1980-1989: The Malign Comedy

By the shores of the Atlantic / By the PCB-drenched water / Stands the Castle and Casino / Of the great self-idolator / Donald of the heap big Tower


A Journey Through the Hades of the Eighties

The Sixties were so noble.
The Fifties really swell.
The Me Decade just stayed alive.
The Eighties have been Hell.

Forget about the crackheads,
Irangate, the New Right.
Stare into the eyes of Povich
If you really want a fright.

The movies all are remakes;
No smoking, drink, or sex.
Want to get your future back?
Buy Spielberg’s solar specs.

Elsewhere people crowd the streets
To demand democracy.
Thank God we have the freedom
To watch them on TV.

We’ve stumbled in a toxic dump.
It seems we’ve lost our way.
Let’s face the devils in our flesh
And make the guilty pay.

As the dawn’s early light
To Twilight Zone is fading,
Abandon hope, you’re entering:


In an endless office building
They crawl from floor to floor
Each time they think they have it all,
The demons howl for more.

They have no secretaries
Everyone is just the same,
They all are yelling “Me!”

There’s Wall Street’s Jerry Rubin.
No beard, he looks so thin.
He wrote a book called Do It.
Now it’s done to him.

And now it’s time for Letterman,
One of their demigods.
He’s doing stupid pet tricks
Encaged with rabid dogs.

Pity Hope and Michael,
Those thirtysomething trendies.
They’ve lost their socks
In bonds and stocks:
New neighbors to the Bundys.

The Big Chill gang are sobbing
About ideals they had;
They’re very fond of Motown
They used to be so rad.

Like a swarm of Kafka’s roaches
They squirm up to the top.
Soon their hairy insect legs
Can’t fit in their Reeboks.

By the time they reach the corner suite
Atop Hell’s gaping chasm,
Their upward climb’s devolved them
To a mass of protoplasm.


An excremental cineplex
Fills with the wails and screams
Of the kids whose birth entitled them
Th clutter up the screens.

Emilio and Keifer,
Rae Dawn and Moon Unit.
Why work to make yourself a name?
Just let your “Jr.” do it.

Ally, Judd, and Ringwald
Have served their share of slop.
Now they serve Breakfast Club Specials
In Brooklyn coffeeshops.

In an empty VIP room
Where no one famous ever goes,
Bret and Jay and Tama
Search for sequels up their nose.

Hell is other writers,
There’s bound to be a showdown
It’s hard to tell just who is whom
When you’re a second person pronoun.


TV, TV, glowing bright
Through the day and through the night,
What infernal agencies
Dare package such celebrities?

Mary Hart and Vanna White,
What producer’s mind so trite
Forced your smiles into our view?
Did those who make the news make you?

Jon Bon Jovi, Ax! Rose,
Bimbos from your videos,
Michael Jackson, pompous Sting,
Strung up by your guitar string.

No more books, Shirley MacLaine,
Crystals have replaced your brain.
Abducted by a UFO
Now Mars can boo your Vegas show.

Newsmen shrill and fatuous,
Stale cliches rehashed for us.
Donaldson, Buchanan, Will,
Wallow now in your own swill.

Mirror, mirror, on Hell’s wall,
Cher’s not wearing clothes at all.
Gone the Lycra perjury:
It’s not LaLanne, but surgery!

Tangled in her lingerie
Madonna fights her panting way
To kiss her one and only’s lips.
So hard when you’re a narcissist.

And in keeping with this decade’s
Digital technology,
970-HELL’s been reserved
For personal penology.

Your boss, your mate, your agent,
Noisy neighbors ‘cross the wall,
Maybe just an editor
Who won’t return your call,
Snooty nightclub doormen,
Perhaps a former flame …
Make use of space below
To fax in every name:



Look, that must be Norman
Working as the doorman
At the Martinique Hotel
For welfare families.

There’s his wife Midge Decter,
Hopes it won’t affect her
Answering the telephones
For theGMHC

Here comes Jeane Kirkpatrick,
Looking geriatric,
Life has no more meaning
Minus cold war enemies.

Oh, and Hilton Kramer
Offers no disclaimer
For his new employment
At Kostabi’s factories.


The Hell they conjured for us
Is the one to which they’re doomed.
In Naugahyde and brimstone
Their lives are now consumed.

Tummy Faye for Mary Kay
Trudges door to door
Her face devoid of Nair and rouge
Mascara never more.

And Swaggart bawling like a babe
As Bakker moans and groans,
Panhandling God for mercy
And sex lines on their phones.

The meaning of humility
They’ve been forced to search:
They’ve opened up a shoeshine stand
Outside a Harlem church.


They misdirected people’s anger
With visions of blind rage.
Now their alter egos
Have gone on a rampage.

Rambo’s AK-47
Pumps Rocky full of lead.
The Terminator creeps toward
Maria Shriver’s bed.

Dirty Harry’s in the subway
On the prowl for Bernie Goetz.
Billy Martin buys an Uzi
He can use upon the Mets.

Freddie slashes Morton Downey
In a vicious’ratings test.
Now Freddie’s got a talkshow
Where he disembowels each guest.

Lisa Sliwa strangles Sharpton
While Geralda’s on the mend …
Uh-oh, turn that camera round,
It’s pointing at Sean Penn!

The fury that’s been conjured
ls ticking like a bomb,
Tossed back and forth forever
‘Tween Ed Koch and Farrakhan.


They’ve spilled out their oil
On our virgin beach,
Demolished our housing
To put up boutiques,
Leveraged our future,
For corporate ID,
Taken us over with hostility.

Ivan Boesky, inside man
He sells junk with Milken.
In Hell they use their acumen
Selling condos in Iran.

Carl Icahn, Frank Lorenzo,
Locked alive inside Nintendo.
PATCO members man the joystick …
I’ll stop here before you get sick.

By the shores of the Atlantic
By the PCB-drenched water
Stands the Castle and Casino
Of the great self-idolator.
Donald of the heap big Tower,
Of the Taj Mahal and Plaza,
Homeless since he got Alzheimer’s,
His own name he can’t remember.
Was it Merv? Perhaps Ivana?


A writhing web of serpents
Slithers round the molting forms
Of the slanderers and sophists
Who used PR to disinform.

Half human and half reptile
Sucking down their own tall tales,
That little snake’s Atwater,
The big one’s Roger Ailes.

There’s Haig the saber rattler,
And Helms the horny toad.
Newt Gingrich, oozing ethics,
Drinks the poison that he sowed,

While Falwell and Ms. Schlafly,
Lizard features unconcealed,
Crawl beneath a rock to hide
From the falling Star Wars shield.


In a glowing toxic wasteland
Beside a pestilential sea
The men who slashed our hopes and dreams
Repay their treachery.

They didn’t keep the public trust,
They didn’t feed the poor,
They let the greedy rob us blind,
They didn’t mind the store.

They bankrupted our country
To bankroll bombs and guns,
Now they’re buried to their necks
In hot plutonium.

Ever-faithful Ollie,
His words so darned heartfelt,
Lying in a molten pool
As his medals melt.

Bill Casey and Poindexter
Left a cake out in Iran;
Now they’re baked by radiation
For the secret state they planned.

David Stockman, trickle-downer,
Said kids should eat more ketchup.
He’s fallen through the safety net;
The Fed can’t raise the wretch up.

Burford, Watt, and Deaver,
Sam Pierce and Edwin Meese,
Crushed beneath the mess they’ve made,
Decaying piece by piece.

At the center of the circle,
A photo-op of starkness,
Hail to the chief of deficit:

His left leg is Indifference
His right leg’s made of Greed,
His torso is a calloused void
That feels no other’s need.

Beyond the profit of the day
His demon eyes can’t see;
One hand proffers crack cocaine,
The other HIV.

Like a string of wienie links,
From his mouth doth hang
The dynasty of lowest Hell,
The Oval Office Gang.

Big George gulps down Danforth
Like a hungry alligator;
His legs, in turn, are in the throat
Of the Great Communicator.

Gipper’s head is poking out
Of Nancy’s smacking lips,
Herself within the Demon’s mouth
Up to her bony hips.

Disappearing into the jaws
Of our Eternal Foe,
She cringes back in mortal fear
And just shrieks,” NO! NO! NO!”

This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on February 12, 2020