The Rise and Fall of a Rock and Roll Richelieu

“The Rise and Fall of a Rock and Roll Richelieu.” By Stephen Nunns. American Theatre. Vol. 4, 1997.


Fixin’ to Die is a fact-filled, 75-minute romp through Atwater’s personal and political life, from his days peddling porn movies in college, to the pinnacle of his profession when he took over the chairmanship of the RNC, to his nasty, painful death and recantation of his aggressive pit-bull techniques. Bruce McIntosh, in the title role, turns in an alternately hilarious and horrifying performance that’s part PT. Barnum, part Buford Pusser and part Machiavelli. (Not surprisingly, The Prince was one of Atwater’s favorite books.)

All of the classic moments are there: Atwater showing Reagan a John Cougar Mellencamp video; Atwater directing the Horton ad; Atwater coming up with Bush’s “Read my lips: No new taxes” mantra (“The ironic thing is,” he says, “Bush literally didn’t have any lips”); Atwater calling Dukakis “a card-carrying member of the ACLU” and threatening to “strip the bark off the little bastard” and see what’s underneath. And Atwater’s wrath isn’t relegated to his Democratic opponents. “Dan Quayle proved that ‘bimbo’s’ not a gender-specific term,” he says at one point in the play. In another he speculates that Bush must have a lover. “Barbara Bush is nice and everything,” Atwater says, “but it must be like sleeping with your mother.” Kitty Dukakis, on the other hand, is an attractive woman with “a nice figure.” “But that’s what happens when you’re a speed freak for 20 years,” he muses.