By Gary Singh
COINCIDING with the 2008 presidential election, Dr. Seuss has posthumously thrown his "hat" into the fray with a new art show, "Dr. Seuss for President," at the Peabody Gallery in Los Gatos, featuring never-before-released politically charged prints of Seuss' work. Unbeknownst to some, several of Dr. Seuss' books contain deftly veiled sociopolitical commentary in-between the lines. The Lorax, for example, was a precursor to the modern-day environmentalism movement and was written an as argument for corporate responsibility and resource conservation. 1958's Yertle the Turtle was an argument against fascism, with Seuss even once admitting he modeled the Yertle character after Hitler.
The art show features a few prints never before released in stand-alone form. Knotty Problem, a 1942 political cartoon, satirizes bumbling Washington bureaucrats deliberating with rulers, equations, protractors and other gadgets. The caption reads: "The Knotty Problem of Capitol Hill: How to raise taxes without losing a single vote." Another image, Triple Sling Jigger, from Seuss' controversial Butter Battle Book, satirizes the nuclear proliferation hysteria of the Cold War era. The Peabody Gallery was one of only a handful of places nationwide selected to host the exhibition, and last week a "political rally" at the gallery kicked off the Seuss campaign.
Now, this reporter had never covered a presidential campaign rally, especially in Los Gatos, the land of a thousand hair salons, but he was inspired by a brand new reissue of Norman Mailer's seminal book, Miami and the Siege of Chicago, that covered the historic riots and protests during the 1968 Democratic National Convention, with Mailer writing in the third person. So the reporter went to Los Gatos to see if any riots or protests would disrupt the event. He was also admittedly sentimental about Los Gatos, having grown up a stone's throw from the border. In fact, the first spoken word vinyl LP he recalls listening to was that slab with Fox in Socks on one side and Green Eggs and Hamon the other.
About 25 Los Gatans slowly made their way through the gallery in anticipation of the events. Seasoned Dr. Seuss collectors were also on hand. Several speakers, including current Los Gatos Mayor Barbara Spector and former Mayor Sandy Decker, spoke at a makeshift lectern, which was set up in the corner of the gallery by the window, allowing attendees to watch the theatrics against a backdrop of confused pedestrians outside on the sidewalk, peering in to see what was transpiring. Each of the speakers read from Dr. Seuss and offered their commentary on his genius.
Fortunately, the Los Gatos humanoids were not the only audience. Six unheard-of animal heads from Dr. Seuss' Unorthodox Taxidermy Collection protruded from the wall above the door, looking down on the action. These animal heads, including the Goo-goo Eyed Tasmanian Wolghast and the Andulovian Grackler, are hand-painted and reproduced as cold-cast resin works modeled after Seuss' original collection, an ingenious project that ridiculed the prevalence of big game hunting in the '30s and '40s.
When it came to riots, the reporter found himself philosophizing with supporters and asking what they thought a Dr. Seuss campaign protest would actually look like. Who would be protesting? What would they say?
"It would be in rhymes, for sure," opined Sharon Thornton, the gallery's owner.
"It would sound like the Who," said Michael Kane, chairman of the Los Gatos Planning Commission, who was in attendance on his way to a rehearsal for an upcoming historical Los Gatos Walking Tour in which he was to play Mountain Charlie.
Had the reporter run the circus, he would have instructed the Grinch to show up and put a siege on the whole rally. That would have been the clincher. Other than that, the event went off without a snag. Green deviled eggs were served and the reporter had three, eating them here, there and everywhere.