House Prospects; Clash of Communities; Gold Star Memories; Madam Marie

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Good morning, it’s Friday, May 25, 2018. Marie Castello was born in Neptune City, New Jersey on this date in 1915. If you don’t know that name, you’re probably not for the Jersey Shore. I’m not either, but I know rock ’n’ roll, which is why several years ago on a trip to Asbury Park, I checked out a fortune teller’s booth on the boardwalk that read, “MADAM MARIE’S TEMPLE OF KNOWLEDGE.”

She’s gone now. Madam Marie passed away 10 years ago this month. Although I don’t necessarily credit sooth-saying, I will venture the opinion that Madam Marie saw enough of life in her 93 years on Earth to read people, if not palms.

I’ll have more on this interesting woman, and her connection with modern American music, in a moment. First, I’d first point you to RealClearPolitics’ front page, which presents our poll averages, videos, breaking news stories, and aggregated opinion columns spanning the political spectrum. We also offer original material from our own reporters and contributors, including the following:

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How the Battle for the House Is Shaping Up. RCP senior political analyst Sean Trende offers his assessment.

Donald Trump and the Clash of Communities. Paul Sracic writes that the president’s supporters cast their 2016 ballots in the way they thought would best sustain their communities.

Popular Vote Plan Would Do More Harm Than Good. Peter J. Wallison warns that doing away with the Electoral College system will attract a profusion of special interest candidates and splinter the tally.

Overcoming Cyber Intrusions. In the fifth installment of our video interview with Gen. Michael Hayden, the intelligence expert touches on private entities’ steps to limit harm, and cyber deterrence approaches government can employ against bad actors.

The Democratic Holiday. Robert R. Garnett reflects on the sinking of the USS Juneau in World War II and the loss of 700 men, including the five Sullivan brothers.

How to Make Health Care Prices Transparent. In RealClearPolicy, James C. Capretta considers what HHS Secretary Alex Azar can do to give patients more meaningful price information.

New NAFTA Must Protect U.S. Investments. In RealClearEnergy, Pınar Çebi Wilber argues that "Investor-State Dispute Settlements" are key to preserving America's competitiveness in the energy sector.

10 Longest Bridges in the World. On the cusp of the 81st anniversary of the opening of the Golden Gate Bridge, RealClearHistory’s Brandon Christensen spotlights other spans that have surpassed it in length.

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Known to locals as “the gypsy queen of the boardwalk,” Marie Castello had a shack on the Asbury Park boardwalk with an inviting sign: “Madam Marie’s Temple of Knowledge.” She certainly had a basis for this reservoir of wisdom. In the early 1930s, men and women strolled by in formal wear on their way to local dinner theaters or Asbury Park’s Convention Hall. In the early 1970s, as the town's luster ebbed, the crowd got younger -- and rougher -- as faded jeans and Army surplus jackets replaced the evening gowns and tuxedos of earlier eras.

One day, a long-haired 17-year-old local boy who strummed his guitar on the railing opposite Madam Marie’s strolled in. He didn’t have enough money, but she told his fortune anyway. Looking in her crystal ball, Marie predicted that the boy was destined for fame and success. His name was Bruce Springsteen.

Ah, she probably told that to all the young people, Springsteen later allowed with a laugh. But Bruce returned the favor anyway, including her in one of the best lines in one of his best songs, in one of rock music’s best canons. In the process, Springsteen made Madam Marie the most famous fortune teller in the world.

“Did you hear the cops finally busted Madam Marie,” Springsteen wrote, “for tellin’ fortunes better than they do.”

Those were the iconic lines from a 1973 song called “4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy),” which I’m listening to as I write these words. From that time forward, Bruce and Madam Marie were forever linked. It was an association benefiting both parties, and probably helped Asbury Park, too, although town authorities were quick to point out that the soothsayer was never really arrested.

Springsteen took literary license to make a point about prejudice, in this case about how people in authority judged those who didn’t look or act the way their parents did. As for Madam Marie herself, the song gave her a platform of sorts, which she put to good use. When asked about Springsteen, she always spoke with affection. Not because he’d made it big, as she had predicted, but because he never got too big for his britches. “He always comes by to say hello,” she told Bill Handleman of the Asbury Park Press a few weeks before she died. “He knows where he came from.”

Could she really predict the future? I like to think so, and there is more proof to that proposition than just Bruce Springsteen’s rise to stardom. For one thing, she never gave up on Asbury Park, even in its most rundown days. It’s a place that keeps coming back again and again, the latest catastrophe being Hurricane Sandy.

Upon Madam Marie’s death, New Jersey columnist and radio commentator Mike Kelly explained that he’d once asked Marie about her “tarnished town” and she replied that Asbury Park was doing just fine, thank you.

“To be a fortune teller, you have to believe in the future, warts and all,” Kelly said. “Madam Marie believed, and she saw Asbury Park not just as a wonderful old shore town, but as a vibrant new shore town, rebuilding and reinventing itself.” 

Carl M. Cannon 
Washington Bureau chief, RealClearPolitics
@CarlCannon (Twitter)

Carl M. Cannon is the Washington Bureau Chief for RealClearPolitics. Reach him on Twitter @CarlCannon.

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