A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006. Now a Popeyes fast food restaurant on Google Maps.

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Entry from December 04, 2010
“If you’re not the lead dog, the view never changes”

Humorist Robert Benchley (1889-1945) used this line in the film The Road to Utopia (1946): “Did you ever stop to think of one of those dog sled teams? The lead dog is the only one that ever gets a change of scenery.” The Bob Hope-Bing Crosby road picture was filmed in 1943, but released in 1946 (after Benchley’s death). The saying has been put on bumper stickers, signs and T-shirts, often changed slightly to “If you ain’t the lead dog, the scenery never changes” or “If you ain’t the lead dog, the view never changes.” The humorous quotation means that if you’re not in first position, you’re looking at the behind of the person who is in first.

Southern humorist Lewis Grizzard (1946-1994) wrote in 1980: “Life is like a dog sled team. Unless you’re the lead dog, the scenery never changes.” Grizzard is often—incorrectly—given credit for the saying, but Grizzard did frequently use it and repopularize it.

The saying has been a favorite of NFL head coach Buddy Ryan and several politicians, such as Ronald Reagan. In 1975, while running against Gerald Ford for the Republican presidential nomination, Reagan said that he wasn’t interested in the vice presidency because “only the lead dog gets a change of scenery.”

Wikipedia: Robert Benchley
Robert Charles Benchley (September 15, 1889 – November 21, 1945) was an American humorist best known for his work as a newspaper columnist and film actor. From his beginnings at the Harvard Lampoon while attending Harvard University, through his many years writing essays and articles for Vanity Fair and The New Yorker, and his acclaimed short films, Benchley’s style of humor brought him respect and success during his life, from New York City and his peers at the Algonquin Round Table to contemporaries in the burgeoning film industry.

Benchley is best remembered for his contributions to The New Yorker, where his essays, whether topical or absurdist, influenced many modern humorists. He also made a name for himself in Hollywood, when his short film How to Sleep was a popular success and won Best Short Subject at the 1935 Academy Awards, and his many memorable appearances in films such as Alfred Hitchcock’s Foreign Correspondent and a dramatic turn in Nice Girl?. His legacy includes written work and numerous short film appearances.

Wikipedia: Road to Utopia
Road to Utopia, filmed in 1943 but not released until 1946, is the fourth film of the “Road to...” series.

The film is the only Road to... film without a real place in its title though Alaska with its gold mines is referred to as “Utopia” several times in the film. Bob Hope, Bing Crosby and Dorothy Lamour starred, as they did in all but one of the series. The film is also the only “Road” film that did not take place in contemporary times though the film begins and ends with the cast made up to look older who flashback to the past. As a “narrator”, humor essayist Robert Benchley provides some wry commentary that is interspersed throughout the movie.

Wikipedia: Lewis Grizzard
Lewis McDonald Grizzard, Jr. (October 20, 1946 – March 20, 1994) was an American writer and humorist, known for his Southern demeanor and commentary on the American South. Although he spent his early career as a newspaper sports writer and editor, becoming the sports editor of the Atlanta Journal at age 23, he is much better known for his humorous newspaper columns in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He was also a popular stand-up comedian & lecturer.

Grizzard also published a total of twenty-five books, including collections of his columns (e.g. Chili Dawgs Always Bark at Night), expanded versions of his stand-up comedy routines (I Haven’t Understood Anything Since 1962), and the autobiographical If I Ever Get Back to Georgia, I’m Gonna Nail My Feet to the Ground. Although much of his comedy discussed the South and Grizzard’s personal and professional lives, it was also a commentary on issues prevalent throughout America, including relationships between men and women (e.g. If Love Were Oil, I’d Be About a Quart Low), politics, and health, especially heart health. Grizzard was also the stepbrother of the Southern humorist Ludlow Porch.
Posthumous collections
. Life Is Like a Dogsled Team . . . : If You’re Not the Lead Dog, the Scenery Never Changes—The Wit and Wisdom of Lewis Grizzard (1 May 1995) (Collection of previously published material)

13 October 1957, Idaho Falls (ID) Post-Register, “Roamin’ East Idaho” by Clude Ormond, pg. 12, col. 6: 
The lead dog, as Bob Hope says, differs from the others mainly in that he has a change of scenery.

Google News Archive
21 March 1960, Spartanburg (SC) Herald, “The Stroller” by Seymour Rosenberg, pg. 1, col. 1:
George Drummond, a realtor, quotes one of Robert Benchley’s favorite thoughts. “It always gives me a laugh,” Mr. Drummond declares. The quote goes like this: “The lead dog in a dog sled team is the only one that ever gets a change of scenery.”

Google Books
Air University Review
Air University (U.S.), United States. Dept. of the Air Force
Volume 23
Pg. 31:
The late Robert Benchley’s rhetorical question about life in a dogsled team is worth recalling: “Did you ever stop to think that the lead dog is the only one that ever gets a change of scenery?”

Google Books
Adresses Presented
American Iron and Steel Institute. Regional Technical Meetings
Pg. 158:
One old Sourdough gave me more wisdom than I have learned in all the philosophy courses I have ever attended and taught.

He said, “Remember this, professor. Only the lead dog ever gets any change of scenery.”

8 October 1975, Naples (FL) Daily News, “Primary Battles Help; Reagan,” pg. 9A, col. 3: 
He (Ronald Reagan—ed.) also reiterated his stand that he would not seek the vice presidency with Ford at the head of the ticket.

“I repeat, I’m not interested at all,” he said. “Only the lead dog gets a change of scenery.”

Google Books
Campaign for President:
The managers look at ‘76

Edited by Jonathan Moore and Janet Fraser; John Fitzgerald Kennedy School of Government. Institute of Politics.
Cambridge, MA: Ballinger Pub. Co.
Pg. 66:
NOFZIGER: He used to say early on that only the lead dog gets a change of scenery. But beyond that, he felt he could campaign just as effectively for the party without being the vice presidential nominee.

Google Books
Murphy’s Law:
Commandments and corollaries of Murphy’s original law of inevitable disaster, dedicated to the dismalness of human nature and the certainty of cruel fate

By Jim Russell
Millbrae, CA: Celestial Arts
Pg. 87:
Sergeant Preston’s Posterior Prognosis The average individual’s position in the hierarchy is a lot like pulling a dogsled— there’s no change of scenery except for the lead dog.

Google Books
1,001 logical laws, accurate axioms, profound principles, trusty truisms, homey homilies, colorful corollaries, quotable quotes, and rambunctious ruminations for all walks of life
By John Peers and Gordon Bennett
Garden City, NY: Doubleday
Pg. 59:
Moer’s Truism:
The trouble with most jobs is the job holder’s resemblance to being one of a sled-dog team. No one gets a change of scenery, except the lead dog.

Google News Archive
9 November 1980, Modesto (CA) Bee, “Art the Sage is good at handing out the advice” by Lewis Grizzard, pg. A13, col. 2:
It is Art the Sage who first said: “Life is like a dog sled team. Unless you’re the lead dog, the scenery never changes.”

Google News Archive
1 October 1981, Youngstown (OH) Vindicator, “Here’s the Best of President Reagan’s Pith and Wit,” pg. 22, col. 5:
THE VICE PRESIDENCY: “My own view on the vice presidency is that it is described by an old rule of dog-sledding—only the lead dog gets a change of scenery.”

Google News Archive
15 March 1984, Times Daily (Florence, AL), “AEA begins with funny, serious,” pg. 7A, col. 1:
During his address to the convention, Grizzard encouraged teachers to strive to do their best. “Life’s tough out there, you’ve always gotta strice to do your best.”

He left them with a taste of his own down-home philosophy: “Life is like a dog sled team. if you ain’t the lead dog, the scenery never changes.”

Google Books
Developing the human capital of Mississippi:
A challenge for higher education

By Aubrey K. Lucas
New York, NY: Newcomen Society of the United States
Pg. 5:
SOUTHERN humorist Lewis Grizzard has a rather unique philosophy of life. He says: “Life is like a dogsled team. If you ain’t the lead dog, the scenery never changes.”

Google Books
Crawford’s Men
By Jane Ellen Wayne
New York, NY: Prentice Hall Press
Pg. ?:
“Astrology is nonsense, but if you’re not the lead dog then the view never changes.”

28 April 1989, Orlando *FL) Sentinel, “Just can’t get enought o that elephant story” by Allen Rose, pg. D1:
Sled dog bumper sticker on a pickup in Rockledge: “If you’re not the lead dog, the view never changes.”

19 August 1989, Altoona (PA) Mirror, “Celebrity Cipher,” pg. D6, col. 5:
PREVIOUS SOLUTION: “If you ain’t the lead dog, the scenery never changes.”—(Philadelphia Eagles coach) Buddy Ryan

10 September 1989, Philadelphia (PA) Inquirer, “Today, Buddy Ryan’s plan unfolds,” pg. A1:
“If you ain’t the lead dog,” a sign on his desk reads, “the view never changes.”

28 December 1989, Los Angeles (CA) Times, “Eagles’ Ryan Keeps Them Talking” by Chris Dufresne, Sports, pg. C1:
Still, he’s the same guy who lives by the motto that rests on his office desk: “If you ain’t the lead dog, the view never changes.”

17 October 1993, Doylestown (PA) Intelligencer, “President and governor at odds” by Jack Anderson, pg. D2, col. 4:
Wilson says he’s concentrating on his gubernatorial re-election next year. but a paperweight on his desk features a dictum suggesting that these two may have a dialogue on their roads to the White House: “If you’re not the lead dog, the scenery never changes.”
(California Governor Pete Wilson and President Bill Clinton—ed.)

Film Score Monthly Board
Posted:  Jul 26, 2010 - 7:29 AM
By:  Ray Faiola (Member)
Benchley did a few brief but hilarious insets to Hope & Crosby’s ROAD TO UTOPIA.
“Did you ever stop to think about those dog teams? The lead dog is the only one that gets a change of scenery...”
Unfortunately, the film was held back for two years and released after Benchley’s death. 

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityGovernment/Law/Military/Religion /Health • (0) Comments • Saturday, December 04, 2010 • Permalink