This post is at least partially about the new TV series, Boss. It will contain little in the way of spoilers and will also not require you to have actually seen the show.

In the beginning of the first episode, Chicago Mayor Tom Kane (Kelsey Grammer) is hit with what may be the worst medical diagnosis there is, something called Lewy Body. It’s a cross between Parkinson’s and Alzheimers. His body, and his mind, are betraying him. His time left as an independent, cognoscente person is perilously short. The show is about Grammer’s attempts to conceal his illness and reaffirm his political power in the face of various external and internal threats.

It’s not The Wire, but I thought it was a really good show. If I were Tom Kane, though, it would have likely been a very boring show. It would have been a show about using my last day’s to assure a stable and ordertly transition into quiet retirement. Kane, though, fights on. The only transition he tries to manage is to replace Governor Cullen (Francis Guinan) with young upstart State Treasurer Zajac (Jeff Hephner), and rather than backing down from politics, he throws himself further and further into it. The notion of backing down, or losing, never occurs to him even to the point where he does something that left me literally uttering “Oh, my god.” It becomes apparent, as the show progresses, that Kane has little or nothing to retire to. He is in a loveless marriage and he and his wife both disowned their only child in the name of political expediency. There are some attempts to reconcile with his daughter, but that’s about as personal as he gets.

The whole mentality is rather alien to me. That’s one reason why I would never have a successful career in politics.

Of course, I look back at some political figures in astonishment at the degree to which they went the opposite track. There was a young politician in Colosse, Alex Leventis, who had an astonishing career ahead of him. Some were saying that he could go on to become president. A moderate Democrat, he was thought highly of across party lines. Then, in an announcement that everyone assumed was going to be for a gubernatorial bid, Leventis announced his retirement from politics. Nobody had any idea why. Less than a decade later, Leventis was in prison.

The bizarre thing about the Leventis story is what it came to be apparent did happen to him. He fell in love with a stripper. Apparently, an avaricious one. And in an attempt to make her happy, he did things in his political office that he shouldn’t have done. He retired to go to the private sector (and so that he could marry a former stripper without cocking as many eyebrows) and made more money there until his past caught up with him. The guy that everybody loved suddenly had no friends. He’d burned his bridges with Democrats by being something of a maverick. He’d burned his bridges with Republicans by being a Democrat. The stripper left him while he was in prison.

Leventis and Kane represent opposite sides of the political spectrum. One who threw it all away for the woman that he loved and the other held on tight in part because he loved nothing but what he had.

Category: Statehouse, Theater

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