I’m sitting here staring at a pair of Robert Benchley’s shorts.
“How To Start The Day” and “How to Raise a Baby”, both one reelers and both really funny.
But to be honest I only posted this because I wanted to write that I was sitting here staring at a pair of Robert Benchley’s shorts.
I met Jack Riley a couple times, some cool little chats, once at Charlie O’s, and once after a Jack Sheldon set at the old Catalina’s on Cahuenga. Last time was at Chuck Niles’ funeral. I didn’t know where the men’s room was. He’d asked. Maybe over there, I said. Over there? Yeah, that looks like the kind of spot a men’s room would be. Yeah, it does, he said, and wandered off. Some time later he walked by again. You find the men’s room? Yeah, it was over there, he said. Was it nice? He gave a Mr. Carlin shrug. I’ve seen better, he said.
Never ran into him again.
Great. Put It Where You Want it again. It’s been days now. I deliberately left a big stack of LPs of all kinds right in front of the turntable and what do I do? Just drop the tone arm on the record already on there. You try to take it off again after hearing those first descending chords on that way groovy electric piano. Then in comes the way funky guitar picking out the single noted melody at a mellow strut. This has been in my head since it was a hit on an AM station in funky town Anaheim during Richard Nixon’s first term. I lived in funkier town Brea but the station was in Anaheim. KEZY. They spun the tune on the hour for a week or two and it dug itself in so deep in my brain it even survived all the seizures later. And I’m gonna take it off now? I’m reliving my virgin youth. I was so young I didn’t even know the title was a double entendre. Irony is one of the last things to develop in the human brain, you know. At some point maybe 40 thousand years ago metaphors happened and with them the capacity for irony and Homo sapiens became insufferable. No wonder Neanderthals became extinct. Imagine sharing a cave with us, let alone DNA. That’s some brow ridge you got there honey. You could recite Shakespeare from that thing. Forty millennia later I’m thirteen and digging Put It Where You Want It like a clueless Neanderthal, wiggling my little white butt and humming along. The deejay comes on and says something filthy. I can’t tell. This is how civilization began. Cue the Also Sprach Zarathustra. Or maybe just flip the Crusaders album over to the B side. Or D side. Whatever. It’s a double album, and those were confusing times.
Burt Reynolds was bald. Way bald. Even the body hair was a toupee. Lonnie said so. She was mad at him and told everybody. I don’t think it fazed his image an iota. Like Cary Grant, Burt Reynolds’ image, that look, was hewn in marble, impermeable. It was hard to believe he was eighty two when he died. We can’t even imagine him old. His Cosmo centerfold sprung up like mushrooms minutes after his death till Facebook, like a high school principal in 1972, took them all down. It offended Facebook’s standards of decency, they said, though perhaps it was just enforcing Zuckerberg’s feelings of inadequacy.
But Burt really was bald. William Shatner bald, but much better toupees. Some guys can wear a toupee. I imagine he was the guy that customers in toupee stores said they wanted to look like. Skinny little guys, paunchy dumpy guys, they wanted to look like Burt. His hairpiece would do it, for sure. Laying across bed with a hand strategically placed and a hair piece. I hate to think how many of those old Polaroids have made it onto the web.
I loved seeing Burt Reynolds on the Tonight Show. Incredibly funny guy but better yet a total show biz anarchist. Once he came out and smashed a raw egg on Johnny Carson’s head, just because because he could. A super hunky Hollywood icon acting like one of the Marx Brothers. Then making toupee jokes.
Now that’s a movie star.
Watched the original Godzilla, sans Raymond Burr. Oddly profound flick, a giant monster movie that leaves you brooding and unsettled, unlike a zillion other Toho movies or, say, the Giant Claw, which left me wondering about the meaningless of a life spent watching The Giant Claw. Anyway, when the scientist with the eye patch (from the war, they say, something I don’t think is mentioned in the Raymond Burr version) drops the oxygen destroyer into the fish tank and reduces its occupants to skeletons I looked at our fish tank but they were still there fully fleshed. Relief turns to guilt a few scenes later as Tokyo is aflame again. First in 1923, then 1945, and now Godzilla. Everything comes in threes.
Watching Fantastic Voyage. Donald Pleasance is standing bald and evil next to Raquel Welch and if you squint your eyes they merge into three thirds of one organism. This film is the first half of Arthur O’Connell’s science fiction oeuvre; the second half being The Reluctant Astronaut. Had that film starred Donald Pleasance instead of Don Knotts it might have been a dark and brooding Dostoevskian study of the human condition. But it didn’t.
Oops, Donald Pleasance just got gooped to death.
I gotta say Chain of Fools still gives me the chills. Aretha’s delivery over that swamp blues groove, you treated me mean, she says, you treated me cruel, then the break, Aretha telling us her doctor says take it easy over a rhythmic hand clapped chant that goes all the way back to the roots, then back to the swamp groove, Aretha hurting even more, how one of these mornings the chain is gonna break, but until then she’s gonna take all that she can take, a hard whacked roll on the snare leading her back into the incredibly simple chorus, chain chain chain, the drummer dancing crazily off the cymbals, leading the way, and Aretha and the chanting chorus and the swamp groove and those crazy tinging cymbals fade off the end of the record, trapped forever in a chain of fools. The juke box clicks and whirs, you better think Aretha says, and the dance floor whirls and struts and gets down.