THE TIRELESS CANDIDATE: Lar (America First) Daly
Before there was a Ron Paul, there was a Lar (America First) Daly. This article was published first in the February 1964 issue of Chicago Scene, a magazine then edited by John D. Callaway, later to become a TV broadcast legend on the PBS station, WTTW. “The Tireless Candidate” has just been reprinted as a chapter in the Kindle book, Bobby Kennedy and the Politics of the Sixties, by Hal Higdon.
If I am elected,” Lar (America First) Daly once promised his fellow citizens, while running for Governor of Illinois in 1956, “my first act in office will be to paint the Governor’s mansion red, white and blue—with my own money! Moreover, the official Governor’s portrait will be me dressed in my Uncle Sam suit. What could be more fitting and patriotic to display on the walls of government office buildings throughout the state?”
Lar (America First) Daly did not gain office hat political campaign, nor has he gained office or rarely even come close in any campaign before or since. Lar (America First) Daly has run for Governor. He has run for Senator. He has run for Mayor.He has run (twice) for President of the United States. He has run for buses, trains and airplanes—and missed them too. “Actually, I do not know how many times I have run,” says the Perennial Candidate, who claims to have gained practical experience in the art of human nature while working as a fruit and vegetable peddler. “I guess I’ve attempted to gain public office somewhere between 17 and 20 times, but you would have to check the records.”
Despite his seeming availability to the voter, People remember Lar Daly more for the uniform he wears than for the principles he espouses. “Mr. Daly, I would like to know where your supporters are located,” challenged a man in the audience when Lar appeared on Jack Paar’s program during his abortive 1960 presidential campaign. “I teach special studies in Illinois, and we’ve never heard of you.”
“Well, sir,” replied Daly, “you apparently don’t read newspapers, watch television, listen to the radio, or attend meetings, because in every Illinois campaign in which I engage, I am known as the tireless candidate.”
Paar picked up the cue: “And now I have to do a commercial for our tireless candidate.”
It is hard to imagine how anyone living in Illinois and teaching social studies could have failed to hear of Lar Daly, who has not missed an election campaign since 1950. In that year, he campaigned for senator from Illinois under the slogan: War Now With Red Russia. “ I want to be on the first plane sent to atom bomb Moscow,” he wrote President Truman. No once can say Lar Daly has avoided controversial issues. In fact, he thrives on taking way-out stands. Lar Daly has railed against public housing. He has decried public schools (even while running for superintendent of public instruction). He despises internationalists. He hates communists even more. His principal platform while running (as ever, unsuccessfully) for Everett Dirksen’s senate seat in 1962 was: Invade Cuba Now. He favors high tariffs. He thinks other weaker countries should surrender their sovereignty to the United States. He would like to legalize gambling. Politically, he can best be described as a conservative with radical ideas—or maybe as a war-mongering isolationist. Lar (America First) Daly began life as a Democrat, switched to the Republicans. Both parties would rather see him on the other’s ballots—or better still, not running at all. Lar Daly is really an Independent Party-Switcher, the best-known Political Nobody in the country.
Even Lar Daly does not always seem to plug for Lar Daly. “REPUBLICANS—DON’T vote for LAR DALY for Mayor,” he once advertised in the newspapers. “DALY’S opponent, Robert E. Merriam, supported Adlai Stevenson against Eisenhower in 1952, and he still likes Adlai. Republicans—vote for Merriam and destroy your party in Chicago. Forget LAR DALY. He only stands for America’s interests first. Don’t vote at all. Stay home and sulk. Let Merriam and his Internationalists take over the Republican party. Farewell, Abe Lincoln. Signed LAR (America First) DALY.” Republicans not only forgot to vote for Lar Daly in the primary; they also forgot to vote for Merriam in the regular election for Mayor two days later. Merriam’s opponent, Richard J. Daley was swept into office.
Lar Daly not only campaigns forcefully against both Republican and Democratic opponents, he also jousts quixotically from time to time with a mythical character with gaunt face, wild hair and thick glasses, who he has dubbed Dr. Cyclops, and who represents (in his mind) all the goofy crackpot elements who oppose Christian moral principles and want to destroy our traditional American way of life. “People of Chicago,” cries Daly, “which do you choose? Dr. Cyclops or America First?”
Yet during his 1959 campaign for Mayor of Chicago, the Perennial Candidate etched his name indelibly into the annals of jurisdictional precedence. He faced in the Democratic primary incumbent Richard J. Daley. After Mayor Daley had appeared on several television newscast and interview shows, Lar demanded equal time under Section 315 of the Federal Communications Act. Mindful of his normal low percentage of votes, the Chicago TV stations refused to grant it. The FCC, however, backed Lar’s claim in what is now referred to as the Lar Daly decision. “This places severe restrictions on our right to judge what is news and what is not,” moaned the television industry to Congress. Also, prods Lar, since the television industry only returns 15 per cent profit a year on its investment, giving away all that free time might prove a financial strain.
Among those caught was Chicago newscaster Norman Ross, who after having Mayor Daley on his Sunday interview show was now obligated to accommodate Candidate Lar Daly. Ross disliked the idea of interviewing this man in the Uncle Sam suit. He also found it distasteful that Lar, as he had in the past, would probably plead for campaign funds. “If Lar Daly tries to beg for money,” Ross told reporters, “I’ll white him right off the screen.”
On reading this, Lar Daly became enraged. He called Sterling Quinlan, Station WBKB-TV chief. “Just tell your employee,” boomed Lar, “that because of his shooting off his mouth, I’m not going to let him appear on my program. And tell him not to show up or I’ll embarrass him!”
Ross didn’t show up—and neither did Lar for the first eight minutes. After visiting a hospitalized friend in suburban Evanston, the Perennial Candidate found himself ensnared in heavy Sunday traffic on the Ouyer Drive. It took a police escort to extricate him. Meanwhile, the WBKB people didn’t miss Lar Daly. They simply ran an old movie.
Not content with merely claiming his own equal time, Lar hinted to the rival Republican camp that they too might claim equal time against Democratic incumbent, Richard J. Daley. “We can?” was their reaction. Timothy J. Sheehan, Republican primary candidate, immediately asked for and obtained his equal time. Lar Daly entered in both Democratic and Republican primaries, then filed a claim for equal time to answer his Republican opponent. He lost that decision. This and similar maneuvers by the Perennial Candidate often bewilder Chicago citizens. But as one attorney told me: “We survived prohibition. I guess we’ll survive Lar Daly.”
Despite such demoniac political tactics, Lar (America First) Daly is less than the devil incarnate when met face to face, say in the basement of his house on the south side of Chicago. He is not a rich man. He lives in a simple, brick one-story home with an American eagle on the front mailbox and a red, white and blue garage. He drives an aging (also red, white and blue) Ford station wagon whose color scheme comes in handy when he pickets the Federal Building, Chicago’s old Post Office. Policemen mistake Lar’s auto parked in a no parking zone for a special delivery mail truck, thus don’t ticket it.
Lar Daly has fathered six children and sells barstools for a living under the one-man corporate title of the American Stool and Chair Company. He carries his 182 pounds well on a six-foot frame. Lar is a ruggedly handsome 52-year-old man who has a square dome, a typical Irishman’s red face, and silver-russet hair rapidly receding beneath his Uncle Sam hat. He looks as though with proper padding, he could play Santa Caus with the same reckless abandon that he plays Uncle Sam. Yet Lar’s eyes could stare through concrete,; his voice could cut copper. When I sat with him over a can of beer in his basement one night last year he thrust a paper under my nose. “Sign this!” he said. It was a standard loyalty oath. Never having belonged to any organization more subversive than the Boy Scouts, I signed.
“That’s standard for anyone who wants an interviews,” he exclaimed.
“What if I had refused?” I asked.
“You still would have gotten the interview, but at least I would have known on what grounds you stood.”
Perennial Candidate Daly has not always been known as Lar. His wife and friends call him Larry. “Lar” is the old Irish nickname for Lawrence; his father and his grand-uncle used it in the Old Country. Lawrence Joseph Sarsfield Daly was born January 22, 1912. At the time, his father worked as both policeman and fireman in Gary, Indiana. Whwen Lar was only five, his mother died. He and his brother John spent a year in an orphanage then moved to Chicago with their father. While only in the second grade, Lar helped a street peddler sell fruits and vegetables. He made $2.00 a day. By fourth grade he owned his own route. Lar the shrewd businessman emerged. “I wasn’t the only kid working” he explained to me. “A lot of kids peddled. But I was the only one who ever rented a horse and wagon.” He soon increased his take to $18.00 a day. Lar Daly today prides himself as much for having once bought 5,000 bunches of carrots for half a penny a bunch as for his equal time victories.
In working the alleys, Lar gained the confidence of the neighborhood housewives, a fact not lost on the local precinct captain. During the 1928 presidential campaign, young, red-headed Lar Daly distributed picture posters of Al Smith in the predominantly Irish Catholic and working-class neighborhood. “Hoover had been a good president,” says Lar today. “But a man should have the chance to drink a glass of beer.” Three years later, Lar used his reputation as the housewife’s friend to help a heretofore political unknown, John F. Healy, ascend to the alderman’s chair in the sixth ward.
Impressed with his own political ability, the 20-year-old eyed the job of Democratic ward committeeman. Lar’s estimate of his political abilities was good; his underestimate of his opponent, James M. Whalen, was not. At that time Whalen was one of the most powerful men in the all-powerful Cook County Democratic party.
To file for an election you need a certain number of signatures. “I went out and got all the signatures of the neighbors from my old fruit and vegetable route,” Lar told me. “I needed 700 names and I filed 1200.” Soon, however, he receive a notice from the Chicago Election Board that his petitions had been objected to—by one of Whalen’s lieutenants. “I knew my petitions are good,” Lar said in defense. “I got all the signatures myself.” Nevertheless, the Board threw him off the ballot, and presumably out of Whalen’s hair.
Lar would not admit that you can’t fight City Hall. He hired a lawyer from the University of Chicago for $10.00 and filed a petition for declaratory judgment in Cook County Superior Court. Selected to hear Lar’s case was William J. Lindsay, by coincidence a judge Whalen had appointed to the bench. The Judge listened to Lar’s arguments and those of the Chicago Election Board, then intoned: “I will take this case under advisement and announce my decision on April the 11th.”
“But your honor,” said Lar’s lawyer, “the primaries for ward committeeman are April the 10th.”
“I will announce my decision on April the 11th.”
Still not beaten, Lar conducted a write-in campaign which gained him an impressive 700 votes, but not the election. The following day he appeared with his lawyer in court. When the bailiff called the case, Judge Lindsay looked up as though surprised to see them. “Petition granted,” he said, meaning Lar had won. By that time, it was moot and academic.
The experience would have soured anybody on politics. Lar Daly turned temporarily to furniture-moving, calling himself Daly Brothers, even though his steelworker brother had no connection with the business.
In 1938, despite never haven gotten past first year high school, Lar filed for Cook County Superintendent of Schools. The job paid $17,000 a year with the duty of issuing certificates to teachers in county town schools. It certainly sounded better than moving chaise lounges into third-floor apartments. Lar’s campaign consisted of passing out handbills at church on Sundays saying he favored teaching the Christian religion in public schools. “Eh? Vot’’s dot?” asked the voters of Jake Arvey’s predominantly Jewish 24th ward. Unimpressed by Lar’s chutzpah, they gave him hardly a single vote. Lawrence J. Daly (as he was listed on the ballot) did attract approximately 300,000 voters in other wards, largely on strength of his Irish name. It was not enough to gain the election. To this day it remains Lar’s best showing. His victorious opponent, Noble J. Puffer, after 17 to 20 unsuccessful Lar Daly campaigns, still signs Cook County teacher certificates.
Daly abandoned furniture moving in October of 1940 in favor of barstools. Charlie Regan, a friend from the old Healy alderman campaign, had invented a seat cover you could slip over barstools. Next to the atom bomb, it was the greatest invention of the half-century, but Charlie stuttered so badly he couldn’t give rice away to starving Chinese. Lar, on the other hand, could sell milk shakes to Eskimos. He became Charlie’s voice. Not content with selling covers only to bars and cocktail lounges, Lar eyed the proliferating bookie trade. In Chicago bookie joints, the sheet writers, cashiers and stick men sat on stools rather than chairs. You don’t find bookie joints in the yellow pages, but Lar knew where to look. He went to police stations. “I want the name of every bookie in your district,” he would tell the Captain. “For every stool cover I sell, you get half a buck.” With such a proposition, Lar learned more about the Chicago underworld in a month than Elliot Ness had in 10 tears. “We never kept much money though,” he admits. “We would get the money from one bookie joint and go spend it in the next.” After Charlie Regan died, Daly diversified his business to include schools and churches.
But the Dr. Jeckylll of Lar the Successful Businessman has always been obscured by his Mr. Hyde alter-ego, Lar the Perennial Candidate—to the detriment of his bank account. At first he seemed less interested in his own fortunes than those of General Douglas MacArthur, a man Lar considers our number one American. As early as 1936, Lar began filing MacArthur’s name for president in the Illinois primaries—but his hero always withdrew. In 1952 others beside Lar Daly began to consider MacArthur. “That year I filed MacArthur’s name again,” he says. “It was the closest he ever came to leaving it on the Illinois ballot. But after an exchange of telegrams he finally withdrew. He thought it unwise at that time.”
Lar Daly still determined to get Douglas MacArthur’s name on some ballot by hook or by crook. He chose hook. Election laws vary from state to state. In Illinois, you file a person’s name, and he has 10 days in which to withdraw it. In Wisconsin (MacArthur’s home state), you file a slate of electors pledged to a candidate—but you must have that candidate’s prior approval. Lar Daly had procured a partial slate of electors through ads in various Wisconsin newspapers, now he still had to obtain MacArthur’s name to go on top of them. He turned in desperation to the Chicago phone book. He found no Douglas MacArthur, who might legally substitute his name for that of the war hero, but he did find a McArthur—and lo and behold, his first name was General. Lar called General McArthur from Madison. A man with a deep southern accent answered the phone. “How do you stand on General Douglas MacArthur?” asked Lar.
“He’s a great hero,” said McArthur, “and one of mah favorite men.”
“Listen, General, I’d like to put MacArthur’s name on the ballot, but can’t get his signature. Can I use yours?”
Mister General McArthur gave his consent. Lar drove from Madison to Chicago in four hours, shook hands with McArthur, shook hands with McArthur, greeted his wife, patted his eight or nine children on the head, then with his candidate’s signature roared back to Madison. The Secretary of State laughed when he looked at the name. “It’s all right with me,” he said, “but I doubt if it will be certified.”
Lar Daly, describing to me what happened, leaned back in his chair as if recalling the incident with relish: “In the meantime, the Chicago Sun-Times carries an editorial about the dirty, underhanded means used by Lar Daly. Two days later the Attorney General says our man cannot be certified. Not enough electors. We could have gone to the Wisconsin Supreme Court, but we did not have the money.” Much to Lar’s disappointment, Dwight D. Eisenhower obtained the nomination that summer at the Republican National Convention. General Douglas MacArthur and Mister General McArthur both slowly faded away.
When he ran for Senator in 1950, Daly first shortened Lawrencde J. to Lar. Four years later, he took the political middle name of “America First” and adopted the uniform that wouold later be his trademark. He explained: “I lacked money. I lacked organization. Your only hope of making any possible dent in the vote is to seize on a certain one policy—America’s interests first in politics—and to attract attention to yourself. So I chose the sartorial emblem of our country, the Uncle Sam suit, complete with goatee, beard and everything.”
Lar did attract attention, but for every vote garnered by advertising his Americanism, he probably lost two more because the voters thought him to be some kind of a nut. As head of an almost non-existent America First Party, Lar tried to place others in the race for public office. “He had simply a wild state of people,” one lawyer told me. “There was some uncouth guy I met who looked as though he had just come from a binge on the bowery. He informed me he was the Daly Candidate for Superintendent of Public Instruction.”
In his attempt to get on the ballot in 1954, Lar Daly espoused 100 per cent approval of Joe McCarthy, who next to Douglas MacArthur represented his idea of American manhood. Joe McCarthy, however, espoused no Lar Daly, explaining tersely: “I never endorse primary candidates.”
Unsuccessful in the spring primary, Lar circulated petitions to get on the fall general election, a titanic task for an independent candidate in Illinois. Lar obtained the necessary 33,000 signatures, but driving down to Springfield (as he always does) on the last possible day for filing, he had a flat. Naturally, his spare had no air. It is always Lar (America First) Daly’s fate, when running for office, to falter like a high hurdler who tries to cut the hurdles too tight. But whereas an Olympic-class hurler trips on the 10th hurdle, Lar usually has his starting blocks slip. Delayed for three hours, Lar finally sprinted into the State Capitol with (what he claims was) three minutes to spare. To his horror, the Chief Index Clark’s office had already closed.
“Where’s Don Butler,” Lar roared turning to a porter wheeling a four-wheel cart.
“He left 40 minutes ago,” said the porter.
“You be my witmess then,” said Lar. Wrapping a handkerchief around one fist he smashed it into the glass door. The noise attracted a state police lieutenant who bounded up the stairs fumbling for his pistol.
“Stop!” the Lieutenant is reported by Lar to have said.
And as the State Capitol bells chimed the hour of 5:00, Lar Daly’s red, white and blue automobile did not change into a pumpkin, but Index Clerk Butler did step out of another office. “You’re late again, Lar,” he announced.
Don Butler, of course, denies this story. He says Lar didn’t arrive with his petitions until 5:01, which would disqualify him from the race under the unbending rules of the State of Illinois. A law suit hung on this time differential and Lar Daly lost. “Daly always files at the last possible minute,” another Springfield official told me, “because he hopes coming in late we won’t check the signatures too closely.” Lar has a long record of rejected petitions. In 1948 he presented 13 names (including Dewey, Taft, Stassen and himself) for the Illinois presidential primary, most backed by one-signature petitions. They were thrown out. He had planned to make a test case of Illinois election laws, but somehow never got around to it. In the 1960 New Hampshire presidential primary, the state rejected his petitions because of false and non-existent addresses. Desperate for the necessary signatures, he had advertised at the last moment to pay for help. The bums and vagrants who flocked to his call did a less than exemplary job. In 1962 he collected enough signatures to become an independent candidate for Senator against Dirksen and Yates, but all signatures came from Cook County. Illinois election laws specify you must canvas 50 counties, a fact of which Daly, a knowledgeable student of election laws, was well aware.
So numerous have been Lar Daly’s transportation woes, he could keep a Traveler’s Aid office in business almost single-handed. One filing time he hopped aboard an evening bus bound from Chicago to Springfield. The bus stopped for a 20-minute rest in Pontiac, Illinois at 3:00 in the morning After pie and coffee, Lar followed two women who had sat across the aisle from him back onto his bus—so he thought. The two women, however, had switched buses. Lar suddenly awoke to find himself going in the wrong direction. He asked the driver to return him to Pontiac refused, so Lar climbed out in the middle of a snowstorm and walked the nine miles back to town. Only one vehicle passed him: a truck owned by the State of Illinois. In an act that now seems almost symbolic, it did not stop. Lar successfully filed his petitions the next day, but in another 11th-hour dash several years later became engulfed in traffic near Midway Airport and missed his plane. “If Lar Daly ever was elected President,” says his attorney, Howard Newcomb Morse, “He would probably be late for the inauguration.”
In 1956 students a the University of Indiana invited Lar Daly to address their mock convention, Driving to Bloomington in an old Chevy, Lar suffered his inevitable flat tire. As the Arizona chairman stood to announce his state’s votes, the convention hall doors swung open and in strode the man in the Uncle Sam suit. Lawrence Olivier could not made a more dramatic entrance. A cheer went up from the students.
“I believe Lar Daly is here,” said the presiding officer.
Senator Homer Capehart, Ike’s stand-in, moved to the microphone. “My candidate has no objection to letting his only opponent speak to the convention.” Following a 15-minute oration, Lar (America First) Daly received 76 ½ votes, a distant second to Eisenhower, but ahead of other vote-getters: William Knowland, Joe McCarthy and the then deceased Robert Taft.
At about that time, Lar Daly stood engaged in the first of his many battles for equal time based on Section 315 of the Federal Communications Act. On February 29, 1956, President Dwight D. Eisenhower appeared on nation-wide television to announce his return to health following his heart attack and his aim to seek re-election. “When he uttered those words,” says Lar Daly, “any living, qualified candidate was entitled to equal time. I picked up the Chicago paper the following day. Paul Butler, the Democratic chairman, had asked for equal time for his party. A spokesman for the FCC answered him: ‘This is a primary fight of one political party and is strictly a family affair. So far as I know, only certified legally qualified candidates of his own party can demand and receive equal time.’ Beautiful, says I. Twenty-one days previously, three candidates were simultaneously certified as legally qualified candidates for the April primary in Illinois: Dwight D. Eisenhower, Senator William F. Knowland and the nobody—Lar (America First) Daly”
Daly mailed the FCC a foot-thick package containing pictures of all his campaign activities. It cost him $8.00 in postage. He might as well have saved the stamps. “Ridiculous,” said Ike at a press conference when informed of Lar’s demands. His views prevailed. Section 315 to the contrary, Lar Daly never did receive equal time. Nor did this upstart candidate receive much attention at the Republican National Convention in San Francisco even though he had entered three primaries: Indiana, Illinois and Montana. The Republican National Committee tried looking the other way, then grudgingly granted Lar hotel spaced for his campaign headquarters—at the Shaw, two miles uptown. It was like trying tp play shortstop from the bleache4rs in Candlestick Park. Lar retaliated by donning his Uncle Sam suit. He paraded through the Fairmont and Mark Hopkins, and at the airport when Eisenhower arrived, carrying a sign: “I Never Did Like Ike.” A compatriot dressed as Abe Lincoln accompanied him. “You could feel the 105 degree below zero chill,” says Lar. “It’s just that the Republicans happened to be a fine class of people. They were all from the suburbs, but if they had been rank and file working stiffs, they probably would have set on us physically.”
Lar wanted his name placed in nomination. “There was a current of dissatisfaction with Ike,” he says. “but nobody wanted to put his neck on the chopping block—at least not5 for Lar (America First) Daly.” He also sought to regain his 10 lost Montana votes. Lar Daly had filed unopposed in the Montana primary, which would have guaranteed him 10 first-ballot votes at the convention. Montana Republicans recoiled in horror at the thought of being forced to nominate Lar. At the last moment, Secretary of State Stephen C. Arnold announced his candidacy, promising his votes to Ike. Straw candidates are illegal in Montana, a fact Lar Daly failed to discover until the statute of limitations ran out.
In a last-ditch effort to get theears of the Montana delegation, Lar appealed to Hugh Scott, then chairman of the grievance committee. It was 3:00, the night before balloting would begin. Daly burst into Scott’s hotel suite. “After I saw him walk in with that Uncle Sam costume,” Scott later told me, “I wouldn’t have been surprised to see the Statue of Liberty come walking out of the Ladies Room.” Scott, now a Senator from Pennsylvania, tried to help Lar. Taking phone in hand he roused several people from bed in an attempt to at least get the Perennial Candidate a hearing.
“Are you putting us on, Hugh?” they would say before slamming the phone receiver down. Though listed in the directory as a candidate, Lar couldn’t even obtain credentials. He watched the nomination on television.
“The one thing that hurt us was people thought it was just a joke,” said Lar’s friend, who had dressed as Abe Lincoln. “Again, it was the Uncle Sam suit. They apparently didn’t want trouble.” In reality, of course, he was no threat to Dwight Eisenhower. But they were afraid he might get emotional or start a little ruckus. It probably would have been a good thing. It was a pretty dead convention.”
Back battling for the White House in 1960, Lar (America First) Daly made a one-night, non-repeat, unpaid appearance on the Jack Paar program. It was, depending on your point of view, either the high point or the low point of his career. In a burst of civic pride and open-handed generosity, Paar had invited the various presidential aspirants (excluding, of course, the Perennial Candidate) to visit his late-night variety program. On June 17, 1960, Candidate John F. Kennedy appeared for 52 minutes. The following day, Lar Daly wired NBC for equal time. Request not granted, NBC replied, citing legislation passed by Congress the previous year. Newscasts, documentaries, panel shows, interview programs and on-the-spot interviews were exempt from the equalk time provisions of Section 315 for the 1960 presidential campaign. But Lar pressed on. He phoned Ben Fitzgerald, a Washington lawyer: “Check with the FCC on the status of the Jack Paar program.”
“What does it say?”
“This is a variety show…”
“Fine! That’s all I want to hear.”
Lar had, he later chortled, that smarty-pants Jack Paar right by the brass buttons. Quoting the Tonight program’s variety show status, Lar filed a formal complaint. The FCC rules in his favor five to one.
Never one to tamper with tradition, Lar chose an airline flight that arrived at Newark Airport an hour late. As he scrambled into his Uncle Sam suit at the studio, Paar lieutenants brought him coffee, told him to relax and quizzed him about his background. “I was amazed to see he didn’t go right on the program,” said Ben Fitzgerald. Paar later would ask him to leave early, and Lar never would receive his full equal time.
Lar (America First) Daly finally stepped out into the spotlight to be greeted by disbelief and laughter, in that order. “I knew wearing the Uncle Sam suit would hurt me,” says Lar. “But I figured as long as I had worn it on street corners and in meeting halls all over the country I’d wear it in my first national TV appearance. “Daly also hung a sign around his neck appealing for campaign contributions. He figured that as long as he must compete with Bromo Seltzer and Mr. Clean, he might as well plug his own product. Lar eventually did receive more than 600 letters as a result of his appearance, including $151.17 in contributions, a phony check, and three threats on his life.
On the program that night, Paar ASKED Lar Daly if he had enough experience in government to be president. The following exchange took place.
Daly: (calmly)) You do not necessarily have to have administrative experience in government to be President of the United States. We have a man who has been the President of the United States for the past seven and a half years who knew nothing but Army life, and I don’t think he was in any way qualified to be the chief executive of the United States of America.”
Paar: (reaching for a boffo line) He may not have been, but he was a heck of a good president, I think.
Daly: (unbowed) Well, Jack, you know this is trhe United States of America, and you’re entitled to your opinion and I’m entitled to mine, and I will say that I believe Dwight D. Eisenhower is the poorest excuse for a president this United States of America has ever had.
Groans, hoots, boos.
Paar: (stumbling and flustered) Well, the London papers have been calling my office all day. They are fascinated by you, and I am too. But the point is, don’t you think there is enough clowning around now in both parties. What can you accomplish with this?
Daly: (antimatedly) I take exception to your use of the descriptibve term, clowning. Of course, naturally…
Paar: (fully recovered) Well, I don’t think it’s trick or treat you’re doing here.
Several commercials and insults later, Lar Daly stood up to leave. “Thank you, Jack, it’s been nice meeting you, and God bless the FCC.” He changed from his Uncle Sam suit with the laughter and boos still ringing in his ears. On the air the Paar cast chipped the last epitaph onto his gravestone. “You know, it might be simpler if the funds that he’s asking for were sent dir3ectly to the theatrical costumers,” cackled Alexander King. Referring to the three-point platform Daly had expressed earlier, Hugh Downs quoted a questioner in the audience: “If we looked under Daly’s Uncle Sam hat, we’d probably find a fourth point.”
Sitting down in Hurley’s several hours later, Lar watched the actual telecast (in what he refers to as civilian clothes) and brooded his fate. “There was already another guy at the bar, myself, and two others. They had the same reaction that the four million viewers must have got. The guy nearest the TV set says, ‘Holy smoke, what the hell is this?’ Then Paar sas something about trick or treat. This fellow says, ‘Boy, this is something this clown.’ Well, then the fellow sitting next to me on my left said, ‘Yeah, but listen to what the hell he’s saying.’ I was starting to bang out the three points now. Then the first fellow says, ‘Say, if that guy wasn’t so nutty, he’d be worth listening to.’”
In one sense, Lar’s Paar appearance was the low point in his career—not just because he had set himself up to ridicule, but because he had missed an opportunity to establish sympathy with a sizable portion of the American public.
Lar Daly believes in equal time. So do a good many US Congressmen, who for eight years have been wrestling in committee unsuccessfully with the question of how to give the small guy candidate a break, recognizing at the same time that this is basically a two-party country. Face to face, Lar Daly is a likable person, but one of the major flaws in his character is that when he gets in front of a microphone, he begins to shout and threaten in an attempt to intimidate the audience. With Lar Daly as his own best friend, he doesn’t need any enemies.
Recently, I sat in the well-aportioned Chicago skyscraper offices of Secretary of State Charles Carpentier and spoke with Assistant Secretary Robert G. Cronson, a man Daly says rode into office on Carpentier’s coattils. Cronson had a low opinion of Lar (America First) Daly: “I think the most sincere comment I can make on Lar Daly is you shouldn’t do a story on him. I feel the functioning of government is serious business. I don’t think frivolity has any place in it. Lar Daly’s system consists only of getting his picture taken on filing day. You never see Daly campaign. He has no organization. He has no platform. All he’s interested in is attracting attention, which he commands by running around in his Uncle Sam suit and shouting some irresponsible platform.”
F. Raymond Marks, Jr., a former counsel for the Illinois division of the American Civil Liberties Union thinks he at least understands Lar Daly, He once represented him in an election dispute. “I don’t really give a hoot what motivates Daly,” he told me. “He still serves a certain function. One of the major difficulties of election laws is that the time between filing and the printing of ballots is so short, you have practically no recourse to legal action. The courts don’t like to listen to moot points. Once an election takes place, your complaint is not a real controversy. In a sense Daly either underscores the strength or weakness of the two-party system. He certainly underscores its presence.”
Lar’s former attorney of record was Howard Newcomb Morse, a former university law professor and scholar whose mother years ago used to buy fruits and vegetables from red-haired, freckle-faced Larry Daly. “Everybody hates Lar except the people,” he told me. “Big politicians dismiss him with a snicker. Some attach the crackpot label. But what other candidate is as candid, or has as much guts for calling a spade a spade? Lar does not equivocate. He does not straddle the fence. He doesn’t evade a thing. In coming out on various issues, however, he does occasionally put the other candidates on the spot.”
Lar (America First) Daly meanwhile moves onward minus the sartorial emblem of the country he loves. Several years ago, a thief plucked Lar’s Uncle Sam suit from the back seat of his parked car. Lar placd a personal ad in the Chicago Tribune asking for the suit’s return, no questions asked. A few days later, the phone rang.
“I know where your suit is,” said a sinister voice on the phone.
“Have you got it?”
“I know where it is.”
“Are you familiar with Grant Park?” said the Perennial Candidate.
“South of Buckingham Fountain is a bench. Tomorrow night you leave the suit under the bench. Come there any time after five past midnight. You’ll find a $50 bill taped under the bench.
Lar got his suit back stuffed in an old paper bag. “Who else but Lar Daly,” says Morse throwing his hands up in mock despair, “would set up a midnight appointment in Grant Park in the cold of winter to get his suit back. It was probably the only time in his life he was ever on time.”
But the recovery of his suit proved to be only temporary. Lar explained to me: “A year and a half ago, as the Associated Press correspondent in Springfield said, economic circumstances forced Lar to sell it. I had to sell it to eat.” Now Lar (America First) Daly campaigns only in an Uncle Sam hat, probably an improvement in his style. Eestes Kefauver ran for President wearing a coonskin hat and nobody labeled him a crackpot.
Financial problems constantly beset Lar Daly. Even though he usually runs pretty much of a do-it-yourself campaign, printing costs for campaign literature, travel expenses, and the occasional out-of-pocket dole to his one or two campaign workers does take an occasional dollar. Even more money is required to finance Lar’s many law suits. Last September he called me and asked for a loan to help him continue appealing a suit against the state of Illinois dating back to the 1960 election. (He claims Stratton, Carpenter and others conspired to keep him off the ballot.) Lar wanted $300; I gave him $50. When you press Lar about finances, he speaks about some “wealthy benefactor” on the North Shore. He won’t give you the benefactor’s name, because his patron doesn’t want publicity. But at the same time Lar was telling me about this benefactor during an interview in his home, I noticed that his tape recorder, there on a previous visit, was missing. Lar had hocked it to help finance his campaign. If the truth were known, Lar probably finances most of his campaigning out of his own pocket.
Two summers ago, I visited the working class neighborhood of West Pullman on Chicago’s South Side. In an old frame building, formerly a cocktail lounge, Lar (America First) Daly, Independent Candidate for U.S. Senator, maintained campaign headquarters. The building also housed the American Stool and Chair Company, and I occupied one of the chairs on the sidewalk. It was 2:30. Lar was late. We were due at U.S. Steel’s front gate in less than half an hour to speak to the workers as they changed shifts. Suddenly on the horizon, I saw a blur of red, white and blue. Into view roared Lar Daly, last of the do-it-yourself politicians.
“I’ll be late for my own embalming table,” he shouted, grinding to a stop on the wrong side of the street. He did not stop long, but instead rattled off to pick up a trailer for his campaign signs. I helped two of his friends tape Lar Daly posters on the sides of their cars. A man smoking a pipe and swinging a cane walked by. “He’ll tell them all off,” said the man. “Yessir. He’ll cut into the Democrats. They ought to hand him 10 or 20 thousand dollars and tell him to stay off the ticket.”
Lar Daly had indeed cut into the votes of the Democratic candidate Sidney R. Yates in the primary. Yates beat him three to one, but as the Chicago Tribune pointed out, this was “a paltry ratio in the home of the machine.” Analysts figure that half of Daly’s votes were cast by people who mistook Candidate Lar Daly for Mayor Richard J. Daley. The other half came in the form of a protest vote by the same people who helped reject, in that same election, a Richard Daley-sponsored bond issue.
Ten minutes after Lar Daly’s first frantic appearance, I crouched in the back of his fastly moving station wagon amidst a tangle of sound equipment and paper Uncle Sam hats. Behind us clanged the trailer with a large sign: UP THE BOMBERS AND KEEP THEM UP. Arriving at U.S. Steel, Daly experienced difficulty setting up his equipment. The loudspeakers at first would not loudspeak. It made little difference. We had arrived too late for the change of shifts, and only a trickle of men drifted out the gate. From the middle of the street, Lar tore into his six-point platform, the first point being, Invade Cuba Now, and the last point being Legalize Gambling. A passing bus beeped and Lar had to move his microphone to let it pass. Lar (America First) Daly, the man without a party, was late again. A month later the election board refused to certify Lar for Senator.
In 1963, the following year, a Lar Daly Primary campaign against both Benjamin Adamowski and Richard J. Daley for Mayor barely got off the ground. The last time I saw Lar was October in front of the Blackstone. Lar was picketing the pickets who were picketing Madame Nhu, the First Lady of Vietnam. Even then, he was on the losing side.
For many reasons Lar Daly well deserves the crackpot label attached to him. In the two-ring circus of American politics, it has been his role to flit around the outskirts of the Big Top playing the clown. Because of this, many of the tightrope walkers and animal trainers in the center spotlight have perhaps righteously looked down and sneered. A lot of the audience thinks he’s nuts too. But in all high comedy, there is a touch of tragedy. Lar Daly has a razor-sharp mind. He knows the election laws as well as any other man in the country. He is affable and makes friends effortlessly. The tragedy of Lawrence Joseph Sarsfield Daly is that early in his political career, he got nudged off the ladder leading to political success, and he has since been scrambling up drainpipes. What makes Lar run? Perhaps he seeks publicity. Perhaps he honestly believes he has something to offer the voters. Perhaps he is still running after that ward committeeman job the Election Board hustled him out of three decades ago.
“Lar Daly isn’t a comedian at heart,” I was told by a former close friend of the Perennial Candidate. “I think people got the wrong impression because he worse that Uncle Sam suit. I was always against it. It wouldn’t inspire patriotism. Patriotism died around 1776 in the United States. Maybe if he didn’t wear the Uncle Sam suit; maybe if he toned down some of those ideas; maybe if he cow-towed—went along with certain political leaders—he might have been elected to some political office.”
The friend stared a minute in space and then shook his head as if in despair. “But then I guess he wouldn’t be Lar Daly.
“The Tireless Candidate” was published first in the February 1964 issue of Chicago Scene. It now has been included as a chapter in the Kindle book, Bobby Kennedy and the Politics of the Sixties, by Hal Higdon.