STEVE URKELThe transformation of Steve Urkel from lovable dweeb to one of the Internet's leading Men's Rights Advocates has shocked many people.
"I knew him since he was a baby," Harriet Winslow says. "He was a sweet boy. A little trying at times, yes, but sweet. The way he is now ... it's like I don't know him anymore."
Her son Eddie agrees. "Steve was a handful, but you could always count on him to do the right thing."
Not everyone who knew him shares that view, though. "Steve was a creeper as long as I knew him," Laura Winslow says. "I was always telling my dad not to let him come over, but daddy wouldn't ever listen."
"I was wrong," her father Carl admits now. "I always thought Laura was being overly sensitive. As annoying as Steve could be, I always encouraged her to get along with him. Help him to not be so highstrung. Hang out with him at the mall instead of our house."
That all came to a head one night not long after Laura started college. "I was living at home, commuting to campus. One night I woke up, and there was Steve standing at the foot of my bed, just watching me with that creepy grin of his. I screamed for dad, and he kicked Steve out of the house, told him to never show his face there again."
After Laura finally took out a restraining order against him and her dad threatened to shoot him if he ever came near their house again, Steve gravitated to the world of Pickup Artists, but he soon became disillusioned after discovering that bedding random women didn't fill the loneliness in his heart.
Instead of learning his lesson and becoming a better person who could handle relationships with women as equals, however, he gravitated to the dark side of the PUA scene and became a Men's Rights Activist. Over the next decade, his life entered a tailspin. He dropped out of grad school and ended up working a low-paying tech support job. He was arrested when he tried to crash Laura's wedding, and was later investigated for making death threats against Anita Sarkeesian.
When Trump announced his candidacy, Steve didn't give it much thought at first -- he'd enjoyed The Apprentice, but he figured Trump was pulling a publicity stunt. But after listening to Trump's rhetoric, he came around. Now Steve sees Trump as a way to save American masculinity from the insidious forces of feminism.
"Trump wants to make America great again. That means returning us to traditional notions of masculinity and femininity. A country where women know their place in the world and don't go slutting it up at bars unless they want a man to make a move on them. None of this, 'Oh, I'm just here with my girlfriends for some fun.'"
"That kid," Carl sighs after hearing about Steve's views, "he's got a mind but he don't know how to use it. No wonder he sees himself in Trump. God help us, but so do lots of people."
CLIFF CLAVINTo the occasional visitor to Cheers, Cliff was a lovable scamp, always sitting at the end of the bar, entertaining people with odd bits of trivia. But the staff and regulars knew better. His friend Norm Peterson says, "Yeah, by closing time on a Saturday night, Cliffy was a different man. Get too many beers into him and ... it was bad." Says Sam Malone, manager and sometime proprietor of Cheers, "Early afternoons, he was okay, but late at night it'd be, 'It's a fact Sammy, the Jews control 90% of the wealth in the Jew-nited States.' It was sad watching him get that way, but at least he was here with friends who knew not to take him seriously."
But when Cliff retired from the Postal Service in 2011, things took a turn for the worse. Unable to afford drinking out every day, Cliff took to staying home with a case of beer and watching The Gameshow Network. He also found Internet chat boards where he felt uninhibited in sharing his views.
"2013, that's when he really changed," Peterson says. "On the occasions when he showed up to the bar, he'd just go on and on about how Barack Obama is a Kenyan with a fake birth certificate."
"We had to kick him out a few times," Malone admits. "He was riling up customers. Yeah, I guess you could say it got ugly."
Even before Trump announced officially, Cliff was a supporter. "That dingleberry, he loved Trump for saying Obama weren't no American," waitress Carla Tortelli recalls. "He said he'd vote for Trump if he ran for President. What a jerk."
Since Trump's announcement, Clavin's worked his way up in the campaign organization, becoming the manager for Boston, where he's widely credited for Trump's stunning primary victory, one of the few times that Trump polled above 50% in a contested state.
MALLORY KEATONI know it's shocking. You were expecting her brother Alex to be the Trump supporter.
"Yeah, that's not happening," Alex says from his brokerage in Manhattan. As he explains it, "Look, I'm a believer in Milton Friedman and monetarism. I think free trade has made our country so much better. And I think cheap immigrant labor is fantastic. Trump is anathema to the Republican Party that I grew up with. The fact that so many Republicans today are willing to go along with him ... I don't get it. I'll be voting for Gary Johnson come November."
But his sister Mallory is another story entirely. In 1991 she married her on-again-off-again boyfriend Nick, a struggling artist. "We knew it wasn't right," her mother Elyce says. "It was horrible. We didn't want to be classist or anything like that, and it should've been good for her. Mallory was always so materialistic growing up, so putting that aside for love ..."
"But there were problems from early on," her father adds. "She'd come home after spending the night with him and insist upon wearing these big, goofy sunglasses and putting on heavy makeup even at breakfast."
"I didn't realize what was going on until later," Alex says. "I was young, stupid and naive. I didn't recognize the signs. If I had, you bet I would've sent that punk to the hospital."
Mallory's marriage to Nick didn't last, and they separated in 1995 after having two kids together. Working as a single mother proved tough, and Nick rarely made his contribution to child support. "There were a couple years there where I paid her rent five months out of twelve," Alex says. "I think mom and dad covered three or four more."
But Alex and his parents discovered that the money wasn't going to food and shelter. Instead Mallory, working as a receptionist for a plumbing company, had become addicted to methamphetamine. When her kids' school became concerned over signs of neglect, Child Welfare stepped in. Mallory lost custody of her son and daughter, who went to live with their grandparents.
"We love little Tina and Mike," Elyce says, "but we wish they could be with their mother."
But over the next few years Mallory developed a persecution complex, coming to believe the government was out to get her. "She felt that social services were some kind of conspiracy," Alex says. "A plot to destroy the American family. I think that's a lot of the reason she supports Trump now. The last time she felt happy in life, it was the 1980s. She thinks Trump will bring that back. She's deluding herself, but what can we do?"
JOEY GLADSTONELife was good for Joey Gladstone in the first decade of the 21st Century. His standup career finally took off, thanks largely to his ability to do spot-on impersonations of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney. His "Bush and Dick" routine won him guest appearances on Letterman, The Tonight Show and The Daily Show, and at one point he had a sitcom in development at ABC (the network rejected it after the pilot proved unpopular with urban audiences).
"Man, I couldn't believe it. After twenty years bunking in my attic, Joey finally got his own place out in Petaluma," Danny Tanner says.
But success came with a dark side.
"He and Uncle Jesse always kept a pot stash in the house," DJ Tanner tells me. "Me and my friend Kimmy would sneak some buds all the time. They never realize it. They'd blame each other and get in these huge fights, but when my dad came home, they'd have to make up some silly reason for their argument -- if dad knew they were smoking up in the house, they would've been out on the street."
"I've got no comment," Jesse Katsopolis says.
But, like so many comics before him, after finding success on the stand-up circuit, Joey gravitated to harder drugs. "Mainly uppers," says Kimmy Gibbler, who dated Joey briefly. "Coke and speed were his faves. He needed a way to maintain that high energy on the road. He'd have me hanging out in local bars during the show trying to score drugs for him."
The drugs, however, made Joey's act erratic. "He couldn't get the big clubs like before. More and more he was playing Indian casinos and little bars in college towns," Gibbler says. "Obama becoming President certainly didn't help."
The nadir came in 2014 when video surfaced showing Joey breaking off his routine halfway through to launch into a racist tirade against black comedians. "How come they can say 'n***er' but I can't? And I'm the privileged one here? Fucking bullshit! Fucking bullshit!" Joey screamed as he hurled a drink at the audience.
"Joey had dumped me by that point," Gibbler says. "He was going on with this toothless crackwhore he'd picked up in Ft. Lauderdale. I only saw the video when it went viral. I can't say it surprised me, though. That was how he talked in private."
After the video showed up on TMZ, Joey's bookings dried up completely. He blamed African-Americans for his misfortune. "He called me up one night," says Michelle Tanner, "and wanted to talk about this cabal of black comedians who secretly control the American comedy circuit."
After Trump announced his candidacy, Joey quickly came out in support on Twitter. "@realdonaldtrump will end the tyranny of political correctness that is destroying our culture."
"It's pretty sad," Danny says. "This is a guy who voted for Mondale and Dukakis. He even went with Nader in 2000 because Gore wasn't liberal enough."
Joey wouldn't respond to requests for interviews, however his Facebook page contains this explanation for his change of heart:
After thirty years of being duped by lying liberal politicians, I feel this country needs a revolution. I don't agree with everything Donald Trump says, but I believe he will demolish the secret powers who've neutered our nation. They know who they are, and they're quaking in fear right now. Good. That's how it should be."
CARLTON BANKSThe son of famed Hollywood lawyer Philip Banks, Carlton grew up in privileged circumstances. "When I first moved in with the family, Carlton didn't even know black people were oppressed," his cousin Will says.
"That's an exaggeration," insists Philip Banks. "Mostly."
Nonetheless Carlton has always been further to the right than anyone else in his family, even his father. "I remember in elementary school," his sister Hilary says, "he started a Black Republicans club. He was the only member."
"He was the only black student in his school" Philip says.
Whatever the case, Carlton has remained a staunch conservative, serving in the Schwarzenegger administration as senior fiscal advisor. "I couldn't have been more proud of him," Philip says.
But with the emergence of the Tea Party in recent years, a rift developed in the family. "I can't condone what the Republican Party has become," Philip says. "It's been hijacked by the worst part of the American people and turned into something I don't recognize." Philip, who served as state treasurer for both Mitt Romney and John Kasich's campaign, formally renounced his party membership this last April after it became apparent Trump would win the nomination. "I don't want to vote for Clinton, but at this point I see no honorable alternative."
His son, however, remains faithful to the party. "This is an historic opportunity. We're seeing poll data that indicates that Trump has a chance of winning by a landslide in the inland portions of the state, which are vastly more conservative. If we can leverage that, we might be able to flip the state for the first time in decades. The carry-on effect in state offices would be monumental."
"I think Uncle Phil shoulda smacked that boy more," Will says.
Asked if he's done anything to persuade Carlton away from Trump, Will says, "I went to Costco a couple weeks ago, bought the biggest thing of Oreos I could find and sent it to him. He texted me a thank-you note."
OPIE TAYLOROpie Taylor left his hometown of Mayberry, North Carolina in eighth grade, but he returned in 1981 to set up legal offices. When he arrived, he found the town greatly transformed.
According to Arnold Bailey, "When Opie's father was sheriff, Mayberry was notorious as a sundown town -- no black folks permitted within the city limits after dark. There were a few families that lived just outside town in rickety shacks that dated to the 1920s, but most blacks steered well clear of Mayberry."
That changed in the late 1960s after Sheriff Taylor relocated.
"Publicly, the Taylor's moved because Sheriff Andy was getting married and took a job with a life insurance company in Raleigh," says Ellie Walker, "but the truth is, he was under investigation by the Justice Department. He agreed to step down in exchange for them not charging him with Civil Rights violations."
At first Taylor's successor, Sheriff Fife, tried to continue his predecessor's policies, but as African-Americans moved to town in greater numbers, his political power slipped away. In 1974, the county elected its first black Sheriff, Tyrone Pendergast.
"The town suffered mightily from the economic problems of the 1970s," Bailey recalls. "White residents blamed the blacks, especially for the drug problem that started to creep into town. When old Mr. Campbell OD'd on smack, everyone said it was one of the new black employees at the furniture factory that got him hooked."
Racial tensions in town rose, and in 1977 there was an attempted lynching of a black high school student who was dating a white girl. Sheriff Pendergast arrested five men for their involvement, but charges were eventually dropped due to a lack of witnesses willing to testify.
When Opie Taylor returned to town in 1981, the situation was bleak. The furniture factory, which employed 60% of Mayberrians, had shut down the year before and attempts to lure new industries were failing. The welfare rolls were at record numbers.
Taylor ran for Sheriff in 1982 on a platform that many critics described as "race baiting" and won by a substantial margin. He set about modernizing local law enforcement, applying for federal grants that allowed the department to upgrade its equipment. Over the next quarter century, the department expanded from a sheriff and one deputy, to twenty-five officers, complete with a SWAT team -- something that would've been unthinkable in the elder Taylor's day, when Deputy Fife wasn't even allowed to carry his revolver loaded.
The black community accused Taylor of focusing his enforcement on them, but he insists that he was merely directing his forces at problem areas. "Look, we had a drug problem in the area. It wasn't on Elm Street or Maple. It was in the new Section 8 apartment complexes off Route 7. That's where I put my men. If that happens to be where the blacks live, what am I supposed to do? Ignore everything?"
The situation festered in Mayberry for decades before finally popping in 2014 when Deputy Timothy Fife, son of the former sheriff, shot an unarmed black man in the town square in the middle of the day.
"It was a tragic accident," Taylor insists despite numerous witnesses who describe the act as cold-blooded murder. "Tim's always been a little shaky with firearms. He once shot himself in the foot while sitting at his desk with the gun in its holster."
But Black Lives Matter protesters weren't so willing to write the incident off. Mayberry erupted in massive protests, which turned to rioting when Sheriff Taylor ordered his men to break up the demonstrations. Eventually Governor McCrory had to call in the National Guard to restore order.
"I stand by my actions," Taylor insists. "There are elements in this country who want to undermine law enforcement -- the very government itself -- and they're using these minor incidents as an excuse to stir up trouble. I have my suspicions about where they're getting orders from -- you can't think this is a coincidence, how all this started after we elected an African Muslim as President, can you?"
As for the Presidential election, Taylor says it's no contest. "Trump's the only candidate who fully stands by the police. If we elect Hillary, she's going to pass laws saying it's not a crime for black men to shoot law enforcement officers. She's going to pack the Supreme Court with liberals who'll make it impossible to get criminal convictions. We've got to stop her. We've got to crush her. It's not a choice -- if we don't, there won't be an America four years from now."
"I don't even know why we're bothering with an election," Wayne Arnold says from his home in New Jersey. "Hillary Clinton is a criminal. She shouldn't even be allowed to run."
Arnold, who grew up on Long Island in the 1960s and '70s, describes Clinton as everything wrong with '60s liberalism. "She sounds like my brother. Always whining, whining, whining. Vietnam, Civil Rights, women's rights, now it's the f*****s and t******s. What's next, dog fuckers? Jesus. I don't know how anyone can look at America and think we're going in the right direction. We've been going the wrong way almost my entire life -- I guess that's why libtards like f*****s, they're always sticking their dicks in the wrong way."
Wayne's younger brother, Kevin, says he's not at all surprised that his brother is voting for Trump. "Wayne believed everything Trump says he stands for before he stood for it. He was the sort of guy who thought our mistake in Vietnam was not being tough enough."
Sister Karen is even more damning, "Wayne was a damn fascist, even when he was a kid. I remember him seeing a story about Martin Luther King protesting somewhere, and he said the cops should just arrest him for making problems."
MICHAEL SCOTTIn a nondescript house in suburban Colorado, Michael Scott runs his latest business venture -- professional Pokemon guide. "It's just an idea I had. Lots of people want to play Pokemon Go, but they don't know where to look. I take them out to the best hunting grounds."
How's the business going?
"It's a growth industry. Yesterday I saw two prospective clients. They were seven and could only pay me with a piece of gum they dropped on the carpet, so I had to turn them way."
This is the latest in a long line of startups that Scott has run since leaving Dunder-Mifflin. "Yes, I also run a service for people who need to create fake Facebook pages for job interviews. I tried to start a 3D print shop, but there were problems. My lawyer says I'm not supposed to talk about it. Oh, and I install gardens on balconies for people who live in apartments."
When asked why he's throwing his support to Donald Trump, Scott replies simply, "He's going to win."
"You don't want to throw your vote away by supporting a candidate who has no chance. Voting for Trump is the only possible choice."
Asked how he can be so sure of Trump's victory, he explains, "I've been in sales for twenty years. I know a thing or two about the art of the deal -- in fact, I picked most of them up from Mr. Trump. Fantastic writer, you know. So what I'm seeing in this campaign in the perfect pitch. You know, this is how you do it. You show your audience that they have a problem, then you tell them your product is the solution. First you get people to think that they're losers -- everything's going wrong with their life, the rest of the world is laughing at them -- then you introduce your product and explain how it'll make them into winners. For instance, when I was selling paper, I'd tell people that anyone can have a website. Anyone can send an email. You can do it out of your basement. You can do it in your bathroom. Nobody will know. But paper -- high quality paper -- that's something special. If you want to distinguish yourself in the world of business, you still need paper. Even if nobody ever looks at your catalogue, the fact that you have it says, 'I'm not just some guy working from home. I'm a real business.' And people bought it."
"Trump's brilliance," Scott continues, "is that he's not selling a product. He's selling himself. America's got problems, and he's the solution. Nobody can resist a pitch like that. He's going to win, and if you want to win too, you've got to get on board with him."