The names of J. Edgar Hoover, Sir William Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan don’t often appear at the same time in the same story but there is a connection when you look at certain details. Mr. Hoover’s “Secret” files are legend in the explanation of his record breaking tenure as Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation since 1924. Although his position was “at the pleasure of the President,” even President Kennedy skipped that decision, appointing Robert Kennedy as Attorney General, in theory, Mr. Hoover’s boss. Later, President Johnson was quoted as saying, when it was suggested that it offered a chance to “get rid of Hoover,” his quick reply was, “No, I would rather have him peeing out of the tent, than peeing in.”
The story of the “files” goes back many years before in 1919, when the Bureau was primarily occupied by the detection of “radical” elements in the United States, especially “pro-German.” “No sauerkraut for you, try the liberty cabbage” had been the cry. A new division of the Bureau was created, “The General Intelligence Division” whose duties were to concentrate investigation of anti-American activities under the directorship of J. Edgar Hoover who had been employed by the Department of Justice during the war years and had also had experience in observing what the military procedures had been in the same course of investigations.
Jumping to the present day, as a point of clarification, when Ted Turner purchased the MGM film library, to use much of it to supply his Turner Classic Movies Network, when it was learned of the previously unimagined stockpile of motion pictures in the vaults, the question was “just what do we make copies of?” and lucky for us movie fans, “all of them.”
This same question arose when the newly formed “General Intelligence Division” assumed the fingerprint records previously maintained by the Identification Division, giving them a total of over 750,000 names and unknown to many, even today, “The American Protective League,” a private organization created to aid the federal government that had been endorsed by the Department of Justice creating files of their own by reports from 350,000 private citizens, members before the end of the World War. This cooperative arrangement continued until the appointment of J. Edgar Hoover as Director – Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Now for an inside story. When I began working for the Identification Bureau of the FBI, we were told not to bother looking for the arrest records of prominent figures such as Frank Sinatra, Robert Mitchum or any others in the public eye as to protect them or their families from embarrassment by unauthorized disclosure. They were kept in a separate area, away from prying eyes.
Now for another mystery and a possible solution. For over 50 years lovers of the Gilbert & Sullivan shows who consider themselves as “Savoyards” in tribute to the first performances at Savoy Theatre, London by The D’Oyly Carte Opera Company, have wondered what happened to the musical number in The Mikado, “I’ve Got A Little List” as performed by Ko-Ko (Lord High Executioner of Tipitu). The D’Or1y Carte Company, holders of the copyright and who had insisted that all public performances be as originally introduced, was as silent on the sudden exclusion during the 1950’s. It was as if the song had vanished into Mr. Hoover’s bottom drawer (see how I worked that in). It has taken a lot of research among my collection of yellow, brittle pages but without seeking any credit and certainly not blame, here is the original list from the missing song for you to read, save one (1), careful when you do not to let your lips move or the PC police might report you for singing it.
“I’ve Got A Little List”
“I’ve got a little list… of people who would never be missed, nuisances who write for autographs, all people who have flabby hands and irritating laughs… all children who are up on dates and floor you with them flat… all third persons who spoil tete-at-tetes, (intentionally left blank) serenader and others of his race… the piano-organist …people who eat peppermint and puff it in your face… the idiot who praises all centuries but this, and every country but his own… the lady from the provinces who dresses like a guy… the Judicial humorist …apologetic statesmen of a compromising kind.” Finally, It is difficult to believe that these words should be deemed unsuitable for an audience, begging the question, just who makes these decisions as to what is PC (politically correct)?
I’ve got them on my list…
Jack D. Ballard