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Edge Cases & Transcription Notes

Note: Location of the Slackmeyer Home


Mar 31, 1971 - Marilou Slackmeyer proclaims their family "the happiest in New Jersey".

May 5, 1971 - Mark Slackmeyer is identified as a scion of "the Forest Hill Slackmeyers".

The first result of a Google search for "Forest Hill" "New Jersey" is the affluent Forest Hill neighborhood in Newark, New Jersey. Newark is only 13 miles from New York City, which explains Mark’s construction job (Jul 5, 1971) and his eventual firing (Jul 22, 1971) by New York City Mayor John V. Lindsay.

Note: Location of the Dowling Home


When Calvin asks B.D. where he is from on Jan 19, 1971, B.D. responds that he was born and raised "in the heartlands of America", which suggests the Midwest. He goes on to mention seeing "negroes toiling under the sun", which not only reveals his own racial insensitivity, but suggests that he was raised in an area with a large rural black population, and perhaps a tradition of sharecropping, indicative of a former slave state. As it happens, Missouri is the only former slave state among those commonly considered part of the midwest.

Other key evidence in favor of Missouri includes the fact that before being laid off, B.D.'s father worked at an aircraft factory. Prior to its merger with Boeing, the aircraft company McDonnell Douglas was headquartered in St. Louis, Missouri, making that state (both then and now) one of the greatest centers of the industry... along with California, Texas, and Washington State, none of which are particularly likely for their own reasons.

Given the possibility that my analysis is false, however, I'll wait to move the Dowling Home location (which may need to be supplemented with a Dowling Hometown parent location) beneath Missouri until I have an independent case for the state's inclusion.

Note: Is Speechwriter "Patrick" Pat Buchanan?


On Feb 26, 1974, the strip introduces speechwriter Patrick, whose identity is never further clarified. This may be intended as an appearance or Uncle Duke-style pastiche of prominent conservative figure (and one-time candidate for the Republican presidential nomination) Pat Buchanan, who at the time was working as a speechwriter for Nixon.

Note: Calvin’s Football Cameos


Starting Oct 19, 1971, after much of his role as a broad voice for African-American concerns had been assumed by Rufus "Thor" Jackson, the black radical Calvin began appearing in B.D.’s football huddles, wearing jersey number "30".

The jersey number "30" had been used in the context of a huddle many times before, but this was the first time Calvin was recognizably shown to wear it. On those few previous occasions where identifying features of the wearer were not fully obscured by other players, the wearer was rendered as white, rather than black, most recently on Sep 5, 1971.

A different player nicknamed "Cal" also appeared in the football huddle on at least one occasion before black radical Calvin’s first appearance in that context, on Sep 6, 1971. The ethnicity of the player is not shown, however, and he is not wearing jersey number "30", which also appears in the strip.

Calvin’s mostly silent appearances in the football huddle are numerous, extensive, and still ongoing. On Sep 1, 1974, for example, in a strip only one day removed from the current end of the dataset, the player wearing jersey number "30" is colored as black, and is therefore still presumably meant to represent Calvin.

Note: Black Revolutionary Protest Storyline


The black revolutionary protest storyline that begins on Mar 11, 1971, with the revelation that Calvin is a member of the Black Panthers, and ends on Mar 20, 1971, with Calvin’s trial, is based on the 1970 Black Panther trials in New Haven, Connecticut.

New Haven, Connecticut is home to Yale University, strip author Garry Trudeau’s alma mater and the original inspiration for Doonesbury’s fictional setting of Walden College. Notably, the public statement made by Walden College President Mr. King on Mar 13, 1971 is nearly identical to one made by his real-life counterpart Kingman Brewster, president of Yale University.

Despite the "Free Robert" poster visible in the background of Mar 16, 1971, the plight of noted black revolutionary Robert F. Williams, who had lately returned from exile, is probably not central to the aims of the protest.

Note: March 20, 1973 Signage Text


The signage text scrawled on the wall on Mar 20, 1973 is extensive and difficult to decipher.

It appears to include a phone number in area code 203 (which encompasses the city of New Haven, Connecticut) and exchange code 432 (which seems largely reserved for strip author Garry Trudeau’s alma mater, Yale University). The last four digits seem impossible to fully decipher, and even if the full number was once valid, it has almost certainly since been disconnected or reassigned.

Immediately below the phone number is a symbol that is also difficult to decipher. My best guess is that it is a full set of five tally marks, written to the most common American/European standard.

The five-digit number below the word "pizza" is of unknown purpose. If parsed as a zip code, as seems most likely, it refers to an area in or near Roanoke, VA, which has no obvious significance. The rendering in panels two through four suggest that there may be some punctuation, such as a dash or interpunct, between the first two digits.

Indecipherable and possibly variable content is found between these digits and the final static, decipherable content: an arrow-pierced heart, above the letters "AH".

Note: Nova Scotia: Tomorrow’s Playground


A contemporary view on this text, presented in the throwaway panels on Dec 2, 1973, would have it refer to climate change and global warming, a process by which traditionally uninhabitable northern climes become warmer, and therefore more inviting.

Our understanding of climate science was not so advanced in 1973, however; the term "global warming", for example, was first used only in 1975. Given this, I’m not sure what the meaning of this gag is.

Edge Case: Subject Characters when Identity is Uncertain


William & McGeorge Bundy
On May 8, 1971, and again on Mar 8, 1973, the surname "Bundy" is mentioned. All other elements of the context of each strip are fully decipherable, but there were two prominent individuals with that surname active in similar policy circles in the 1960’s and 1970’s: the brothers William and McGeorge Bundy.

For various reasons (explained more fully elsewhere) I have decided that both mentions refer to McGeorge Bundy.

Sister Angela
On Mar 18, 1973, Rev. Scot Sloan suggests that Thor tell progressive true stories, rather than fairy tales, to his baby sister Norma Jean. Among the stories Rev. Sloan suggests he tell is that of "Sister Angela". A Google search for that exact phrase revealed no prominent person commonly or formally known by the name, which means that the word "sister" was probably used to mean a comrade-in-arms in a progressive cause. Therefore, it is likely that this mention refers to the political activist Angela Davis, who was also mentioned by her full name on Aug 6, 1972.

Mike Douglas
On Mar 22, 1973, B.D.’s television-addicted father reflects fondly over dinner on a great day of television. He mentions having watched The Dating Game, Edge of Night, Mike Douglas, and the [evening] news with Howard K. [Smith]. When informed that it is seven o’clock at night, he rushes from the dinner table to watch Star Trek.

There were two prominent men named Mike (or Michael) Douglas on television at the time. One was a former big-band singer and the host of a successful talk show, and the other was the son of movie star Kirk Douglas, who starred in the popular television show The Streets of San Francisco, and who would one day become a movie star in his own right.

I’ve decided that this mention refers to the former individual, for these reasons:

First, Mr. Dowling mentions the name Mike Douglas while listing shows he has already seen as of seven o’clock that evening. While The Mike Douglas Show might have aired in the daytime, The Streets of San Francisco, as a popular first-run drama series, would have aired at a later hour, like eight or nine o’clock.

(The Dating Game was, of course, a game show; Edge of Night was a soap opera. Star Trek was a drama series, but had by then finished its original run and been sold into syndication.)

Second, while the former person was known professionally by the nickname Mike, such that the very name of his talk show used that moniker, I have discovered no evidence that the actor Michael Douglas ever used the nickname in any capacity.

"John" (1)
I’ve decided that the character Nixon calls "John" on Aug 11, 1973 is distinct from John Ehrlichman, who is also mentioned in the strip, and is therefore either John Dean or John Mitchell. Dean had by this time distanced himself from the Nixon administration and decided to cooperate with the prosecutors and Congress, which probably precluded any possibility of commutation or pardon. Thus, the person to whom the President is speaking is probably John Mitchell.

H.R. "Alice" Schwartzman, III
The name jokingly given to Watergate buff Alice Schwartzman by her fellow barflies on Aug 29, 1973 incorporates portions of names of known Watergate figures for humorous effect. The initials "H.R." certainly refer to H.R. "Bob" Haldeman, as does the use of "Alice" as a nickname that bears no obvious relation to the first and middle initials. The suffix "III" almost certainly refers to prominent Watergate conspirator-turned-state’s-witness John Dean, III… although F.B.I. director L. Patrick Gray had the suffix as well.

Debutantes
On Aug 31, 1973, Alice Schwartzman relates an anecdote from her past: when, as a sixteen-year-old girl, she watched the arrival of society debutantes to the International Debutante Ball at the Park Plaza Hotel in New York City. She identifies four by first name, though it is not clear that she is referring to individuals rather than archetypes: Gloria, Wendy, Consuela, and Christina.

In the same strip, she identifies herself as an "ol’ lady". Using a generous definition of the term, we can surmise that she is at least fifty years old in 1973, and therefore was sixteen years old no later than 1939. Thus, the "Gloria" to which she refers is certainly not the obvious "Gloria Vanderbilt", who would have been no older than fifteen herself. The names "Wendy" and "Christina" are too common to return useful results. "Consuela" may be a misremembered "Consuelo Vanderbilt", but her debut occurred in 1895, and in Europe rather than New York, to increase her chances of scoring a titled beau.

Therefore, it is unlikely that any of these mentions refer to an actual individual.

Bowie
On Sep 2, 1973, the framed poster hanging on Mark’s wall has text that is difficult to decipher. I’ve decided that it may read "Bowie", and refer to David Bowie (which would make chronological sense; Bowie first gained notice in 1969 with his song "Space Oddity"), but I am not confident enough in that assessment to base a Subject Character record on it.

"John" (II)
On Sep 17, 1973, as President Nixon and his counsel Leonard Garment review transcripts of the secret tapes for damaging statements, Mr. Garment highlights a particularly damning example, in which the President says: "Well, John, how’s the cover-up going?"

Before he began cooperating with prosecutors, John Dean was the chief orchestrator of the Watergate cover-up. It is my belief that Nixon would have been more likely to converse with Dean on the subject than with (John) Mitchell or (John) Ehrlichman, whose roles in the cover-up were more peripheral though still criminal. I am confident enough in this assessment to base a Subject Character record on it.

Harry, Howard, Frank, Sam, Tom, and Tina
On Sep 20, 1973, an (obviously fictional) menial employee of ABC News named Carlos anchors the newscast in place of several more qualified individuals, all listed by first name, who are absent.

Harry = Harry Reasoner
Howard = Howard K. Smith
Frank = Frank Reynolds
Sam = Sam Donaldson
Tom = [Unknown]
Tina = [Unknown]

Tom and Tina may refer to real individuals as well, but neither are prominent enough to merit mention on ABC News’ Wikipedia page.

Mr. Secret Tapes
On Sep 23, 1973, the identifier "Mr. Secret Tapes" probably refers to the individual most associated with the Watergate tapes: President Richard Nixon himself.

The Little Jap
On Nov 16, 1973 Phred forms the Cambodian Refugee Lobby and tells each refugee to choose one congressman or senator to speak to. One refugee chooses Senator Howard Baker, another chooses Representative Carl Albert, and a third chooses "the little Jap".

Japanese-American congressmen and senators at this time in 1973 included:
Senator Daniel Inouye of Hawaii
Representative Spark Matsunaga of Hawaii
Representative Patsy Mink of Hawaii

Unsourced information acquired via Internet search puts Senator Inouye’s height at 5 feet, 5 1/2 inches, about four inches less than the average for U.S. males. I have no information on the height of the other two individuals on the list.

Given that the Cambodian Refugee Lobby becomes the primary concern of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in subsequent strips, membership in that committee or equivalent House committees would help reinforce a selection. Unfortunately, I cannot find reliable aggregate data on committee memberships in past Congresses.

Therefore, I lack sufficient data to make an educated guess on the identity of "the little Jap", much less base a Subject Character Record on it.

"Chairman" of the "Committee"
On Dec 3, 1973, an unnamed Senator explains to Senator Mike that an unspecified Chairman has agreed to have his Committee hear the plight of the Cambodian Refugee Lobby.

If this were the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, as is suggested by the strip published Nov 24, 1973, the Chairman would be Arkansas Senator J. William Fulbright. On Dec 8, 1973, however, as the story concludes, Phred tells pilot Livingston Plimpton that he gave testimony to a Senate Subcommittee. Therefore, the Chairman referred to here is unknown.

"An Aging but Curiously Unretired Crooner"
This oblique reference on Dec 9, 1973 is undoubtedly to Frank Sinatra, who became great friends with then-Vice President Agnew during his visits to the Nixon White House, and remained friends even after Agnew resigned in disgrace.

The Special Prosecutor
The mention of "The Special Prosecutor" on Dec 24, 1973 refers not to Archibald Cox, who was fired Oct. 20, 1973 as part of the Saturday Night Massacre, but to Leon Jaworski, who was appointed to the position Nov. 1, 1973 by Robert Bork. The gap from Nov. 1, 1973 to the publication date of Dec. 24, 1973 is seven weeks, four days, greater than the strip’s normal lead time of six weeks, which means that the reference to Jaworski was probably specifically intended.

"…For his role in the Milk Deal…"
On Apr 23, 1974, during the presentation of the WBBY Watergate Awards, an unnamed person is nominated for a supporting conspirator award "for his role in the Milk Deal". Charles Colson and Herbert Kalmbach were the two Nixon-aligned figures most associated with the deal, which bolstered an account that funded the secret ratfucking campaign. Colson, however, was also involved in better-known aspects of Watergate, which makes it more likely this mention refers to Kalmbach. I am not sufficiently confident in this assessment to base a Subject Character Record on it, however.

"the great March 21 meeting in the oval office"
The three participants in this meeting were then-President Richard Nixon, the White House Counsel John Dean, and Chief of Staff H. R. Haldeman, who entered the room while the conversation was in progress. Zonker and Mike read contiguous excerpts from this meeting, which may represent the contribution of one or two participants:

Zonker: "Yes, of course we could raise that much money.."
Mike: "..but it would be wrong!"

While these excerpts summarize very well the nature of this meeting, in which the participants advance a criminal conspiracy to obstruct justice while trying to limit their own liability, they do not reflect the words as actually spoken. Thus, it is art, rather than a science, to map each excerpt to an actual participant; I don’t think I could do so with any confidence.

Failing that, I could add a Subject Character Record for each participant in the meeting, except that the identifier (participants in "the meeting") would then be an aggregate entity, which I generally do not favor with a record.

Bill Simon’s NBC Profile
The biographical information related in the "profile" of Bill Simon that begins on Jun 10, 1974 and ends on Jun 15, 1974 seems to be entirely fabricated.

BROS. 404 WEDS
This text, visible on a poster on Jul 8, 1974, may refer to the Allman Brothers Band, who had peaked in popularity in 1972-73… but the text fragments "404" and "WEDS" seem to have no relevance in that context. Either way, I am not confident enough of this mention to base a Subject Character record on it. Similar signage appears on Jul 13, 1974.

Kinks, Stones, Elton, Sly, Chapin, Muldaur, Gladys and the Pips, Daniel Ellsberg
This long list of possible guests to the party Rolling Stones editor "Yawn" Wenner plans to throw for Zonker Harris on Jul 11, 1974 poses a few problems. The "Kinks" and "Stones" are both aggregate mentions, and thus do not merit Subject Character records. "Gladys and the Pips" is the full name of a band, and thus may not merit a record, even though an individually notable member (Gladys Knight) is named within the band name. Of the rest:

Elton would, of course, be Elton John, whose greatest chart success, "Crocodile Rock", had recently been released. Sly is almost certainly Sly Stone. Chapin is almost certainly Harry Chapin. Muldaur is almost certainly Maria Mudaur… and Ellsberg is self-explanatory.

Edge Case: Subject Characters for Religious Figures


I’ve decided to track mentions and references of historical figures, even when long dead, just as I do for qualified fictional characters and contemporary persons. This practice reaches an edge case when it comes to figures of disputed historical authenticity, who appear only in religious texts and therefore may not even have existed.

I have decided that such instances do not merit a Subject Character record.

Apr 1, 1971 mentions Jesus along with the historical figures Marx and Gandhi.

Jan 14, 1972 mentions the biblical figures David, Job, Abraham, and Moses.

Edge Case: Subject Characters for External Fictional Characters


Occasionally, a strip will mention or reference a fictional character originally defined beyond the confines of the Doonesbury universe.

I have decided that such instances do not merit a Subject Character record.

Mar 18, 1972 mentions the character "Jimmy Olsen" from DC Comics’ Superman universe.

May 5, 1972 mentions the iconic Disney character "Mickey Mouse".

More occasionally, a strip will feature dialogue spoken by an external fictional character played by a real actor.

Jan 6, 1971 may include dialogue spoken by a character played by John Wayne. My decision not to ascribe any individual lines of dialogue to the actor is at least alleviated in this case by the independently qualified use of a Subject Character record for the actor.

Sep 30, 1973 may include dialogue spoken by characters played by the actors Efrem Zimbalist, Jr. and William Reynolds, among others. No text is now ascribed to them, and I’m not certain the appearance of their characters even merits a Subject Character record for the actors.

Edge Case: Subject Characters for Non-Notable Persons


On Apr 9, 1972, each of three candidates for the Democratic nomination for President - Hubert Humphrey, Ed Muskie, and George Wallace - highlight their humble origins by referring to their respective fathers: a small-town pharmacist, an immigrant tailor, and a "redneck" farmer.

None of the three fathers are notable enough to merit their own Wikipedia entries, although this itself is not a certain barometer of whether a person merits a Subject Character record. For example, neither Vincent R. Mancusi (the warden of Attica Correctional Facility during the 1971 riot) nor Jerry V. Wilson (the Chief of Police in Washington, D.C. during the 1971 peace protests) have Wikipedia entries, but both merit Subject Character records for their references on Mar 18, 1973 and Aug 24, 1971, respectively.

In this singular case, I have decided that the references to the candidates’ respective fathers do not merit Subject Character records.

On Apr 14, 1974, Joanie tells Ellie that the personal statement she wrote for her law school applications focused on a specific event in the life of German painter Paula Modersohn-Becker: specifically "[law]suits with her dealer" that marred a visit to Paris (likely for the centennial exhibition).

Unfortunately, although Paula herself has a Wikipedia entry, it makes little mention of the visit to Paris, and none at all of any lawsuit or dealer. Most other biographical sources appear to be in German, and are therefore difficult to search or read. Even if the "dealer" and "lawsuits" were not fabricated by Trudeau, it’s possible the dealer is too obscure to merit a Subject Character record.

On Jun 3, 1974, "Money Czar" Bill Simon instructs his secretary to call his wife to inform her that he will be working late. Bill Simon’s then-wife was Carol Girard Simon, who does not appear to have been notable while living. After her death from breast cancer in 1995 various endowments were made in her name, such that a Google search for the phrase "carol g. simon" returns 155,000 results. I do not believe this mention merits a Subject Character record.

After her death from breast cancer in 1995, various endowments were made in her name

Edge Case: Subject Characters/Locations for Names Used as Modifiers


Occasionally, a person or place name or some word derived therefrom will be used solely as an adjective or other modifier, rather than on its own behalf.

I have decided that such instances do not merit a Subject record.

Apr 11, 1971 - Houston Oilers.
Apr 22, 1971 - Freudian Slips.
Jul 17, 1971 - Marxist Doctrines.
Jul 21, 1972 - Detroit Lions.
Nov 21, 1972 - McCarthy Hearings.
Apr 7, 1973 - The Ed Sullivan Show.
Jun 13, 1973 - Kennedy and Johnson aides.
Jul 12, 1973 - "Executive Privilege" and "Presidential Aides".
Aug 4, 1973 - Executive Clemency
Jan 20, 1974 - Harris Poll
Jan 27, 1974 - Harris Poll
Jan 28, 1974 - Ohio Turnpike
Mar 6, 1974 - Saigon Bureau
Mar 17, 1974 - Vietnamese New Year
Aug 10, 1974 - All The President’s Men

Jan 23, 1973 represents another instance of this edge case, for the compound identifier "Dean’s List". Even if I do eventually decide to add Subject records for such mentions, however, it is not clear that Trudeau intended the mention apply to the minor, long-dormant character of George the Dean.

On Mar 21, 1974, the identifier "his" in the compound identifier "his editors" refers to Roland Burton Hedley. I have decided to give him a Subject Character Record in this case.,

Edge Case: Subject Characters for Inaccurate Mentions


Occasionally, a strip will mention or reference a fictional character or real person with such disregard for the specifics of their portrayal or their true circumstances that it seems unfair to treat them the same as other, more serious instances.

On May 2, 1972, Zonker and Didi are writing a letter they intend to send to Che Guevara’s widow, who they name "Mrs. Guevara" and claim lives in Tampa. Che’s second wife and widow was actually a Cuban national named Aleida March, and I’ve found no evidence to suggest she ever even left Cuba, much less lived in the United States. Nevertheless, I’ve decided to add a Subject Character record for Aleida March in this instance.

On Feb 26, 1973, Thor tells Mike that his mother intends to adopt "a little boy". Rufus and the reader eventually learn that Mrs. Jackson only managed to adopt a girl ("Norma Jean" Jackson) instead. I’ve decided not to add a Subject Character record in this instance.

Edge Case: Subject Characters for Aggregate Entities


Often, a strip will use a single identifier, such as "family", "guys", to refer to two or more individuals. I’ve decided the vast majority of these instances do not merit a Subject Character record, and have bolded any exceptions for future review.

Feb 9, 1971 - The identifier "kids" refers to Tricia Nixon Cox and Julie Nixon Eisenhower. I have decided to add a Subject Character record for each daughter in this instance.

Mar 6, 1972 - The identifier "family" refers to an indeterminate set consisting in part of Mrs. Nguyen.

May 10, 1972 - The identifier "family" refers to an indeterminate set consisting in part of Mrs. Jackson.

Aug 2, 1972 - The identifier "family" refers to an indeterminate set consisting in part of Mrs. Doonesbury and Benjy Doonesbury.

During and after the founding of Walden Commune, numerous strips include possible mentions or references to the residents of the commune in aggregate, or some subset thereof. Some examples include Apr 18, 1972, Apr 22, 1972, May 28, 1972, May 31, 1972, Sep 19, 1972, Sep 26, 1972, Oct 9, 1972, Dec 17, 1972, Dec 24, 1972.

Similarly, after the failure of the Watergate burglary operation and the subsequent unraveling of its coverup, numerous strips include mentions or references to the burglars or conspirators in aggregate. Some examples include Aug 20, 1972, May 25, 1973, Jun 1, 1973, Jun 2, 1973, Jun 17, 1973, Jun 18, 1973, Jul 12, 1973, Jul 14, 1973, Aug 19, 1973.

May 25, 1972 - The identifier "Harvard graduates [who] thought up [the Vietnam War]" refers to an indeterminate set consisting in part of former Defense Secretary Robert McNamara.

Aug 26, 1972 - The identifier "we" refers to Mike and his road trip partner, Mark. I have decided to add a Subject Character record in this instance.

Oct 29, 1972 - The identifier "parents" refers to an indeterminate set consisting in part of Mrs. Nguyen. The use of this identifier may also represent an internal inaccuracy in the strip, since Phred’s father is elsewhere depicted as absent, and presumably deceased.

Jan 14, 1973 - The identifier "parents" refers to Mr. Allen and Judy Allen, both of whom appear in subsequent strips (which, oddly, are set before this one in the internal chronology of the series).

Mar 5, 1973 - The identifier "the administration" arguably refers to an indeterminate set consisting in part of Richard Nixon and various aides and advisors.

Mar 6, 1973 - The identifier "friends" refers to an indeterminate set consisting in part of Mike Doonesbury and Mark Slackmeyer.

Mar 18, 1973 - The identifier "the Kent State four" refers in aggregate to the four deaths resulting from the Kent State shootings.

Apr 4, 1973 - The identifier "we" refers to an indeterminate set consisting in part of B.D. Dowling and Mark Slackmeyer, as well as Mike Doonesbury.

Jun 13, 1973 - The identifier "brilliant Kennedy and Johnson aides" refers to an indeterminate set consisting in part of McGeorge and William Bundy.

Jun 14, 1973 - The identifier "your folks" refers to Mr. Harris and Mrs. Harris.

Jun 15, 1973 - The identifier "my parents" refers to Mr. Harris and Mrs. Harris.

Jun 22, 1973 - The identifier "they" refers to an indeterminate set consisting in part of "John Boy".

Jul 11, 1973 - The identifier "supreme court" refers in aggregate to the nine justices.

Jul 21, 1973 - The identifier "nine astronauts" refers in aggregate to the nine total astronauts who would reside, three at a time, in the Skylab space station.

Jul 28, 1973 - In the course of thanking several (probably fictional) NASA support personnel, as well as President Nixon, the astronauts also thank "congress" referring in aggregate to all of its membership.

Aug 4, 1973 - The "waiting list" Frank mentions likely refers in aggregate to those Watergate conspirators who were already facing legal repercussions.

Aug 20, 1973 - Given the context, the identifier "they" may refer specifically to President Nixon and Soviet Chairman Leonid Brezhnev.

Sep 1, 1973 - The "empty, lonely people" Mike mentions refers to an indeterminate set consisting in part of Alice Schwartzman and Hank.

Sep 9, 1973 - The identifier "partridge family" refers in aggregate to the fictional characters on the television show, and/or to the real actors playing them.

Sep 11, 1973 - The identifier "black table" refers to an indeterminate set consisting in part of Shades, the sole qualified fictional character therein.

Nov 26, 1973 - The identifier "weirdos" refers to an indeterminate set that likely consists in part of Mike and (more likely) Zonker.

Nov 26, 1973 - The identifier "blacks" refers to an indeterminate set that likely consists in part of Calvin.

Dec 25, 1973 - The identifier "your family" refers to Pat Nixon, Tricia Nixon Cox (present), and Julie Nixon Eisenhower.

Jan 25, 1974 - The identifier "the truckers" refers to an indeterminate set consisting in part of J.W. Snead.

Feb 25, 1974 - The identifier "we" refers to an indeterminate set consisting in part of Ron Ziegler, and likely many other Nixon Administration officials, including President Nixon himself.

Mar 4, 1974 - The identifier "some leads in Boston" refers to an indeterminate set consisting in part of Professor Charlie Green.

Mar 5, 1974 - The identifier "us all" refers in aggregate to the residents of Walden Commune, or at least the undergraduates.

Mar 17, 1974 - The identifier "stones" refers in aggregate to the Rolling Stones.

Mar 18, 1974 - The identifier "the students I talked to" refers in aggregate to Mike and Zonker.

Mar 21, 1974 - The identifier "we" refers in aggregate to Mike and Zonker.

Mar 30, 1974 - The identifier "citizens of Fritters" refers to an indeterminate set consisting in part of the father and son.

Mar 30, 1974 - The identifier "speechwriters" refers to an indeterminate set consisting in part of Patrick.

Apr 6, 1974 - The identifier "old friends" refers to an indeterminate set consisting in part of the many Nixon aides indicted for Watergate-related crimes.

Apr 8, 1974 - The identifier "the house committee" refers in aggregate to the members of the House Judiciary Committee, who were empowered to investigate the Watergate scandal and vote on articles of Impeachment.

May 21, 1974 - The identifier "we", meaning the participants in the "hush money meeting", refers to Nixon himself, H. R. Haldeman, and John Dean.

Jun 5, 1974 - The identifier "the White House" could either refer to the President himself, other members of the administration, or perhaps both.

Jun 14, 1974 - The identifier "his own children" refers in aggregate to Bill Simon’s children, which includes at least one notable person, a failed candidate for the California governorship.

Jun 21, 1974 - The identifier "they" probably refers in aggregate to members of the House Judiciary Committee.

Jul 1, 1974 - The identifier "my folks" refers to Mr. and Mrs. Harris.

Aug 12, 1974 - The identifier "you all" refers to the various Nixon aides under investigation or indictment for their involvement in the Watergate scandal.

Edge Case: Text Ascription


My current criteria for ascribing signage to characters includes that which appears on clothing worn by a character, that which is held by a character, and that which is portrayed in the strip as having been written by a character. Edge cases, for which I’ve developed no hard-and-fast rule, include text on a vehicle driven or ridden in by a character, such as the "Doonesbuggy" starting Aug 1, 1972, and text on furniture sat upon by a character.

On Sep 28, 1972, Zonker has called an assembly of the residents of Walden Commune to vote on making Joanie Caucus’s residency permanent. Only Joanie and Zonker are actually seen in-panel; the responses from the other residents, or a subset thereof, emanate from off-panel. In a corollary to my reluctance to assign Characters as Subjects for aggregate mentions and references, I am uncertain that these should warrant ascription.

On May 20, 1973, the narration preceding the condensed content of the episode of An American Family may be based upon an actual narration by an actual person, perhaps producer Craig Gilbert. I’m not certain if this text should be ascribed to him.

On Jul 12, 1973, the Supreme Court of the United States renders a decision on Executive Privilege as it applies to first lady Pat Nixon. The decision is announced by one justice, who appears in the strip, and two others are visible at his side. It is not clear, however, that any of these three justices are meant to portray or caricature actual justices on the court.

On Apr 21, 1974, a single line of text is spoken from offscreen by an unknown member of Walden Commune. Adding as characters and ascribing that text to all members of Walden pollutes my search results. It’s possible that the text should simply remain unascribed, because I can’t think of any scenario in which it *matters* who speaks it.

In the storyline that starts Jun 24, 1974 and ends Jun 29, 1974, an indeterminate group of Watergate alumni attend a reunion at the home of John Dean. Named participants include Dean, H. R. Haldeman, Donald Segretti, E. Howard Hunt, Jim McCord, and John Mitchell. John Dean’s wife Maureen is also present as hostess. Several other Watergate figures are notably not mentioned, including Liddy, Magruder, and John Ehrlichman.

Also present are a group named as "the Cubans", who are said to have "broke-and-entered together" with McCord and/or Hunt. They are not further identified, and their presence serves only to advance a joke in a single strip: that neither McCord nor Hunt can understand their native Spanish. Currently, I ascribe that text to the two of the four remaining burglars (McCord excepted) with obviously Hispanic names: Musculito Martínez and Virgilio González. Given the joking context, however, it may be best to simply leave this text unascribed.


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