Ronald Kessler reporting from Washington, D.C.
— As a high school prankster myself, I know that pranks can get out of hand. Looking back, we can’t believe that we could have been so stupid and wrongheaded.
That’s clearly what happened when Mitt Romney, while attending boarding school in Michigan, pinned down fellow classmate John Lauber and cut his long bleached blond hair. Lauber, who has since died, later came out as gay.
|Romney attended the Cranbrook School in Michigan.
The Republican presidential candidate also shouted “atta girl” to a different student who, years later, came out as gay, according to a Washington Post story.
In response to the reports, Romney told Brian Kilmeade in a Fox News radio interview, “I participated in a lot of hijinks and pranks during high school, and some may have gone too far. And for that I apologize.”
Romney said he didn’t remember the Lauber incident from almost 50 years ago, but he didn’t dispute that it happened. He stressed that he didn’t know either student was gay.
Indeed, having grown up in the same era in Belmont, Mass., where Romney later lived, I know that we had only the vaguest idea of what being gay meant. Other Romney classmates have said that Romney was not a bully nor homophobic when a student at the private Cranbrook School. Moreover, as governor and as a presidential candidate, Romney has hired individuals who are openly gay.
Tom McCaffrey became friends with Romney when they were both five. His parents had a summer cottage next to the Romneys on Lake Huron.
“We were like brothers at that stage, and our houses were interchangeable,” McCaffrey told me. “We’d have breakfast at one house and lunch at another and we’d spend the night at each other’s houses.”
As teenagers, the two boys sang popular songs like “Splish Splash” and “Yellow Polka Dot Bikini.”
Back then, girls wore sweaters or white blouses with poodle skirts made of felt with a patch in the shape of a poodle glued on. Under their dresses they wore petticoats. Girls wore penny loafers and bobby socks and would slip a penny into the notch of their penny loafers. The bubble hairdo was especially popular.
Boys wore tan Chino pants with pink shirts. They had crew cuts or duck tails (known as D.A.s) and put Brylcreem, Wildroot, or Vitalis in their hair.
“See you later, alligator” and “After a while, crocodile,” were favorite expressions.
When it came to pranks, McCaffrey told me, Romney was a master. McCaffrey’s parents were Frank and Ann. One day, Mitt and Tom hung a large sign at the front of the McCaffrey house: “Ann and Frank’s Bar and Grill.” A passing couple stopped and rang the bell.
“My mother answered it, and they were asking if they could have a table for lunch,” McCaffrey said.
To scare their parents, McCaffrey and Mitt would sit on the side of a boat and arrange with another friend to have him sit on the bottom of the boat so he couldn’t be seen from the shore.
“He was holding onto the steering wheel of the boat, and then we pretended like we both fell off,” McCaffrey said. “It looked as if the boat just went off on its own. And actually our other friend was in the boat holding onto the steering wheel below the deck. Of course, the parents jumped up and were frantic, thinking that a serious accident had occurred.”
Romney’s sister Jane Romney remembers that Romney’s pranks continued even after he had married his high school sweetheart Ann Davies and had had kids.
“They were staying over for Thanksgiving at my cousins’ in Vermont, and there was a huge snowstorm,” Jane Romney recalls. “He buried my cousin’s car, their Volkswagen, in a snow drift in Vermont,” she says. “When they came out, they couldn’t find their car. He literally buried it under snow.”
Ronald Kessler is chief Washington correspondent of Newsmax.com. He is the New York Times bestselling author of books on the Secret Service, FBI, and CIA. Read more reports from Ronald Kessler — Click Here Now.
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