Play It Again, Sam


AN INTERCEPTED communication to Woody Allen from M. Deacon Dake '73, First Class Marshal:

"Dear Mr. Allen:

"Please do not discard this letter. It is not a fan letter, so I will appreciate it if you read through to the end.

"I am writing on behalf of the Harvard Class of 1973 to ask you to be the keynote speaker at the annual Class Day Ceremony on June 13, 1973 in Harvard Yard.

"You may be wondering why we are asking you to be the speaker on this austere occasion. Hey, hey, well, frankly I am not sure myself how you came to be selected. I suppose my classmates are great admirers of your acting and writing talents. Also, as I remember it now, your name was listed first on the ballot because your last name begins with 'A'..."


And that, probably, is why the First Marshal of the Class of 1973 sent off the Class Day speaking invitation to the wacked-out Mr. Allen a couple of weeks ago. There would seem to be no other rationale for his selection by the Senior Class other than order of call on a preferential ballot for Class Day speakers.

Judging from the overall outcome of the balloting, though, the minds of seniors are working in some bizarre patterns. Following Allen in the balloting were television commentator Walter Cronkite, comedian Bill Cosby, filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock, and wonder boy comedian Dick Cavett. Madame Binh, Class Marshal Dake reports, finished seventh.

As of yesterday, there had been no response from Woody; Paul Good of the Alumni Office was trying to contact Allen's agent. For the sake of Class Day austerity, though, may we all hope that both Allen and his agent have dropped off the face of the earth.

Just how Allen came out atop the poll of seniors is unclear. Not even half of the class voted. I, for one, never saw a ballot--certainly not one headed by Woody Allen, Walter Cronkite and Madame Binh--and I eat most meals in the dining halls, where the voting took place.

It was, of course, magnanimous of the Class Committee to hold a preferential ballot; until recent years, the Committee chose the Class Day speaker on its own. Unfortunately, though, as one Committee member said last week, "I'm not sure that people took the poll seriously."

That may be something of an understatement. Allen won the preferential poll by such a wide margin (688 to 381 for Cronkite) that the Class Committee felt compelled to brush aside its reservations and abide by the ballot. Generally, one Committee member confided, "most of the idiots got the votes." So much for the democratic process.

Perchance, if Providence is kind, Woody will be tied up on June 13 making his latest film, whatever and wherever it may be. Make no mistake, Woody Allen can be a marvelously absurd figure, ordering 1200 hamburgers to go for his revolutionary cadre in the middle of a Brazilian rain forest and then running the check. And not many humorists would undertake the filming of Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Sex*.

As a Class Day speaker, however, Woody leaves a little to be desired. Usually, the Class Day address carries with it some political or social import. Somehow, Woody does not fit the mold of past speakers. The last five years provide a good contrast.

Mrs. Martin Luther King spoke in 1968, just three months after her husband's assassination. Allard K. Lowenstein, the man who fashioned the Dump Johnson Movement in 1968, gave the address the following year. Herbert Holloman, the former assistant Secretary of Commerce under Presidents Kennedy and Johnson and now President of the University of Oklahoma, was here in 1970. The speaker in 1971 was Jimmy Breslin (the nearest thing to Woody Allen but still an outspoken political figure), and last year it was New York Times columnist Tom Wicker.

But in 1973, Woody Allen's personality crisis may be served up for seniors, parents and visiting dignitaries.