September 23rd: Like A Boss

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It’s Bruce Springsteen’s 67th birthday today, and at his age you should be so lucky as to be able to still move at all, let alone bang out 4-hour sets every night in front of millions of people a year. The man is a straight-up legend, and even if you can’t stand his music (which, well, you’re wrong), you have to respect his work ethic and his commitment to doing the thing he does.

One nickname Bruce always hated was “The Boss.” Given his original artistic influences, anti-authoritarians like Bob Dylan and Woody Guthrie, it makes sense that he’d resist taking on the role that those (and other agitators) fought against. But the nickname has stuck, and so he shares it with a mess of people, including George Steinbrenner, Diana Ross, Lance Armstrong, Rick Ross, the Sheriff of Hazzard County, Georgia… and the head of New York’s political machine in the late 19th century, William Magear “Boss” Tweed.

boss-tweedFrom his election to the 5th District of the New York State House of Representatives (the Fightin’ 5th!) in 1852, he built an iron grip on the purse strings of the state and the city of New York, and by 1869, he had placed his people in every meaningful office in the area, enforcing laws that catered to his interests and extracting millions in development contracts and graft for him and his cronies.

Boss Tweed wasn’t all bad, to be sure. Some of the money he siphoned off did go toward feeding the poor in New York City, and he did help secure financing for the Brooklyn Bridge and the New York Public Library, regardless of how the money appeared. But he’ll always be remembered as the archetypical crooked political operative, and when he died in prison in 1878, New York Mayor Samuel Ely insisted that the flags not be flown at half-staff, like they normally would.

So, you know, it’s all good to live your life like a boss, but be sure you pick the right boss to be like.

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