In the buildup to Rice University’s centennial, the wonderful historian Melissa Kean is keeping a blog about the history of that dear university. The other week, she dedicated a short entry to my own personal favorite character of Rice history: Cleveland Sewall
*cue the Cleveland Sewall theme song*
Cleveland Sewall has young bachelor friends.
Cleveland Sewall, not the marrying kind.
Its 1927, and what do you say?
He’s on the Rice board and he’s a really big donor!
Now, Kean could only find two images of the dear Mr. Sewall. First, this entry in the 1912 Makers of Houston:
However, most people who know about Cleveland know him from his portrait in his namesake Sewall Hall. And what a portrait it is.
With a rainbow suit, yippy dog, perfect glasses and keen smirk, it is easy to see how this otherwise ignored character can become such a fantastic focus for the student body.
Indeed, as Kean points out, he has been quite the subject of a few Backpages:
And certainly, there were Backpages. Like the time I called for him to be elected Homecoming Queen. (pdf: Cleveland Sewall backpage)
Even beyond the Thresher cartoons, Cleveland Sewall had developed further as a character beyond his mere historical existence. Back in junior or senior year, I wrote an outline for a Rice musical. Each scene would be a different decade of the history of Rice. For the 1920s, it would be a musical confrontation between Cleveland Sewall and James Baker.
I hadn’t read that thing in a while, so reading it now to find the Cleveland Sewall sketch has reminded me how utterly awful the end result was. Oh god, that thing I wrote was terrible. It is just a bunch of really bad gay jokes. Maybe I thought it was funny in my head at the time, but now… weeow! No.
Anyways, here it is:
[Scene 2. 1927, Rice board room]
James Baker: Big, imposing stuckup man.
Benjamin Botts Rice: Young, naïve.
Emanuel Raphael: Here
Cleveland Sewall: Paul Lynde. He wears a rainbow suit, see his picture in sewall hall.
Muffy: Sewall’s little white dog.
Baker: Welcome gentlemen to the meeting of the rice institute board of trustees. I am Captain James Baker. And I am very glad to announce that several local philanthropists have pledged $1200 to found a scholarship for our architecture students to travel to Europe. Yes, I know it’s a lot. Now let’s call role. Baker, heh, here. Benjamin Botts Rice.
Baker: Emanuel Raphael
Raphel: Ahem, here
Baker: and the rest
Baker: And, the man who is making this all possible, William Cleveland Sewall. …. Cleveland Sewell…. [frustrated] Is Cleveland here!
Sewall: Well, if you’re going to take that kind of tone, I don’t know why I come to these meeting at all.
[song! Cleveland Sewall, has young bachelor friends. Cleveland Sewall, not the marrying kind. Its 1927 and what do you say? He’s on the Rice board and he’s really really [
sewall breaks in: Shut up!]
Baker: Ahem, yes. Now I want to thank you very much for giving this money.
Sewall: Of course Jimmy Boy! Anything to help out this university and its wonderful young boys.
Muffy: yip yip yip
Sewall: quiet muffy.
Baker: Cleveland, do you have to bring that dog with you?
Sewall: you mean my muffy? I don’t know. Do you have to bring that kind attitude with you? Maybe I don’t want to give Rice my money…. I’m sorry I don’t mean that. Why do I say such hurtful things…. I’m sorry, what were we walking about.
Baker: [increasingly frustrated] Ahem, your scholarship, Cleveland. Where should these young students travel.
Sewall: Well I remember when I was young, I spent some time in paire. Let’s just say I loved exploring the Eiffel tower. So big and hard, it really had an effect on me.
Rice: What about exploring the arc de triumph?
Muffy: Yip yip yip
Sewall: Yes muffy. Daddy only liked the Eiffel tower, not the smelly arc de triumph like that stupid Rice boy wants.
Baker: Yes, Paris would be a great idea. I would also recommend going to Rome
Sewall: Oooh! Nothing like those muscly roman gods to help our young rice boys.
Raphel: Ahem, are we sure Rome is OK? I mean, I don’t know…
Baker: Now Emanuel, I have 20/20 hindsight on rome.
Baker: And we certainly can’t turn our rears to those great men of civilization.
Sewall: Well maybe you can’t.
Baker: I know that the streets of Rome can be intimidating, but our students must suck it up and take it like men
sewall: I agree
Baker: No ifs ands or buts
Sewall: That’s the kind of talk I like
Baker: Besides, it is certainly better than gay Parie.
[Everyone looks at Sewall]
Sewall: … What?
Baker: Now what sort of students do we want receiving this scholarship.
Sewall: I say we give it to strapping young men. Of course I would have to interview them personally.
Muffy: yip yip yip
Sewall: Yes Muffy. Here is a snackypoo.
Baker: Well Cleveland, it takes a sort of personal strength and perseverance to travel abroad.
Sewall: Oh I don’t know, I’ve traveled as a broad with only my mothers dress and some powder make up, and let’s just say that I made some sailor boys raise there masts. Toot toot.
Muffy: yip yip yip
Sewall: Yes muffy, you’re such a bitch.
[begin rising in clamor, with two men arguing and muffy getting louder]
Baker: Now see here Cleveland! The Navy has a proud tradition of turning boys into men.
Sewall: And so do I!
Muffy: yip yip yip
Baker: I will not have you drag the name of the U.S. navy into the mud
Sewall: Ooh, sounds kinky. Do the young Rice boys do that and can I watch?
Baker: I am a captain in the naval forces. I have defeated threats and pirates on the seven seas.
Muffy: yip yip yip
Sewall: Well some people think I’m a kind of pirate. But I hope you don’t fire your big manly cannon at me.
Baker: You may think this is a joke Cleveland. But I assure you, climbing a ship’s mast is one of the most dangerous things a man can ever do.
Sewall: Well, I guess I’ll just have to make our boys face that danger head first
Baker: You do not know the danger making port in an unfamiliar territory
Sewall: Oh, I don’t know. I’ve had lots of fun dropping anchor in the south seas. Especially the massage parlors.
Baker: Cleveland Sewall, if you will not be quiet and I’m going to have to ask you to leave.
Muffy yip yip yip
Sewall: SHUT UP MUFFY!
Baker: Cleveland, what is your problem. Something is wrong without you. Why can you not take these matters seriously.
Sewall: You’re right. Something is wrong with me.
Ever since I was a little boy
I knew something was a askew
All my friends would play and fight
But I was not like them or you
They would mope and be all sad
Try to be just like their dad
But my mother she would always say
Don’t be mad, be happy, be gay!
Gayer than springtime in gay ol parie
[yes he’s so gay]
Gayer than all of those good broadway shows
[oh don’t you know]
Gayer than crème brule served up on doiles
[oh yes he’s gay]
Gayer than anyone you ever did know
[muffy: yip yip!]
Raphel: So did you take her advice?
Sewall: Did I taker her advice?! Listen to the fucking song!
So I got my best suit and I went on the town
[all over town]
Tried to trun those young boys frowns upsidedown
[he made them smile]
It was the best night that I ever had
[oh tons of fun]
Must have fun gay fun with every young lad
Sewall: But I wasn’t done there, oh no! I had to travel the world and teach everyone how to have a gay time.
Traveled the south seas with strapping young men
[oh such young men]
Stroked the highest peak of Himalayas
[they were so big]
Went to all the Turkish bathouses then
[what did you do?]
I turned around and I did it again!
He taught men around the world to be gay
Not to frown, but to brighten their day
Kings, royalty and presidents
Here are some now, I present
King franz: gay
Lord Raulf: Faygela
Ambassador Tojo: Gayasan
Warrior Kugo: [clickclickclic, with lip wrist]
Gayer than unicorns riding rainbows
Gayer than snapping and responding with sass
Gayer than wide stances in airport bathrooms
Gayer than taking it all up your ..
Sewall: Little miss muffet, sat on her tuffet, eating her curds and whey
Along came a spider, sat down beside her, and told miss muffet I’m gay!
Sewall: So you see, Jimmy boy, that’s why I am how I am. Do you understand now?
Baker: I, I think I understand now Cleveland. I you know what? I’m sick and tired of being so uptight and angry all the time, like I have some stick up my ass. Do you think you could teach me how to be gay?
Sewal: Oh James, I thought you would never ask.
Baker: But Cleveland, is there anything that makes you not feel gay?
[butler walks in]
Butler: Mr. Sewall, your wife is on the phone
Sewall: Oh that old bag!
Anyways, that was pretty terrible and I don’t know what possessed me to write it at the time. But that is everything I can find, and is probably in existence, about Cleveland Sewall. And most of it is made up.