When the reality TV show “Keeping Up With the Kardashians” first appeared, in 2007, Americans justifiably wondered who in the hell were these dysfunctional egotists and why did they deserve to be on television? They were simply “famous for being famous,” a strange concept that seemed to be a result of today’s celebrity culture.
But there’s nothing new under the sun. Don Marquis was laughing at the same sort of people more than a century ago, as the following poem makes clear. It appeared in The Evening Sun on February 14, 1912, and is reprinted here for what is almost certainly the first time since then. This was Don’s first byline in The Evening Sun — barely a month after he joined the newspaper and a year before he started writing his Sun Dial column.
A SOCIAL STUDY
By Don Marquis
The Evening Sun, February 14, 1912
Though Papa was worth twenty millions or more
We had never made much of a social uproar;
Though we paid a gent cash just to prove we were kin
To some prominent kings, yet we couldn’t butt in;
It wasn’t because Papa’s manners were bad,
For he didn’t have any, the darling old Dad;
Even ginks who grew up spading pie with a knife
Have got by with the help of a Wad and a wife.
It wasn’t because we were tight with the kale,
For we burnt it like Pittsburghers, bale upon bale;
But nobody smelt it. And nobody stared.
And nobody wondered. And nobody cared.
Nobody got jealous. And nobody called.
By Hek! Can you wonder that Mamma was galled?
But now we are in. The Climbers all hug us.
Newspaper photographers frequently mug us.
For Dad hired a press agent, Jonathan Hepp,
Who landed us space. But it cost us our rep.
He sent brother Jim on a joy-riding whirl
That slaughtered four cripples and one little girl;
And I robbed a bank and got pinched with the loot,
And Papa got served in an anti-trust suit.
“Thank heaven,” says Mamma, “some one is invited
“To something at last,” when Dad was indicted.
Sister Jane ran away with the chauffeur, and Mayme
Bought a title; a Duke was wrapped up with the same;
And Mamma she smuggled – determined and proud,
And bound to rise out of the crude, common crowd –
And she shoplifted some – triumphant and pale
But mostly she smuggled; and landed in jail.
And we’re here – though Mamma affirms that it drove her
Insane, we are in! We have jumped through and over.
And the reason we know we are in is because
Whenever we fracture a fresh set of laws
The papers all say “The family stands well;
They are awfully wealthy and socially swell.”