Friday, December 21, 2007


Bill Strauss, R.I.P.

I was greatly saddened early this week to learn that Bill Strauss passed away at the age of 60. The New York Times has a nice article that, correctly, focuses on his amazing success as one of the founders of The Capitol Steps parody troop. His songs were smart, funny -- and pointed ("Lirty Dies," his ever-changing malapropistic ode to D.C. scandal was a classic).

I first encountered Bill Strauss in a completely different manner. He was the co-author of what I unhesitatingly say is the book that has influenced me the most over the last 15 years -- particularly my way of looking at politics. In 1992, a Republican National Committee co-worker named Eric Anderson introduced me to the book, Generations: The History of America's Fugure, 1584-2069, and I've never been the same.

It's analysis of how generational archetypes replicate through history was mind-blowing. Even the most casual reader -- one who doesn't buy into the whole concept -- can find gems of insight. Reading this book gives the best understanding to the baby boomers -- and their generational antecedents -- imaginable. It's reading this book that makes me so certain that, regardless of how well Barack Obama might be doing in the Democratic primary -- or how well he polls against likely Republican opposition -- he will not be the next president of the United States. The Boomers will never give up their power at such a (relatively) early time in their Elderhood cycle.

In any event, Strauss and his co-author Neil Howe caused me to see the world in a completely different way -- the best praise any author can receive. Apparently I wasn't alone as there are multiple web-sites devoted to Strauss and Howe's way of looking at history and discussions of that book and their subsequent works, The Fourth Turning and Millenials Rising (there are a few Facebook groups devoted to the Millenials). In any event, I can't recommend too strongly that every RT reader should check out Generations.

I met Bill in 1994 and got a chance to talk with him a few times after that.

He introduced me to the Gen-X group Third Millennium -- from which several friendships grew that exist to this day. I learned about his other life in The Capitol Steps. (Looking back, perhaps he influenced me in my own schizophrenic path of politics/journalism-stand-up/comedy.) I gave him a copy of an essay that I had written that incorporated a generational look at 90s politics. He shared with me a draft on a "Generations"-themed novel that he was working on. He invited me to share any suggestions. I liked what I saw, but, alas "Mann's Wall" apparently was never fully completed to Bill's satisfaction.

We spoke shortly after 9/11. I wanted to know whether he thought that this was the incident that triggered the new "Crisis" era. He felt that it could be, but from his reading that it was "too soon" in the cycle (a "Generations" take would suggest the next Crisis beginning in the 20-teens. With the hindsight of six years, it is beginning to feel that Bill was right.

Bill was in my thoughts recently -- I was curious to learn what he thought of the Hillary-Obama match (in the Strauss-Howe cosmology, the Baby Boom cut-off year is 1960, thus Obama would be a post-boomer/Gen-X). Anyway, I didn't get around to it. And then, I received the news by e-mail late Tuesday/early Wednesday morning.

There are few people who can be equally funny and serious, make us laugh and make us think. Bill was one of that rare breed. I will miss him.

My condolences to the Strauss family, his co-author Neil Howe and his Capitol Steps colleagues.

Labels: , , ,

Bookmark and Share

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Weblog Commenting and Trackback by AddThis Social Bookmark Button
Technorati search
Search Now:
Amazon Logo
  •  RSS
  • Add to My AOL
  • Powered by FeedBurner
  • Add to Google Reader or Homepage
  • Subscribe in Bloglines
  • Share on Facebook