Even LBJ, as commander-in-chief, ordered his pants one leg at a time.
Then again, perhaps no other orator to inhabit the White House has ever phoned in an order for slacks quite like this. "Like riding a wire fence," indeed.
One of President Lyndon Johnson's more famous recorded exchanges was a call in August 1964 to the Dallas-based Haggar clothing company for some new "summer wear," according to WhiteHouseTapes.net. Calling before heading to a funeral, the ever-colorful LBJ got fellow Texan Joe Haggar Jr. on the line to see about ordering six pair of "real lightweight" trousers -- something he could let out, with a longer "stride" and deeper pockets, so his money and his knife wouldn't fall out. (You can read the full transcript here.)
Fortunately for us, Jesse Thorn and Adam Lisagor -- hosts of the Web series "Put This On" -- are true students of haberdasher history.
"There's something so bracing about it -- the idea that the president is a human being," Thorn tells Comic Riffs about the recording. "A very vulgar human being."
Lisagor and Thorn had the masterstroke idea to put LBJ's real-life audio into the bespoke hands of animator Tawd b. Dorenfeld of Polymorph Productions, whose recent works include Serj Tankian's music video "Left of Center" and a "fully stop-motion animated period piece about the founder of Chassidic Jewery." (Dorenfeld had been a student of Thorn's mother, who's a professor.)
Dorenfeld -- who also wrote and directed 2005's "The Anna Cabrini Chronicles" -- takes the same approach used over the years by such writer/artists as "Saturday Night Live's" Robert Smigel : Put a politician's real-life audio to hand-drawn-style animation.
Of the audio, Lisagor and Thorn say that "Johnson's anatomically specific directions to Mr. Haggar are some of the most intimate words we've ever heard from the mouth of a president." Dorenfeld, in turn, delights in playing with the dialogue -- invoking such era-appropriate imagery as peace flowers and cannons of war when not flying conspicuous American flags.
"The main idea was transformation .. transforming what we think a president is, LBJ transforming the pants," Thorn tells 'Riffs. "The only rule we came up with was nothing gross. It was Tawd's idea to use symbols of the Johnson presidency, like the tank and the daisy. I just told him 'great job' when it was done."
We can only imagine -- and encourage -- what this animation team might do with the tapes of Kennedy or Nixon.