“When trumpets were mellow

And every gal only had one fellow

No need to remember when

‘Cause everything old is new again.”

— Peter Allen, “Everything Old is New Again.”

True Story: Back in the happening ’50s, when She was a fresh young thing at Waterville High School, The Puritan, a popular Waterville restaurant, got the idea that it wanted to freshen up and draw some new customers and summer people. So it came up with a contest for folks to offer a brand new name for the place. The winner would get two free dinners, beverage included.

Everyone got into the challenge, including the high school kids. From Mayflower Hill to the South Side, Augusta to Benton, the fever rose. But youth persevered.

Kay’s classmate, a full-of-new-ideas kid named Nate Berkley, came up with a new name and submitted it: The New Puritan! Guess what? It won. Thereafter, until the day it closed, the old Puritan was The Puritan. Sure enough, it proved once again that everything old is new again.

One of the biggest money-making commercials I made in Hollywood was for a well-known toilet tissue. Then a year later they called me and asked me to come and shoot the “new and improved toilet tissue.”

In between, I made a spot for a relatively unknown cooking oil that became the “new improved oil.” As you can see, I don’t have permission to name them.

It’s no secret in the Madison Avenue world that if you put “new” on anything, it will sell big. You only have to look at your own grocery list. So in fact, I made a living selling the “kinda good” toilet paper, and the not-as-good cooking oil, and then doubled my money with the new improved stuff. A true American story.

So here we are, only a couple of months away from the big Republican Swell-O-Rama in Cleveland, Ohio, and the chatter on the circuit is all about … wait for it … here it comes … The All New and Improved Donald Trump.

Noticeably overweight, red-faced and sweaty, Donald is being pressured by his new chief strategist, Paul Manafort, and associates to take the stage and underwhelm his vast army of true believers with his new persona, an act designed to win back Muslims, women and folks of color, and give him a soft landing in the Oval Office — I’m sorry, the new and improved Oval Office.

That cover-up lasted about 10 minutes. On Monday night this week, The Donald, never one to take kindly to being “handled,” revolted, took the stage and went into his tried and true act as Monstro the Magic Minstrel. His followers cheered, waved thousands of red baseball caps, boot-stomped the floor, elbow-punched a neighbor and welcomed him back.

I’m sorry. It would be so easy to put his audience down as just an ignorant, rabid mob. The truth is, they’re just angry snowflakes in Trump’s winter of discontent. They’re hungry for something “new,” because the old hasn’t worked out for them, has excluded them or just grew boring. I’m old enough to know that every decade has its rising demagogic minstrel, equipped with magic flute and mesmerizing tune; and his album of tunes varies on size and location.

But if past is prologue, the flock will be disappointed with the Manafort’s “new” minstrel, all dolled up with a clean shirt, combed hair and a fresh package of new softer, monosyllabic promises.

Already, even as I submit this, the minstrel has sensed the wave of disappointment rising up from the floor of the arena like curbside garbage, and in a typically heroic and theatrical flourish, has thrown off the new and gone back to the old “give ’em what they want” trope.

Which brings me to the minstrel of the moment, the “hero” of the crowd, Donald Trump, a character lifted out of the work of F. Scott Fitzgerald. It was Fitzgerald who wrote with chilling prescience, “Show me a hero and I’ll write you a tragedy.”

Who, then, will the hero be, as the curtain falls this November? And what’s more, what will be the tragedy?

Stay tuned for coming attractions.

J.P. Devine is a Waterville writer. His book, “Will Write for Food,” is a collection of some of his best Morning Sentinel columns.

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