Will Rogers had been to Maryland several times and one of his most famously nervous moments happened in Baltimore when President Woodrow Wilson came to see the show (see story below.) Will referred to Maryland as, “the only civilized State left.”
“Just had dinner tonight with a guy that has every earmark of the next renter for the White House in case Cal don’t renew his lease. There ain’t but one thing will hold this fellow back and that ain’t much, but you know how voters are. He is a Democrat. He is now the wet nurse for Maryland.” Daily Telegrams, December 10, 1926 – Speaking in Baltimore of Maryland Governor Albert Ritchie
“Just flew down to Pimlico, Maryland, to see the great “Preakness” race. Bucked a head wind but not as strong a one as the horse I bet on bucked. Forty thousand people there, counting Senators and Congressmen.” – Daily Telegrams, May 10, 1929
“Maryland has a flag that looks as if they were advertising a Turkish cigarette.” – New York Times, June 27, 1924
The following excerpt was taken from one of Will’s Weekly Articles in 1924 about his encounter with President Woodrow Wilson in Baltimore.
“The first time I shall never forget, for it was the most impressive and for me the most nervous one of them all. The Friars Club of New York, one of the biggest theatrical social clubs in New York, had decided to make a whirlwind tour of the principal cities of the East all in one week. We played a different city every night. We made a one night stand out of Chicago and New York. We were billed for Baltimore but not for Washington. President Wilson came over from Washington to see the performance. It was the first time in theatrical history that the president of the United States coming clear over to Baltimore just to see a comedy show….
....But here I was, nothing but a very ordinary Oklahoma cowpuncher who had learned to spin a rope a little and who had learned to read the daily papers a little, going out before the aristocracy of Baltimore, and the president of the United States, and kid about some of the policies with which he was shaping the destinies of nations.
How was I to know but what the audience would rise up in mass and resent it. I had never heard, and I don’t think any one else had ever heard of a president being joked personally in a public theatre about the policies of his administration.
The nearer the time come the worse scared I got, George Cohan, and Willie Collier and Frank Tinney and others, knowing how I felt, would pat me on the back and tell me, “Why he is just a human being; go on out and do your stuff.” Well if some body had come through that dressing room and hollered “Train for Claremore, Oklahoma leaving at once” I would have been on it. This all may sound strange but any who have had the experience know, that a Presidential appearance in a theatre, especially outside Washington, D. C., is a very rare and unique feeling even to the audience. They are keyed up almost as much as the actors.
At the time of his entrance into the house, everybody stood up and there were plain clothes men all over the place, back stage and behind his box. How was I to know but what one of them might not take a shot at me if I said anything about him personally? Finally a warden knocked at my dressing room door and said, “You die in 5 more minutes for kidding your country.” They just literally shoved me out on the stage….
…Well, due to him being a good fellow and setting a real example, I had the proudest and most successful night I ever had on the stage. I had lots of gags on other subjects but the ones on him were the heartiest laughs with him, and so it was on all the other occasions I played for him. He come back stage at intermission and chatted and shook hands with all.”