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Hart’s Return Spawns New Round of Risque Jokes

December 20, 1987

WASHINGTON (AP) _ ″There will be comedy tonight,″ Johnny Carson’s writers said gleefully after Gary Hart returned to the presidential race. David Letterman’s joke writers heralded ″the greatest Christmas ever.″

Virtually the minute the announcement was out of Hart’s mouth on Tuesday, the ″Hart-attack″ jokes were in the works, many of them of a sexual nature not suited for publication in most newspapers.

Capitol Hill snickered at jokes that Hart’s wife Lee has a new campaign button - ″Trust But Verify,″ that Hart’s new campaign manager is Dr. Ruth, his new pollsters are Masters and Johnson and his campaign plan is to ″win one for the zipper.″

The Hart news was a bonanza for late-night TV writers. David Letterman’s audience roared Thursday night when he announced that along with regular features such as Stupid Pet Tricks, ″We set aside a few minutes every night for Gary Hart jokes.″

″I’m just glad the guy’s dating again,″ Letterman deadpanned.

And Johnny Carson noted that Hart has no staff and no money - ″and his new campaign slogan is, ″I can’t give you anything but love, Baby.‴

″Saturday Night Live,″ co-hosted this weekend by rival Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Paul Simon, was rife with Hart material.

It repeated a mock commercial, shown earlier in the television season, in which a blonde woman melodramatically threw Hart’s picture on the floor and ripped his poster from her wall. But then a shadowy man in a suit wordlessly entered the room and they embraced passionately as an announcer’s voice said, ″Gary Hart - you can’t get him out of your mind.″

By Tuesday evening, a Washington comedy troup, the Capitol Steps, had already incorporated Hart into their satirical singing spoofs.

″When it comes to humor, Gary Hart is climbing back on top again,″ said the group’s Bill Strauss, paraphrasing a line from one song that parodies Hart’s relationship with model Donna Rice. Hart was sidelined for seven months after disclosure of that liaison, and his announcement that he would reactivate his Democratic campaign took most of the political world by surprise.

But humorists seized on it with glee.

″We all just looked at each other and said, ’Can you believe it?‴ said Patric Verrone, a writer for ″The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson.″

″There will be comedy tonight. That’s what we all said when we heard the news,″ Verrone said.

Virtually all the jokes revolve around Hart’s reputation as a womanizer.

″He may not get the presidency, but he was offered the lead in ’Fatal Attraction II,‴ Carson said in his monologue.

Carson also referred to Wednesday’s rare snow in usually mild Los Angeles. He quipped: ″Gary Hart said a little prayer yesterday before announcing his decision. He said, ’Dear God, if I’m doing the wrong thing, let it snow in California.‴

In a reference to the notorious photos of Donna Rice sitting on Hart’s lap, Carson said Hart is campaigning in a red suit - that way he can claim to be Santa Claus if spotted with a woman on his lap.

Carson’s audience groaned as he continued:

″It looks as though the Democratic nomination will fall in his lap. That is, if there’s room.″

Backstage at ″Late Night With David Letterman,″ the Hart news also brought euphoria.

″This is going to be the greatest Christmas ever,″ said Letterman writer Gerard Mulligan. ″It’s nice to have him back. We got a lot of mileage out of him.″

Letterman brought down the house Tuesday night with his ″Top 10 list″ of Hart’s Christmas wishes - a follow-up to the list of Top 10 Hart ″pickup lines″ that delighted his audience last spring.

Among the Christmas Top 10:

- To be played by Lorenzo Lamas in a Donna Rice made-for-TV movie.

- A complete set of yearbooks by the Barbizon School of modeling.

- That people start referring to sleazy womanizing as Kennedyesque.

And Letterman noted that Hart intends to apply to the Federal Election Commission for federal matching funds of about $1 million to help finance his campaign. Letterman added, ″It was also disclosed today he has also applied for matching blondes.″

The Capitol Steps, who perform weekly at a club in Washington’s Georgetown neighborhood, have a song inspired by the musical ″Oliver.″

Taking off on Hart’s ″new ideas″ campaign theme, the lyrics say: ″I’m exploring a new position. In New Hampshire I have really got a chance. I’ll establish a new tradition. I will offer new ideas for romance.

″I’ll get back into the race again. And then I’ll find someone to chase again.″

Strauss said the troop also has a new bit stating that if Hart’s elected, ″they’re going to have to create new positions, and maybe even whole new wings at the White House - for the first lady, second lady, third lady ... ″

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