Impromptus

Meet the in-laws, &c.

Wayne Gretzky putts in front of Jordan Spieth (left) and Dustin Johnson on the 14th hole during the second round of the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am golf tournament at Spyglass Hill Golf Course in Pebble Beach, Calif., February 8, 2019. (Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports)
Talented combos, a corrosive post-election, Bush the Elder, ‘No Tariffs’ Toomey, and more

In an Impromptus last week, I had some notes about the Masters tournament — the 2020 Masters. The winner was Dustin Johnson. He is No. 1 in the world rankings. The best golfer in the land, or lands.

“His father-in-law is Wayne Gretzky,” I wrote. And “I have to ask: Are they the most talented combination of father-in-law and son-in-law in the world?” (They don’t call Gretzky “The Great One” for nothin’. He is, by consensus, the No. 1 hockey player ever.)

Several readers wrote me to say that Dustin Johnson and Paulina Gretzky are not, in fact, married. Oops. My bad. At any rate, let’s play along.

Kevin D. Williamson wrote me to say, “Elvis Presley–Michael Jackson is a pretty good one.” Yeah, that’s for sure.

Incidentally, you know about KDW’s new book, I hope: Big White Ghetto. Filled with gold.

A reader said to me, “Jay, don’t forget Toscanini and Horowitz!” So, so true. A daughter of the conductor Arturo Toscanini, Wanda, married Vladimir Horowitz, the pianist.

Did this marriage have its tragic element? Did the marriage between Michael Jackson and Lisa Marie Presley have the same? Well, lives are complicated, messy, often.

In the music category, there is one pairing that tops them all — pairing of father-in-law and son-in-law, I mean: Liszt and Wagner.

But a reader informed me that Scott Ian, of the thrash-metal band Anthrax, married a daughter of Meat Loaf.

A dip into the sports category? A reader wrote me with some soccer news — news to me, that is: Sergio Agüero married a daughter of Diego Maradona. We are talkin’ real soccer royalty.

For a long time, I had a nomination for most talented couple — married couple: Rodion Shchedrin, the composer, and Maya Plisetskaya, the ballerina. (Plisetskaya died in 2015; Shchedrin is still with us, I’m happy to say. I was scheduled to see him for an interview earlier this year, but the pandemic intervened. Maybe soon.)

But hang on, another couple challenged, and rivaled, Rodion and Maya: Andre and Steffi, the tennis champs (Agassi and Graf).

Do you know about their son, by the way? He is a baseball player. I don’t believe he has ever taken up tennis, but apparently he is destined for pro baseball.

Let me mention one more couple — children of famous writers: Daniel Day-Lewis, the actor, married Rebecca Miller, who is a filmmaker and novelist. He is the son of Cecil Day-Lewis; she is the daughter of Arthur Miller.

We could do this all day, but let’s move on . . .

• . . . to grubby, dismaying politics. In my column last week, I wrote,

His behavior is going to have repercussions in our country for years to come. As a colleague of mine says, millions are going to go their graves — whenever they do — thinking that the 2020 election was stolen from them.

I don’t need to say that I’m talking about Trump, right? He claims, for example, “I WON THIS ELECTION, BY A LOT.” And “This was a RIGGED ELECTION!” Etc.

More from my column last week:

Here is a problem I have with my anti-anti-Trump friends: They know that Trump is BS-ing (lying). “Blowing off steam.” “Just being Trump.” What I think they forget or ignore is: Millions upon millions of people believe him. (I know many of them.) And that has a deleterious effect on our country.

That is why Jonah Goldberg wrote a column in anger (righteous anger). “The thing is, I am very angry,” he said. “The president of the United States is trying to steal an election he clearly and unequivocally lost.”

Peggy Noonan had a column with an apt title: “A Bogus Dispute Is Doing Real Damage.” Here is the column’s subheading: “Conspiracy theories are damaging the country today and will hurt Republicans tomorrow.”

I’ve been thinking about Ellen Sauerbrey — whose name is a blast from the past. I admired her a great deal. She was the 1994 and 1998 Republican nominee for governor of Maryland. She lost the first race very, very narrowly, and the Democrats did something horrible to her in the final days: They smeared her as a racist.

Sometime later — years, I think — I interviewed her. She told me something like this: “If you lie about someone’s views on taxation or zoning or what have you, it’s not very nice, but the election is held and the world moves on. If you lie about a candidate and race — if you label her a racist — this has lingering and corrosive effects. It worsens society. It makes racial disharmony harder to heal.”

Yes, indeed.

How people comport themselves in public life — as in private life — matters a lot.

• I’ve learned a phrase in recent days: “release the kraken” — or is it “Kraken”? I’m not sure. The phrase has been employed by Trump legal eagles, talking about the explosive material they allegedly have. The phrase (I have learned) comes from Clash of the Titans, a 1981 movie, remade in 2010.

I couldn’t help thinking of “unleash Chiang.” Remember that one? It was a rallying cry of right-wingers — Birchers — in the Cold War. “Unleash Chiang” meant “arm Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek, in Taiwan, and unleash him on the Communists on the Mainland.”

George Bush the Elder used to say “unleash Chiang” when he was on the tennis court — when he was about to uncork a big serve: “I’m gettin’ ready to unleash Chiang.”

(The Birch Society desire — while understandable — was totally unworkable.)

• Before this year, Bush the Elder was the most recent incumbent president to be defeated at the polls. He, of course, handled himself with great dignity and graciousness. But the loss was terribly painful, needless to say.

I have a memory of something Walt Harrington wrote. Harrington was a journalist, acquainted with the Bushes. He was invited to a White House Christmas party in 1992. Afterward, President Bush invited him and his wife up to the residence.

“So up we went in the elevator with a Secret Service man,” writes Harrington.

When we got off, the president and I fell a safe distance behind my wife, W., and First Lady Barbara Bush, allowing me to privately tell President Bush I was sorry about his defeat. A few steps into the central hall outside the Lincoln Bedroom, President Bush stopped and looked me in the eye.

“You know the worst thing about it, Walt? The embarrassment. It’s just so embarrassing.”

That is one of the most poignant, human things I have ever read about a president or the presidency.

• Last week, the Associated Press had a report headed “Pentagon to cut troop levels to 2,500 in Iraq, Afghanistan.” The ranking Republican on the House Armed Services Committee, Mac Thornberry of Texas, was quoted as saying, “I believe these additional reductions of American troops from terrorist areas are a mistake.” The Taliban, he said, have “done nothing — met no condition — that would justify this cut.”

On Twitter, I praised Thornberry as a Republican with spine, and independence of mind. Then someone pointed out that he is retiring.

Oh, well.

• My friend Kevin Petersen has written a brief, thoughtful piece called “Free Europe and the American Soldier.” He is a young man, an Army veteran, and a student at Columbia University. The piece is here.

• Let me recommend another piece: “The Scent of Cowardice.” It is written by another young friend of mine, another college student: Mathis Bitton, a Frenchman at Yale. The article is about Islamist violence, the French government, and that government’s critics.

A stirring piece, both emotional — rightly so — and shrewdly analytical.

• “Arthur Imperatore, Founder of a Critical Ferry Service, Dies at 95.” A neat obit, written by Patrick McGeehan of the New York Times. Such an American life, this fellow had — and such a New York life.

“Imperatore” means “emperor” (in Italian). He wanted to develop a city called “Port Imperial.” He married a woman named Mei-Ling Yee.

Often, you never know a person until you read his obit, you know? In any event, I really enjoyed getting a little acquainted with Mr. Imperatore.

• A little music? Here is a post about Lawrence Power, a violist, and Ryan Wigglesworth, a pianist — and composer and conductor. Power and Wigglesworth played a new piece by the latter: a set of waltzes.

Power and Wigglesworth are British, and Wigglesworth is not the only Wigglesworth in British musical life: There is also Mark Wigglesworth — no relation — who is a conductor and writer. “It’s raining Wigglesworths,” I say in my post. “And such an English name, isn’t it?”

So English (which is fine — more than fine — by me).

• A little language? A friend of mine writes,

Jay,

As you probably saw, Kyler Murray hit an amazing Hail Mary last week to DeAndre Hopkins. Afterward, Hopkins said, “They [the defenders] were in position. It was just a better catch by I.”

D’oh!

Americans — and maybe others — are badly confused about “I,” “me,” and “myself.” I have written about this many times. Maybe we could have a great big national remedial-ed session someday?

But listen — if you can catch passes like DeAndre Hopkins, you can say whatever the hell you want, as far as I’m concerned.

Another friend sent me the opening of a newspaper article:

The redevelopment of an old Sears building on the West Side is moving forward with a new vision after original plans were scrapped due to financial issues exasperated by the pandemic.

Exasperated/exacerbatedlet’s call the whole thing off?

• Ticked at Senator Pat Toomey (R., Pa.) — who conceded the legitimacy of the election — President Trump sicced a nickname on him: “Pat ‘No Tariffs’ Toomey.” A high, high compliment.

See you later, Impromptus-ites. Have a great week.

If you’d like to receive Impromptus by e-mail — links to new columns — write to jnordlinger@nationalreview.com.