Bill Strauss

Remembering Bill Strauss

Dear Steps fans,

On December 18, 2007, one of the Capitol Steps co-founders, Bill Strauss, died at his home in McLean, Virginia after a long illness.

He will long be remembered as the creator of the "Lirty Dies" routine and many Capitol Steps songs. Bill was Counsel for a Senate Subcommittee when the Capitol Steps started back in 1981.

A Harvard-educated lawyer, he could have chosen a more traditional path, but instead he packed several lifetimes into his sixty years and will long be remembered.

Story on Bill's life from the Washington Post (12/22).

(Photo by Keith Stanley)

 

"You're all under arrest!" -- President Ronald Reagan

We'd just finished the show of our dreams, a show for the ages, on the southern portico of the White House, through a warm early September twilight, before an audience of three hundred that included half the Congress, much of the Cabinet, and our hosts, President and Mrs. Ronald Reagan. It had taken us seven years, but we got there.

Before we performed, the president had instructed us, through an aide, to make fun not of Democrats, senators, or congressmen, only of him. So we did. We opened the show with a parody of "Workin' 9 to 5," featuring Bill Strauss as Reagan, singing lyrics that would have gotten him shot in other latitudes and longitudes...

Workin' 9 to 10

While Bill sang, he looked at the first lady, who stared and glared, and then at Reagan, who laughed and laughed -- along with the hundred of members of Congress present, who knew the core joke about this president was how hard he was (not?) working, how much sleep (during meetings?) he was getting, and many working (on horseback?) vacations he took at his beloved ranch in the Santa Barbara mountains....

[Text from the book Sixteen Scandals: Twenty Years of Sex, Lies and Other Habits of Our Great Leaders by William Strauss and Elaina Newport. Song from the album Workin' 9 to 10.]


Read My Flips

"Who do you think I should pick as vice president?" the elder George Bush asked of us at a show in the spring of 1988.

"Pick someone funny," Elaina Newport replied.

The rest is history.

We can't claim that George Bush Sr. spent massive amounts of time consulting with the Capitol Steps (no, we weren't responsible for his famous tax increase), but that particular incident occurred on the heels of a dinner for Australian President Robert Hawke at the vice president's residence. We had arrived to find the Bush family engrossed in a game of horseshoes. Photos taken at the time depict members of the Capitol Steps tossing horseshoes dangerously close to the head of the Leader of the Free World...

So while we now feel, in hindsight, responsible for Dan Quayle being selected as vice president, at the time that he was picked, it was not immediately obvious how funny he would be -- nor the role comedians would soon play in our postmodern system of government, as a new "check and balance" on political kingmaking.

Arreste Nudilis

[Text from the book Sixteen Scandals: Twenty Years of Sex, Lies and Other Habits of Our Great Leaders by William Strauss and Elaina Newport. Song from the album Stand By Your Dan.]


Danny's First Noel

Occasionally, in the Capitol Steps history, we've been accused of causing the scandals that provide us with material. And no matter how many times we've denied having told Monica to save that dress, or Nancy Reagan to consult an astrologer, we are sometimes suspiciously ahead of the curve.

For example, in the spring of 1989, with trouble brewing in Panama, we imagined a fictitious scenario in a parody of the song "We Need a Little Christmas," which became something about needing "a little isthmus."

We Need a Little Isthmus

We sang this in the spring and summer of 1989. In early autumn, we recorded it on our Danny's First Noel Christmas album. In the fall, some D.C. radio stations played it -- and no doubt, some Pentagon brass heard it. In December, the U.S. invaded Panama. Our song was actually prophetic, right down to giving Manuel (Noriega) the business and being home by Christmas.

[Text from the book Sixteen Scandals: Twenty Years of Sex, Lies and Other Habits of Our Great Leaders by William Strauss and Elaina Newport. Song from the album Danny's First Noel.]