Texas Senate candidate Beto O’Rourke is apologizing for once criticizing a Broadway musical with actresses “whose only qualifications seem to be their phenomenally large breasts and tight buttocks.”
In 1991, the 19-year-old O’Rourke reviewed the Broadway musical “The Will Rogers Follies” for the Columbia Daily Spectator, the university’s student newspaper. Writing under the byline Robert O’Rourke, he panned the performance as “one of the most glaring examples of the sickening excesses and moral degradations of our culture.”
He went on to bemoan the bevy of “perma-smile actresses whose only qualifications seem to be their phenomenally large breasts and tight buttocks.”
The review in the Oct. 10, 1991, edition of the Spectator, which according to an archive search was the only article he wrote for the newspaper, offers another glimpse of the former life of the Texas Senate candidate, who has given Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) an unexpectedly serious reelection challenge. It also shows how drastically the sensitivities surrounding descriptions of women have changed over the past three decades: While it’s unclear whether O’Rourke was criticizing the musical’s use of scantily-clad women for effect or commenting on their bodies himself, his prose, in hindsight, is jarring either way.
“Basically, the show documents the life of Will Rogers, the ‘lassoing fool,’ who rose from being an insignificant side show attraction to one of the more prominent political pundits and cultural statesmen in our history. Yet it is produced and directed in such a showy, glitzy, and ultimately, tacky manner, that one cannot help feeling disgusted throughout the show. Keith Carradine in the lead role is surrounded by perma-smile actresses whose only qualifications seem to be their phenomenally large breasts and tight buttocks.”
In a statement sent to POLITICO shortly after this story was published, O’Rourke offered an apology.
“I am ashamed of what I wrote and I apologize. There is no excuse for making disrespectful and demeaning comments about women,” he said.
While O’Rourke was no fan of the production, which had a more than two-year run at the Palace Theatre, the musical went on to win a half-dozen Tony Awards.
The column was flagged to POLITICO by a person who opposes O’Rourke’s Senate campaign.
O’Rourke, who has acknowledged his arrests for DUI and trespassing in the mid-1990s, ended his review with a caveat.
“One thing that should be taken into consideration, however, is that I was the youngest person in the crowd by about 60 years,” he wrote. “Though I found it revolting, most people from that long-ago, faraway generation really enjoyed the show, and were very pleased with the performances.”