Monday, May 24, 2010


I hit Washington DC earlier this week. When our nation's Capitol first came into view, patriotic goose bumps erupted all over my body. To celebrate and heighten this euphoria, I dug out my John Phillip Sousa CD and blasted cut number-one, "STARS AND STRIPES FOREVER."

Yes, May 20th marked my second DC pilgrimage, to hook-up with HJ , a long lost friend from my street in Canarsie. Last year through FACEBOOK, HJ found me after a 39-year hiatus. We organized a dinner re-union followed by a Washington National baseball game...against my New York Mets. Our meeting went so well, we repeated the same agenda this year. And guess what...somehow my lowly MUTTS won both games.

This time around, between hitting town and connecting with my buddy, I had a couple of hours to sight see. I saw all the usual places, statues, monuments and memorials from my car. I even ran, (and I do mean RAN), into the "DAUGHTERS OF THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION," (DAR), library, to use their facilities.

Unfortunately, my main tourist objective was visiting the "EXORCIST" steps. HJ warned me about the traffic along M Street in Georgetown and he was more than right. He also told me how difficult it was to park but the traffic was so bad, I ran out of time before it became a factor.

Along the way to Georgetown, I drove up Massachusetts Avenue. That street is nicknamed "Embassy Row," because it exclusively houses many foreign country's consulates . When I passed Thailand's, I was reminded that as little kid, I thought the country was called Toyland. I wanted to visit there badly until I finally, at age forty-one, got the correct spelling and the associated reality check.

By the time I crossed P Street, I recalled that the theme music to the 1934 movie, "THE MARCH OF THE WOODEN SOLDIERS," was included on my Sousa CD. (Please note, many people interchange that title with, "BABES IN TOYLAND)." So when I turned onto M Street, I found track number twelve and my goose bumps immediately responded to the music that thrilled me as a child.THE ORIGINAL STARRING LAUREL & HARDY IS A CHRISTMAS CLASSIC. AN ERSATZ 1961 VERSION STARRING ANNETTE FUNICELLO WAS CALLED, "BABES IN TOYLAND." AN EVEN WORSE RE-MAKE WITH DREW BARRYMORE, CAME OUT IN 1986.

I once told my son Andrew that as a little kid, I hated, "THE MARCH OF THE WOODEN SOLDIERS," but watched it every time I had the chance, (New York's TV Channel-11 used it as a Thanksgiving and Christmas staple). CLICK ON THE ABOVE LINK TO HEAR THE THEME. IT IS NOT THE SAME ARRANGEMENT THAT I'M USED TO. BUT IF YOU'RE IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD, DROP BY MY HOUSE AND LISTEN TO MINE.

Andrew saw the contradiction in my statement and needed a clarification. So I said that I couldn't stand Laurel & Hardy. Plus, by the time I was eight, the movie's Mother Goose theme seemed babyish. My boy then wanted more clarification because he thought the writers of "SHREK," devised the idea of including fairytale characters into an original screenplay...I can still picture his expression of astonishment and disappointment.

After he gathered himself he asked, "If you had so much against it, why did you make a point to always watch it?" I said one word, "Fantasy!" I then added, "I would bide my time and watch the whole damned thing just to see the big greatest childhood coming life. More specifically, toy soldiers."

Andrew scratched his head and said, "You mean 'TOY STORY,' one, two and three aren't original?" Alas...the idealism of youth.

The 1934, "MARCH OF THE WOODEN SOLDIERS," was derived from the Victor Herbert operetta of the same name. In the film, Laurel (Stannie Dum), and Hardy (Ollie Dee), work for Santa Claus. They screw-up by making 100, six-foot marching soldiers instead of 600, one foot soldiers and are fired. They were counting on using their wages to help Little Bo-Peep pay her rent. The landlord, treacherous Silas Barnaby offers to forget the debt by bartering for her hand in marriage. The plot is complicated when Barnaby frames her love, Tom-Tom, (the piper's son), by making it look like he kidnapped, (pig-napped) one of the, "THREE LITTLE PIGS."


All seems lost for Bo-Peep and Tom-Tom until, Laurel and Hardy do some detective work. They begin to unravel the bad guy's scheme and rally all citizens of Toyland including, THE OLD WOMAN WHO LIVED IN A SHOE, MARY QUITE CONTRARY etc.

Their aim is to delay Bo-Peep's marriage to Silas Barnaby. So our heroes trick him into marrying Stannie-Dum. Barnaby is enraged. In retribution and to support his evil empire, he enlists the Bogeymen out of their Bogeyland caverns to destroy Toyland. The big ending that I couldn't live without...set to the theme music I adore, has the idiots Laurel & Hardy animate the warehouse of "useless" six-foot wooden soldiers. Then as my skin tingles and my goose bumps explode, they steal victory from the jaws of defeat by routing the bad guys in a colossal battle.

Of course there are causalities to both sides in war. Especially when Stannie-Dum loads an over-sized toy cannon with tons of darts and it accidentally flips backwards and shoots Ollie-Dee in the butt. When the hysteria and music are over and the smoke clears, our heroes drive the evil henchmen back to their subterranean homeland.

Hopefully you can now see why such fairy tales were impossible for my budding testosterone to accept. A manly pre-pubescent like myself couldn't care less about the Dish running away with the Spoon or what made the Little Boy so blue. Then to heap upon all that a romance angle...quick get me a bucket...even now...before I lose my lunch.

In all fairness, it should be noted that similar lovey-dovey circumstances took place in the, "DUDLEY DO-RIGHT," cartoons...and that situation was perfectly palatable to me. The reason is obvious...while the Bo-Peep character was mirrored by Do-Right's girlfriend Nell Fenwick...and Silas Barnaby's counterpart was the sinister, Snidley Whiplash, the cartoon DID NOT have the ever-bumbling Laurel & Hardy in charge of healing affairs of the heart. AT BROOKLYN COLLEGE, (1977), WITH "MFLEIS" AS MY LAST REMAINING WITNESS, I BROUGHT THE HOUSE DOWN IN SPEECH CLASS WHEN I DID A READING FROM "RAPUNZEL," IN MY DUDLEY DO-RIGHT VOICE.

Regardless how I feel about it, "MARCH OF THE WOODEN SOLDIERS," is a classic movie that shouldn't get swept under the rug. Just like you may not think Kate Smith's rendition of, "GOD BLESS AMERICA," will give you goose bumps because she wasn't a beauty.

The truth is, it doesn't matter what Kate Smith looked like, the song stirred something patriotic in nearly all of us. So find the original, "MARCH OF THE WOODEN SOLDIERS," and rent it. Because it will stir you...well, at least the end will. Please, forget that its dated, in black and white, lacks any semblance to masculinity and has the ever-hatable Laurel & Hardy...its old school entertainment at its finest. And while your at it, take an over night trip to Washington DC. HJ may not be available but the rest of the town will still give you recurring goose bumps.


Anonymous said...

Sounds like a good time.

Speaking of Washington, I have become friendly with former Senators slugger Frank Howard. Through him, I have met and hung out with Pete Rose, Don Mattingly and Jayson Werth.

I would love to invite you out here so we can take in a Cincy Reds game...I know people...and always get great seats.

Let me know, the invite is open...NEIL

Anonymous said...

My friend knows Willie Mays. Every so often he gets us into SF Giants games in Willie's private suite. And most of the time Willie shows up!

The first time in 2001, we were admiring all the flat screen TV's, the recliners and couches. Plus the cabinets and fridge stocked with the stuff Willie endorses.

When Willie showed up, he said he was hungry and the service sucks. He peeled off $200.00 and sent us out to various concession stands to buy everyone burgers, fries etc.


Anonymous said...

Wow ! Great site.

Anonymous said...

My short hairs on the back my neck stand on end whenever I hear John Phillip Souza. - WTW