The 1954 movie It Should Happen to You featured mouse-voiced Judy Holliday as Gladys Glover, a blonde (read dumb) girdle model who’d been fired because her hips were 3/4 of an inch too big. She meets Pete Sheppard (played by Jack Lemmon in his film debut) in Central Park. She pouts over how long it’s taking to become famous; he tells her, “Where there’s a will, there’s a way.”
On her way out of the park, she becomes transfixed by a giant, available billboard in Columbus Circle and thinks of Pete’s words. If she can’t have her name in lights, she’ll settle for it in two-story-tall paint. She heads to the ad agency with the $1,000 that she says (with all the innuendo a 1950s script can muster) she saved.
The ad man doesn’t want to give the time of day to this floozy in off the street, until she gets his attention by pulling the cash out of her purse in a huff. She pays $630 of her savings to put her name on the billboard for the minimum three months.
From the moment they begin painting the simple sign featuring just her name and a feminine border, she’s got her money’s worth from the thrill alone. (But first she does have to holler up to the painters that it’s “Glover,” not “Clover,” which they quickly repair.) She’ll find any excuse to go by her sign–including being driven round and round the Columbus Circle roundabout to view it over and over.
In the meantime, the soap company that typically advertised in that spot is hopping mad that the ad agency didn’t automatically renew their sign. They surmise that the bimbo doesn’t have any real need for a billboard, so the big businessmen call the little lady in to make her an offer she can’t refuse: They’ll give her money back, plus an extra $500 to abandon the sign. She refuses.
They can’t believe it. Why on earth would she not want a handsome profit on such a silly sign? She has no explanation to give them, other than: It’s hers. She paid for it. She’s keeping it.
Desperate to get that sign back, they call her back into the office and offer her six signs around New York (including one in lights) in exchange for the one Columbus Circle sign. She agrees–and also accepts an evening “business meeting” with the soap company’s bachelor president (played by Peter Lawford).
Her fame explodes overnight. Everyone wants to know “who or what is Gladys Glover?” She starts appearing on TV and radio. People stop her on the street for autographs. She becomes the model for that soap company. Suddenly, she’s a national hero to some, laughingstock to others. To her, she’s just loving the fame.
Before we conclude the synopsis of this pleasant, harmless comedy, let’s fast forward to 2010 and take a look at the reality remake that is occurring this very day:
Enter a newly unemployed 32-year-old veteran. He’s recently been fired from his job in the military. Perhaps, like Gladys, it’s because his hips had grown too big, but we don’t know, because he and the military aren’t telling.
We do know, however, that he’s got a little over $10,000 that he says he has saved (and the media and establishment politicians have maximum innuendo dripping from their lips and pens as they utter “saved”).
For reasons he doesn’t explain, he goes to the SC Democrat Party agency headquarters to buy himself a giant space on the 2010 primary ballot. He too is rebuffed by the chairman. She tries to talk him out of it. He’s not going to be able to afford staff or anything to run a campaign. Besides, he’s got the wrong type of check. He’s determined, and not discouraged. He goes out and comes back with the right check and signs the papers.
Perhaps, like Gladys, he then just enjoys going and looking at the sample ballot online–or seeing his name printed in the newspapers in their candidate roundups, making sure that they spell it “Greene,” not “Green.” Who’s to begrudge him his dream? He has paid for it. He has said he thought about it during his service in Korea. Perhaps this is even something he had prepared for while getting his political science degree at the University of South Carolina. Perhaps he simply wants to make his ailing dad proud. Perhaps this is the quicker route to fame than trying to get cast on Survivor or Big Brother or The Pickup Artist. Whatever it is, he is now an official candidate in the Democratic primary for US Senate.
But like the mighty businessmen making an initial assessment of dum-dum Gladys, the party bigwigs figure he is just some stupid guy, and they don’t bother looking into him at all. It isn’t like he has taken the only billboard spot. He’s a nobody who will get no votes when matched up against their eminent, beloved crony. They have nothing to worry about. Their main concern is where to have a victory party. But the party turns sour as the returns pour in. The “himbo” wins. He doesn’t just win; he trounces their guy. These gobsmacking results can’t possibly be valid. Why, everyone knows that they are so powerful and controlling of their peon voters, it has to be a conspiracy against them.
As they rant and rave, his fame explodes overnight. Everyone wants to know “who or what is Alvin Greene?” He starts appearing on TV and radio. People, no doubt, stop him on the street for autographs. Better yet, fake websites and twitter accounts are created in his honor.
Now he has the one and only prime billboard space the party so desperately wants–the one on the voting machines in November. They can’t just give him his money back with a little gratuity to scrub his name off the ballot. But remember, he’s just a simpleton that surely will wither under pressure. They call him to ask him to resign. He has the effrontery to refuse.
They can’t believe it. Why on earth would he, of all people, want to stay on the ballot? He has no explanation to give them, other than: It’s his spot. He won it. He’s keeping it.
They harrumph and bluster. They call him a “plant.” They threaten and ridicule. They send “a party official” to his house to discuss his abandoning the race, all to no avail.
And so we’re now at the point where we’ll have to break out the popcorn, to wait and see what bigger, better things the party has to offer, to see if it parallels the rest of Gladys’ story. We do know that they can’t trade him six other ballot slots for the one they want, though the jobs that Sestak and Romanoff didn’t accept are still lying around.
But, like Gladys’ deal, any suitable bribe will have to fit with his unstated reasons for running in the first place. If he wanted fame, he has probably gotten more of it than he expected. If he truly wanted to be a US Senator, he has wildly exceeded any sane person’s dreams by getting onto the general election ballot. In any case, like Gladys, he has become a national hero to some, and a laughingstock to others.
To bring Gladys’ tale to a conclusion, her ride on the fame rollercoaster just had to play itself out until the thrill became ordinary and she risked losing the guy she didn’t know she wanted (Lemmon).
With Greene, the carnival ride has only just begun. This being South Carolina politics, it’s likely to be increasingly hair-raising and spine-jarring long before it becomes ho-hum. Greene may truly be wanting to “put his hands in air and wave ’em like he just don’t care” and have the joyride of his life. The story behind his exaggerated obscenity charge, however, hints that Greene would probably like to have a nice girl in his life, although it’s crystal clear that he has absolutely no clue on how to approach women.
Perhaps that’s the angle the SC Democrats need to take to bring our modern-day Gladys Glover’s story to the same conclusion: by laying off the vinegar and using some honey–getting him to withdraw with an offer of a tutor in how to be a gentleman and a membership on Match.com.
For a glimpse of the fabulous Judy Holliday, we recommend viewing this “It Should Happen To You” trailer until you can see the whole thing on Turner Classic Movies on June 21 at 4:15pm EDT:
Update: Smitty at TheOtherMcCain has identified a potential mate for Alvin Greene. Click the link to find out the mystery lady.