly updated. First it was milestones, then highlights, and now it’s just every time they take a shit. Personallly, I can’t take it anymore. So it was nice to find out that high-ranking officials agree with me about the news and their twisted little stories. I’m specifically talking about people like John F. Kennedy, which is detailed in a wonderful little documentary by Scott Calonico titled The Silly Bastard Next to the Bed.

Back in 1963, the President and the first lady were expecting their third child, which sort of falls under one of those “highlight” moments. Because of that, reporters came out to inspect the Otis Air Force Base, which was the site where Jacqueline was supposed to give birth. The Public Information Officer for the squadron and newly appointed White House Liaison Ernest Carlton was tasked with showing the reporters around. Simple enough, right? Well the fucking Washington Post dug up some quote from someone at the base and alleged that they had spent $5,000 to make it all nice for Jacqueline. A photograph was taken, which immortalized poor Ernest as a dumb-looking bastard, gleefully showing off the swanky digs. It all sounds and looks like a National Enquirer piece, but it was enough to send JFK into a frenzy. He was so pissed, he threatened to ship poor Ernest off to Alaska for incompetence. It’s a pretty amazing piece of history and a scary identifier of the power of the media and its presentation of “truth.” 

Scott Calonico’s short films have been shown at numerous festivals in the United States as well as being purchased by networks such as Comedy Central. He was a producer and animator on No No: A Dockumentary, which is being released theatrically in the United States in the fall.

Jeffrey Bowers is a tall mustached guy from Ohio who's seen too many weird movies. He currently lives in Brooklyn, working as an art and film curator. He is a programmer at Tribeca Film Festival, Rooftop Films, and the Hamptons International Film Festival. He also self-publishes a super fancy mixed-media art serial called PRISM index.