Philip who? No, I haven't joined a cult. Here's the story: In the early 1990s, I would leaf through the LA Weekly and Los Angeles Reader and find large ads filled with colorful quotes by a local character named Philip Ashamallah (1923-2004). An immigrant of apparent Arab extraction, Ashamallah was a structural engineering contractor (i.e. a concrete guy) with hilariously outsized political ambitions and an ego to match. One of his ads introduced him as "The world-famous engineer, constructor, philosopher, author, composer, songwriter, publisher, producer and candidate for governor." Aside from his gubernatorial bids, he also ran for mayor, city councilman, and lieutenant governor. (In the latter race, he actually received 10% of the vote in California's 1994 Democratic primary.) If he published his boisterous quotations today, Philip Ashamallah might indeed be famous, although some would think him a Borat-like lampoon. But these ads were pre-Internet, and Ashamallah was as sincere as he was obscure. (Aside from promoting his political campaigns, he also peddled his songs and a "Secrets of Success" booklet.) His goofy aphorisms, long forgotten, deserve to be revived for digital posterity. Some of my favorites:
- "Ask not what good your country can do for you, rather ask what harm the lousy turkeys you vote for quadrennially can do for you. --Ashamallah" Yes, he credited each of his quotes to himself, lest you forget. Ashamallah mostly talked politics in his ads. He was a Democrat with little regard for Reagan or Bush. Most of his opinions were reasonable – for instance, he rightly felt that politicians were beholden to their biggest campaign donors – but his flavorful English ("lousy turkeys") was what made quotes like this sing.
- "If a politician asks you to spare one thousand dollars to help him run for office, you would think the nerd is out of his cotton-picking mind. --Ashamallah" I just love his use of vernacular English.
- "Our political system has a built in mechanism by which the top elected officials are either corrupted crooks or bastard quacks. --Ashamallah" I personally embraced the term "bastard quacks" after I first read this back in the '90s. In another quote, Ashamallah referred to the U.S. President (presumably Ronald Reagan) as a "dumb dummy". I've adopted that term too.
- "My wife is my guiding light and without her, I would never be able to find the perfect spot for absolute misery. --Ashamallah" This would-be civic leader was one part Bernie Sanders, one part Henny Youngman, mixing dated "take my wife, please" jokes in with his political rants. Another gem: "Compromises and sacrifices preserve marriages, so on my wedding night I decided to sacrifice my happiness for the rest of my life. --Ashamallah"
- "No woman has any important differences from man, but the unimportant differences are so adorable and I love every bit of them. --Ashamallah" Aside from bad wife jokes, Ashamallah's ads were peppered with leering comments like this. I recall another ad – which I was unable to find again – in which he boorishly claimed that the British term "lass" was short for "lovely ass", then went on to praise the bums of English ladies.
- "Abraham Lincoln's emancipation is incomplete and the world needs now a new humanitarian to ewomancipate the women and save them from the tyranny of men. --Ashamallah" In spite of his old-school sexism, Ashamallah envisioned himself a savior of the fair sex.
- "I have always been a member of the most persecuted minority in the history of mankind. The minority of intelligent people. --Ashamallah" Sometimes it seemed like he was poking fun at his own egotism, but I sense he was being earnest.
- "Do not be confused when you get to Heaven and hear more than twenty thousand different languages spoken simultaneously. Ask them to redirect you to hell where only one language is used. ENGLISH. --Ashamallah" An unusually anti-Western sentiment from the man who wrote patriotic songs like "In the Lovely U.S.A.", "It's America for Me", "Beautiful California", and "I Love California".
- "I pledge to: Help in the selection of a new intelligent and attractive State Flag to supersede the existing ugly and stupid one." Not an "official" quote per se, but one of Ashamallah's promises while running for Governor of California. He also vowed to replace California's "ugly and meaningless" state song, presumably with one of his own compositions.