King Rockefeller’s “Camelot on the Hudson”

In honor of the Legislative Correspondents’ Association annual show tomorrow night, we thought we’d set the scene for an earlier show, the association’s 71st in 1971. The play that year was a Camelot spoof, starring the A.P.’s Charles Dumas as King Laughsalot Rockefeller and Charles Holcomb of Gannett News as T. Merlin Hurd, the king’s fiscal wizard (budget director).

The event took place on Saturday, March 13, at the Thruway Hyatt House on Washington Ave., across from the Harriman Campus. Dinner was filet mignon, with apple pie and New York cheese for desert. The wine was a New York Chelois. The state’s political leadership—including Governor Nelson Rockefeller, U.S. Senator James Buckley, and New York City Mayor John Lindsay—was in attendance and prepared to be roasted by members of the press.

Program cover by Hy Rosen.

The show opened with a monologue addressed to the audience by the wizard:

Once there was a place called Camelot—

To all of us, we see it now as Albany,

A place, indeed, that makes you think a lot—

The strangest sights and sounds you’ll ever see.

For twelve long years our ruler’s been King Laughsalot,

Crusades he’s led three times to victory.

Now comes a man who hankers for the king’s spot,

He’d climb that rocky road to Albany….

The curtain rose on Camelot’s jousting field, where Democrat Arthur (Goldberg) the Pretender, played by LCA president Robert Fusco of the Troy Record, laid claim to the “throne of Albany.” The two men, accompanied by the chorus, then broke into a song (“Albany” to the tune of “Camelot”) about unplowed snow, unpaid parking tickets, state taxes and fees, and, of course, the South Mall. Rockefeller boasted, “The towers of my Mall are rising up here/I take and spend with great impunity.”

Several songs and a cameo by a two-headed Nixon-Agnew dragon later, the opponents prepared to do battle. The winner would take the throne; to the loser would go Princess Bella of Abzug, played by John McLoughlin, then a TU reporter, dressed in flowing robes and a floppy hat. (The following year, the 1972 LCA show would become the first to include female performers.)

Of course, the audience knew how the contest would end long before the curtain fell. Rockefeller had defeated Goldberg in the prior year’s gubernatorial election.

At the start of Act II, Hurd again addressed the audience:

Well, everything was beautiful—until the morning after,

When the king went to his counting house, he found not much for laughter,

He proclaimed to the land that the cupboard was bare,

So barren of cash that it gave him a scare.

He sent south to the Congress of Knights for some aid,

But it looks like he’s getting the shaft there.

The curtain opened on the throne room with the king bemoaning the dire fiscal state of his kingdom—something he had denied just the previous day. To remedy the situation, Rockefeller looked, once again, to Hurd. But the wizard lamented that the problem had grown beyond his power. “In short,” he informed the king, “we’ve run out of financial gimmicks.”

The evening ended with the promise of higher taxes to the tune of “You Made Me Love You.” The king sang, “They made me tax you/ I didn’t wanna do it.”

The closing number described Rockefeller’s “Camelot on the Hudson,” more realistically, as a place where both the South Mall and state budget “climb skyward” in tandem.

Note: The photograph of the script at the beginning of this post comes from the (not yet processed) LCA papers at University of Albany’s M. E. Grenander Department of Special Collections.

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