Monday, November 28, 2011
Yes, it's hard to believe but true, my thirty-third anniversary as a casino dealer is right around the corner. Unfortunately, it's easy to point out that the gaming industry provides dead-end jobs or to grouse about the harsh hours, lack of dignity from serving the agitated public, the dangerous and unsanitary working conditions or the shallow, but ever-eroding pool of employee benefits. Still, I choose to see my longevity as an accomplishment. Especially when you consider my field has a burn-out rate under five years, due to the reasons above.
Much of my success is due to the countless hordes of players (customers), whose generosity, (tips, a.k.a., tokes), have supported my approximately, 8,250-shift career. Now at Thanksgiving, it is appropriate to voice my appreciation to all those nice people. However, I would also like to pay homage to another countless horde...the disgusting low-lifes, devious knuckleheads and tedious wackos who through the difficulty caused by their eccentricities, short-sightedness and selfishness, have entertained me enough to provide a bounty of fodder to lampoon...and share with my readership.
MY FIRST CRAPS DEALING JOB WAS THE SLOTS-A-FUN CASINO, IN LAS VEGAS. DON'T LET THIS CONTEMPORARY PHOTO FOOL YOU, MY NINETY SHIFTS AT THAT DUMP, (JANUARY-APRIL 1979), WERE PURE TORTURE. BUT LUCKY FOR ME, ONCE I WAS OUT, I COULD LOOK BACK AT IT AND LAUGH.
For some mislead reason, I chose to withhold the overwhelming majority of my odd-ball casino experiences from my father. Even from the safety of retrospect coupled with humorous embellishment, I feared that he would be disappointed that I exposed myself to seedy situations and associated with dubious people.
I couldn't have been more wrong. My stories have a great entertainment value and therefore, dad was short-changed. I am now certain that he would have looked back and laughed with me. When I realized that heinous mistake, I became motivated to chronicle those events for all to read.
I got this revelation from my mother. She read my work and although she may not have loved them all, mom made it clear that my dad would have been my number-one fan. On the positive side, my twenty stories, two screenplays, novel and this, "MORE GLIB ThAN PROFOUND," blog will be etched into the stone of cyber-space and be an eternal part of my legacy. Plus, my blitherings encouraged my son Andrew to write...much more better than me.
Mom not only encouraged me to write but she was also a springboard to bounce ideas off. She and I had shared a lot of one-on-one time after dad passed away in 1995. Despite the hardships of being a widow, she made it a point to talk about my interests.
These conversations occurred during our little outings. And like my casino career, our adventures seemed to attract low-lifes, knuckleheads and wackos. The three incidents that mom and I liked best were:
"THE BARFLY IN McSORLEY'S." One of the times that mom and I played tourist in Greenwich Village, her body's internal alarm clock alerted her that it was time for her three o'clock coffee. We were fairly close to McSorley's Old Ale House, (15 East 7th Street), so I playfully suggested that we go for a beer. Mom's daily regiment was precise...so her need for a mid-day fix of java was as reliable as the hourly geyser in Yellowstone Park. That is why it was shocking that mom sited the bar's historical significance, mentioned that she hadn't been there since she was a girl and agreed to go.McSORLEY'S HAS BEEN A FIXTURE IN THE EAST VILLAGE SINCE 1854. MY SEPTEMBER 22, 2008 BLOG ABOUT IT, MENTIONED MY GOING-AWAY PARTY BEFORE I MOVED TO LAS VEGAS, (FIRST WEEK OF JANUARY 1979). ALSO INCLUDED WAS, BACKGROUND INFORMATION ABOUT THE PUB AND THE BARFLY INCIDENT.
The second mom and I entered the saw-dust-joint, we discovered that the businessmen who frequent McSorley's don't get there until after five. Through the stinky, thick, bluish veil of cigarette smoke, the rabble we found were the dregs of society. Still we felt safe and without hurrying, enjoyed a draught each. I used the unisex restroom before leaving. On our way out, mom discreetly pointed out a drunken low-life on the verge of passing out. This fat slob motorcycle gang wannabe, looked extra funny because the wad of spittle in his red beard looked like three-week old mashed potatoes.
In the fresh air outside mom said, "That Hell's Angel guy came over to me while you were in the men's room and asked, 'Is that dude coming back?'" Down through the years, I always reminded mom that if she didn't mind paying, she would have had a much better time, if she let him pick her up.
"NEXT STOP, ALBANY." Another one of our jaunts took us to Randazzo's Clam Bar in Sheepshead Bay Brooklyn.RANDAZZO'S ON EMMONS AVENUE, HAS BEEN IN BUSINESS FOR OVER 75 YEARS. IT WAS NO LUNDY'S. (THE ORIGINAL LUNDY'S WAS OUR FAVORITE RESTAURANT...A COUPLE BLOCKS AWAY, BUT CLOSED IN 1979). RANDAZZO'S AS A SECOND CHOICE, WAS STILL GREAT. MOM AND I TYPICALLY ORDERED; MANHATTAN CLAM CHOWDER, STEAMERS AND EITHER CALAMARI OR SCUNGILLI, OVER LINGUINI FRA DIABLO.
On one occasion, before mom and I returned to my car, we were approached by a man about my age. His camel-colored corduroy sports jacket with the elbow patches was a little raggedy but he seemed okay. In a pleasant and polite manner he asked, "Could you give me a lift to Albany?" I said, "We're heading to Canarsie, Albany Avenue is way out of our way." In the most genuine way he said, "No, not Albany Avenue...the city of Albany." Suddenly, it became clear that I was dealing with a knucklehead. So in a courteous tone, I turned him down without mentioning that I couldn't spare the extra nine hours to run him up there.
"'GRANDPA' AL LEWIS SHOULD HIDE IN THE KITCHEN." Our favorite wacko story stemmed from another excursion to Greenwich Village. Mom and I were doing some power window shopping when we decided to find a place to eat. At the last storefront on the street, we mulled the idea of getting matching, mother and son tattoos. But that was forgotten when we turned the corner and saw, "GRAMPA'S BELLA GENTE," restaurant.A COUPLE OF YEARS EARLIER, I PASSED-UP AN OPPORTUNITY TO MEET AL LEWIS. THAT STORY IS INCLUDED IN MY FEBRUARY 1, 2010 BLOG, "SIDE BY SIDE WITH SINATRA."
Grandpa's opened in 1988. Mom said she read that it had a decent reputation so we gave it a try. Our lunch was far from wonderful but better than average. However our visit became memorable while we were waiting for the check. That's when Mr. Lewis and an associate came in and sat at the farthest table, next to the kitchen.
I wasn't star-struck but I thought it would be cool for mom and I to drop by and introduce our self. Mom wasn't interested so I forged ahead without her. I wanted to tell Mr. Lewis how we once almost crossed paths and congratulate him on his career, ( TV's, "CAR 54, WHERE ARE YOU," as well as his much more famous role in the, "MUNSTERS)."
DURING THE 60-EPISODE RUN, (1961-1963), OF "CAR 54, WHERE ARE YOU?" AL LEWIS PLAYED OFFICER LEO SCHNAUSER.
A discrepancy in Grandpa Al's birth certificate prevents the authorities from determining a true age, at the time of his 2006 death, (82 or 95). Up close in the mid-1990's, with all due respect to the man, I thought he took his Dracula persona too far...he looked like a zombie. Regardless of his actual age, (he still had another ten years in him), to me, he looked unhealthy and awful. By the time you add-in his stale, medicine "scent," to his pasty complexion and abnormally long, yellowish fingernails, he was both scary and nauseating.
So while I was excited to make his acquaintance, I changed my mind and cut my audience short when I shook his cold, damp, dead-fish hand. On the way out mom said, "That was fast." I said, "I'm glad I didn't meet him before we ate. When you look like that, you should hide in the kitchen."
Hopefully when the current economic uncertainty turns around, we'll all look back at the terrible situations we face today and appreciate our perseverance...and have a good laugh when it's over. It's the same in the casino environment. Survival is just a matter of understanding the true nature of the job and enduring the tyrannical managers, malignant players and villainous coworkers. If you remain strong and remember that the negativity is temporary, you'll be confident in the knowledge that the agony will fade and be replaced with a lifetime of comic relief.
My point was reinforced over the summer when a foreign man with little command of our language came to my roulette table. Like a pressure cooker, I quietly watched him for fifteen minutes as he bottle-up his increasing wrath while hemorrhaging $800.00. He bought another hundred dollars in chips. Rather than his usual ten number spread, he made two bets. One for sixty and the other for forty dollars.
He hit the $40.00 bet, (and won $1,400.00). As if he lost everything he owned in the world, he aimed his ire at me and emptied a brutal book of profanity, laced insults at me...in suddenly perfect English. Even General Patton would have blushed after hearing it.
His reaction didn't make sense (he won) but I didn't fight back. I caught eye contact with him as I slid his payoff forward. During a pause in his ravings I shrugged, "Everyday can't be Christmas." He arched one eyebrow and said in his heavy accent, "Everyday CAN be Christmas?" I smiled, "No. Every day CAN'T be Christmas." I could see him processing the information. During an awkward lull, I guessed that he was translating my statement into his language and formulating a response back in English. Finally, he smiled and said, "It CAN'T be Christmas every day...that is very funny. Get me a pen and paper, I want to write it down." And he did. More importantly he kept the rest of his insults to himself.
So whether your finances are bothering you, things are tough at work or strange things get in your way when gallivanting with your mother...don't over react and appreciate the fact that maybe not at that second or that week...but some day, you'll laugh at your strife.
Happy Thanksgiving! And don't wait to appreciate the cornucopia of life once a year. Adopt my gratitude attitude and you'll get through just about anything.
Monday, November 21, 2011
While helping my son Andrew with his SAT's, we came upon it. It shares the same F-I-D root as fidelity and therefore means, faith or trust...usually in regard to banks, investment firms, insurance companies etc. So when people name their dog, Fido...it implies that the pup is a faithful, trusty companion.
To break up the monotony, Andrew and I saw it fit to lampoon the contrast between fiduciary's moralistic definition and the funny sound of the word. A few days later, I was reflecting on that well-spent time with my boy. Then my mind wandered to two circumstances when "fiduciary" fit into my earlier life.
The first was in 1981, during my brief (okay, very brief), career as a Nevada life insurance salesman. Part of the training reinforced the requirement to act in a fiduciary manner. So much so that the licensing process included an oath, to maintain the best interests of my clients and respect their privacy, (in my case, client...singular...I told you it was a brief career).
The other (far more interesting) circumstance happened in 1976 when MPW (according to the, "Guinness Book of Records," she's currently the only professional on earth without a computer), got me an unusual gift for my twenty-first birthday...tarot cards.
DOWN THROUGH THE EONS, HUMAN NATURE HAS COMPELLED COUNTLESS PEOPLE TO TRY TO ASCERTAIN THEIR DESTINY. THAT'S WHY PSYCHIC ADVISERS, HOROSCOPES, PALM, TEA LEAF AND TAROT CARDS READINGS ARE AS POPULAR AS EVER.
The tarot is a pack of playing cards, (the volume of cards range between 22 and 78). It has many European regional influences. Therefore depending on where you are, it might be called; trionfi, tarocchi, tarock...or something else. Some people also speculate that perhaps the tarot has Egyptian roots.
In the case of a 78-card deck, there are four, fourteen-card suits, numbered from one to ten, plus a king, queen, cavalier and a jack. The names of the suits, (swords, staves, cups and coins), may vary. This section of the deck is referred to as the minor arcane. However, there is a fifth, trump (triumph) suit. The trumps consist of 21-cards. This overpowering suit, plus a single card known as the fool, make up the major arcane.
An early, trump ranking of Italy's Tarocco Piemontese deck:
- 20) Angel
- 21) *World (This is the only exception). The world card has the highest number but has the second highest power.
- 19) Sun
- 18) Moon
- 17) Star
- 16) Tower
- 15) Devil
- 14) Temperance
- 13) Death
- 12) Hanged Man
- 11) Strength
- 10) Wheel of Fortune
- 9) Hermit
- 8) Justice
- 7) Chariot
- 6) Lovers
- 5) Pope
- 4) Emperor
- 3) Empress
- 2) Popess
- 1) Bagatto
Tarot's original definition, from Arabic to French is; to reject. Starting in the fifteenth century, the cards were used in normal games. Over the years, the use of the tarot cards evolved. By the late eighteenth century, mystics and occultists started using them to divine mental or spiritual pathways.
CONTEMPORARY TAROT CARDS AS WELL AS THE INDIVIDUALLY HAND-PAINTED ONE'S FROM BEFORE THE INVENTION OF THE PRINTING PRESS, UTILIZE ALLEGORICAL ILLUSTRATIONS TO REPRESENT A WIDE RANGE OF PERSONALITY TRAITS.
A "well-trained" fortuneteller can reveal the secrets to a client's future. They accomplish this by understanding the value of each card...with an upside down card having the opposite meaning. The depth of the reading is enhanced by understanding the change in a card's value, in relation to those previously dealt.
ALTHOUGH TAROT CARDS HAVE NEVER RECEIVED MAINSTREAM SCIENCE'S ACCEPTANCE, WORLD RENOWN SWISS PSYCHIATRIST CARL JUNG (July 26, 1875-June 6, 1961) SAID THAT THE ARCHETYPES OF PERSONALITIES AND SITUATIONS REPRESENTED IN TAROT CARDS, ARE EMBEDDED IN THE COLLECTIVE CONSCIOUS OF ALL HUMAN BEINGS.
When MPW gave me my tarot cards, we went through the instruction booklet together. On my own, I read-up on more of the basics. Soon I had a slight memory of the names of the cards, what they represent and a superficial knowledge of their relationship to each other.
For practice, I tried out my new-found talent on my parents. They knew I was blithering, but it was a lot of fun. When my confidence improved, I brought my deck to one of MPW's get-togethers, in the hope that this nonsense would help me pick-up one of her girlfriends.
The cards never helped with the ladies but I kept carrying them...just in case. At Brooklyn College's Boylan Hall cafeteria, I gave a reading to my friend Brent. He knew it was bullshit but he was entertained and wanted me to come to his apartment to do one for his new bride.
Brent's misses was smarter than both of us put together. But she recognized it as silliness and we had plenty of laughs. My tarot deck was still on the kitchen table when there was a knock on the door. It was her dad.
Her father, (Gene) was a hard-working stiff...and not particularly bright. Although he lived in one of the shantytowns along Jamaica Bay in Queens, he spoke in a harsh and stereotypical Brooklyn accent.
I met Gene once before, at the wedding. I knew little about him except for Brent's juicy gossip nuggets that centered on his father-in-law's lack of common-sense. For one, Gene may have been the first mature adult ever kicked out of culinary school, due to a lack of ability. He also lost a chunk of his life savings by investing in a worm farm in Maine and his most recent embarrassing experience, involved a flat tire during a blizzard.
In the 70's without cell-phones, Gene's flat tire forced him to trek on foot through the frozen tundra of the Bronx. He found a pay phone in a bodega. Instead of freezing, he waited inside for AAA to pick him up and take him back to his car. When they arrived, his 1975 Ford Elite was on blocks. All four tires had been stolen, a vent window was smashed and the inside was ransacked.
You might give Gene the benefit of the doubt and call him a victim of circumstance (or as he would have said, victim of soy-cumstance). But the week before, Gene proved his status as a dimwit by mailing his daughter a St. Patrick's Day card for a nephew. Except all the St. Patrick's Day and nephew references were magic-markered-out...and replaced with a scribbled HAPPY BIRTHDAY DAUGHTER message.
BRENT'S WIFE WAS MORE DISAPPOINTED THAN INSULTED. BUT SHE WOULD HAVE KILLED HUBBY IF SHE KNEW THAT HE SHOWED ME THE CARD..Gene's eye, as if driven by divine intervention, gravitated to my tarot deck. When he asked some questions about them, his daughter giggled. Brent said, "He just gave us great news about our dream house." His wife said, "Daddy, this is way better than our old Ouija board in the basement."
The smile drained out of his face as he said, "Yesterday, I paid some gypsy twenty-five bucks on Woodhaven Boulevard to look into her crystal ball...and all she said was, 'Come back next week, yuh inna toymoil is cloudin' da ball.'" His daughter said, "As a favor to us, Steve won't charge you." Nervously he added, "I got nuttin' to worry about, right? I ain't got no inna toymoil...do I?"While shuffling I said, "Please remember, I am not a master." Gene nodded and began fondling his crucifix and the beads around his neck. He took from his pockets, a rabbit's foot key chain, a tattered placard of Our Lady of Fatima, an old half dollar with a golden horseshoe soldered onto the back and a plastic three-leaf clover. In my thirty-three year casino career, I never saw someone with that many lucky charms.
Gene was carefully arranging his hardware in an arc when he looked up and said, "C'mon, use yuh mojo kid. Dese are suma da tings I need tah know; am I comin' intuh a windfall? Yuh see my Aunt Marguerite is on her death bed and I wanna know, is dere gonna be any money left after my vulture cousins get deirs?" When I shrugged he said, "Will my shepherd's pie recipe make me famous?" His daughter rolled her eyes. But her expression turned to shock and she blushed when he asked, "Will I screw Nadine Rourke again?"A wave of dread hit me when Gene grabbed the salt shaker and threw some salt over his shoulder. He then muttered a prayer and crossed his fingers. The word fiduciary wasn't in my vocabulary yet, but I realized that I wielded an unwanted power over this man and his superstitions. I decided it was my responsibility to not lead him on.
I ignored his questions and said, "A tarot card reading is only for entertainment." He responded to my disclaimer with a blank stare. I decided to rush through and be as non-committal as possible.
It was uncanny that the cards getting turned up were nearly all from the less interesting and less studied, minor arcane. I literally knew nothing of each one. Perhaps if Gene was more worldly, my charade would have been as obvious to him as it was to my friends. My guilt weighed me down. He noticed the drop off in my enthusiasm and blurted, "Is it bad news?" I hated the position I put myself in and didn't respond. Instead, I made my statements even shorter, more general, simplistic and highly positive. Even though I repeated myself a lot and didn't make much sense, Gene was bewitched and rapt on every word.When I was done telling him nothing, he asked tons of questions. I avoided specifics and bailed out by saying, "It's up to you to decipher the reading...anything else I would say, would only be a guess."
That night, the tarot cards were banished into the farthest corner of my desk's junk drawer and forgotten. Two years ago, (thirty-three years later), I came across them and was reminded of the incident with Gene. This time around, I didn't hesitate to trash them. You might say I was being irrational or apprehensive but not me, I just think it's unlucky to be superstitious.
Monday, November 14, 2011
COURTESY OF DEBBEE, THE PHOTO SPEAKS FOR ITSELF.
At first it was called Armistice Day. On May 13, 1938, an act of congress declared it a legal holiday; "a day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be thereafter celebrated and known as Armistice Day." In 1954, the holiday incorporated all our military personnel and was renamed, Veteran's Day.
Veteran's Day is usually observed with community parades, events and ceremonies that honor those who have fallen in battle as well as all who served. One of the great tributes to the service and sacrifice of our military, is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, also known as, "The Tomb of the Unknowns."
THE ORIGINAL MARBLE SARCOPHAGUS INTERS THE REMAINS OF AN UNKNOWN SOLDIER FROM WWI. THE THREE SLABS IN FRONT CONTAIN THE REMAINS OF A SOLDIER FROM WWII, KOREA AND VIETNAM. THE INSCRIPTION READS, "HERE RESTS IN HONORED GLORY AN AMERICAN SOLDIER KNOWN BUT TO GOD."
The tomb is located in Arlington National Cemetery, just outside Washington DC, in Virginia. Around the clock, every day of the year, this esteemed grave is guarded. It is the highest honor to be serve as a ceremonial sentinel. These select few volunteers are trained in a strict ritual with each gesture being of symbolic significance. Depending on the season or time of day and regardless of the elements, the changing of the guard occurs every thirty minutes, one hour or two hours...and is open to the public.
The Vietnam Memorial in Washington, is another venerated landmark that celebrates contributions made by the vets who fought in Southeast Asia. This aesthetic masterpiece, designed by a Yale University student Maya Lin, combines beauty with emotional power. It's three sections include, a "Three Soldiers Statue" a women's memorial and the best known part, the wall.The wall is made of a reflective stone. Etched into it, are the 58,195 names of those killed or missing in action. The walls are sunk into the ground. The gentle ramp-effect made me feel like I was walking into an open grave. It is hard not to be touched by this feature nor is it easy to overlook the deliberate, reflective quality of stone which allows the visitor a simultaneous view of them self and the engraved names of the fallen...thus forcing them self to look deeply into them self while linking the past with the present.DEDICATED IN 1982, THE VIETNAM MEMORIAL IS NEAR THE LINCOLN MEMORIAL, IN THE CONSTITUTIONAL GARDENS, ADJACENT TO THE NATIONAL MALL.
Perhaps the most famous of all tributes to our armed forces is the Marine Corps War Memorial, also known as the Iwo Jima Statue. Located outside the gate at Arlington National Cemetery, this massive sculpture by Felix de Weldon was based the, "Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima," photograph by Joe Rosenthal.Iwo Jima was the first WWII battle that look place on a Japanese home island. From February 19, 1945 to March 26, 1945 some of the fiercest fighting of the war took place. Despite the Americans eventual, decisive victory, a bloody price was paid. On the fifth day of the thirty-five day conflict, the momentum swung the Americans way when the highest peak, Mount Suribachi was taken.
UNVEILED ON NOVEMBER 11, 1954, THIS MEMORIAL HONORS ALL THE MARINES WHO DIED IN DEFENSE OF OUR COUNTRY SINCE 1775. BUT IT'S GENERALLY ASSOCIATED WITH THE AMERICANS WHO STORMED IWO JIMA'S MOUNT SURIBACHI AND INCURRED INCREDIBLE LOSSES.
Ninety percentage of the men who charged up, were cut down. Of the small band of survivors, five Marines and a sailor hoisted the first American flag on Japanese soil. They were; Sgt. Michael Strank, Cpl. Harlon Block, PFC Franklin Sousely, PFC Rene Gagnon, Cpl. Ira Hayes and PM2 John Bradley.
Those men, with the help of Rosenthal's photo were immortalized, declared heroes and rushed stateside. To support morale on the home front, they barnstormed the country and participated in war bond drives and made personal appearances.
Unfortunately, this new-found fame was too much for one of the men, Ira Hayes, to handle. He would be arrested fifty-two times for public intoxication. At a public appearance when asked about it he once said, "I was sick. I guess I was about to crack up thinking about all my good buddies that were better men than me...and they're not coming back. Much less the White House, like me." After President Eisenhower lauded him in a 1954 speech, a reporter asked Hayes, "How do you like all the pomp and circumstance?" Hayes said, "I don't!"
IRA HAYES, (JANUARY 12, 1923-JANUARY 24, 1955), THE REAR-MOST SOLDIER IN THE STATUE WAS A PIMA TRIBE, NATIVE AMERICAN, FROM ARIZONA .Hayes deserves special recognition because sometimes our heroes return from combat with invisible scarring whether they were physically wounded or not.
Back then the science of mental illness or even simple awareness of it, wasn't what it is today. So I guess it was easy for someone like Ira Hayes to slip through the cracks. Few people if any realized the great toll his war experience left on him. Then once the anguish took over, all that was left was the escapism of whiskey.
Nevertheless, in the midst of his downfall, he portrayed himself in the 1949 John Wayne movie, "THE SANDS OF IWO JIMA." But nobody understood why he shunned his heroic status and avoided the spotlight. No reached out and nobody understood. He was just labeled an oddball. His deep rooted psychological problems went undiagnosed and worsened. Ira Hayes descended to alcoholism and died at age 32, as a result of it.
Since his death, Hayes has also been depicted in art and film. "THE OUTSIDER," starring Tony Curtis in 1961 and "THE FLAGS OF OUR FATHERS," with Adam Beach, in 2006. In it, director Clint Eastwood suggested that Ira Hayes suffered from post-traumatic stress syndrome. Also the song, "THE BALLAD OF IRA HAYES," was written by Peter La Farge. It's most memorable cover was by Johnny Cash who took it to #3 on the country western charts, in 1964.
BELOW IS AN EXCERPT FROM GEORGE CARLIN'S, "SHELL-SHOCK," ROUTINE. IT'S A GREAT ANTI-WAR STATEMENT AND SUPPORTIVE OF VETERANS.
In World War I, the term "shell shock" was used to describe battle-related mental difficulties. It was simple, honest and in two syllables, direct.
During WWII, the condition was changed to "battle fatigue." Hidden by four syllables, I guess they thought fatigue was a nicer word than shock.
In 1950, the Korean War went Madison Avenue. They squeezed out all the humanity, went totally sterile and buried the malady in eight syllables with, "operational exhaustion."
Thanks to a lot of lies and deceit, the Vietnam-era saw the very same condition renamed, "post-traumatic stress disorder." Still eight syllables but they added a hyphen to help bury the individuals pain, under the jargon.
I'll bet, if we still called it shell shock, some veterans would have gotten more help.
So on this uniquely numbered day of 11-11-11, when we pay homage to what Veteran's Day has become as well as its origin that marked the end of WWI, (on the eleventh hour, of the eleventh day, of the eleventh month, of 1918).
The bigger picture is, we shouldn't have to wait for holidays to appreciate all the Americans who were ever killed, listed as missing in action or served. However, while we can see the disfigurements and paralysis that our servicemen and women come home with, please help, honor and respect those who suffer mentally and emotionally too.
Monday, November 7, 2011
The Tom and Dick Smothers were singing comedians. Both were born on Governors Island, in New York City's Harbor, (Tom in 1937, Dick in 1939). They grew-up in California. Their first professional performance was in 1959. They also made several successful record albums before appearing on TV's, "JACK PAAR SHOW," (January 28, 1961). In 1964, they debuted in a dramatic (comedic) role as hoarders on, "BURKE'S LAW."
THEIR SCHTICK MIXED FOLK MUSIC WITH COMEDY. TOM (left) ON ACOUSTIC GUITAR, TOOK ON A SLOW-WITTED PERSONA. DICK (right) ON STRING BASS, WAS THE SMART, STRAIGHT MAN. THEIR PERFORMANCE WAS TYPICALLY INTERRUPTED BY AN ARGUMENT AND ENDED WITH TOM'S SIGNATURE STATEMENT, "MOM ALWAYS LIKED YOU BEST." THEY WERE SUCH GOOD ACTORS BECAUSE, I ONLY RECENTLY LEARNED THAT IN ACTUALITY, TOM (the older one) WAS CLEARLY THE LEADER, HAD SHREWD BUSINESS SENSE AND POSSESSED MORE ARTISTIC CREATIVITY.
In 1965-1966, they got their own TV program, "THE SMOTHERS BROTHERS SHOW." To their dissatisfaction, their strong point (music) was never included. Instead Tom portrayed an angel who came to earth to oversee (interfere with) his brother, a swinging bachelor.
Despite that situation-comedy's short life, CBS in 1967, gave them another opportunity with the, "SMOTHERS BROTHERS COMEDY HOUR." It started out as a hip version of the popular variety shows of its day. Headed by a team of comedy writers that included; Steve Martin, Don "Father Guido Sarducci" Novello, Rob Reiner, Bob Einstein and his brother Albert Brooks, Leigh French and Pat Paulsen...the show had a skyrocketing appeal to the younger (15-25), generation.
Soon, the CBS censors placed restrictions on the humor when sponsors deemed some of the material to be controversial and not in their best interests. However, satirizing race, the president and the war in Vietnam was the show's defining content.
Similar pressure limited the lyrics and themes of their musical guests like; George Harrison, Joan Baez, Buffalo Springfield, Donovan, Janis Ian, Peter, Paul & Mary, Steppenwolf, The Who, Simon & Garfunkel and Pete Seeger.
To protect their financial interests, CBS insisted that all scripts must be reviewed ten days prior to air. Depending who your source is, the show either worked in earnest to fit their art into the network's professional integrity standards or they were outright rebellious...and only wanted to see how far they could push the envelope. Therefore, words, concepts and entire songs were eliminated by CBS. This scrutiny also happened to comedy skits. The network even put the kibosh on a whole episode.
To baffle the censors, the writers were forced underground. To the delight of their target demographic who felt that the encrypted double-entendre punchlines (mainly from the hippie/drug culture) were for them only...and better yet, went over their parents' heads. I was too young and never picked-up on any of the coded jokes...to me, the Smothers Brothers were just funny.
EDITOR'S NOTE - For more in depth information about how the Smothers Brothers became folk heroes and their struggles for free speech, check-out the documentary, "SMOTHERED."
LEIGH FRENCH (center) HAD A MAJOR ROLE IN THE HIDDEN COUNTERCULTURE WORD PLAY. SHE PLAYED SPACED-OUT, GOLDIE O'KEEFE AND SOLOED IN A SKIT CALLED, "SHARE A LITTLE TEA WITH GOLDIE." IN THE PSYCHEDELIC 60's, THE TERM, "SHARING TEA" WAS A EUPHEMISM FOR SMOKING POT. EVEN HER NAMES, "GOLDIE" AND "KEIF," WERE NICKNAMES FOR MARIJUANA. FREQUENTLY, SHE OFFERED HOUSEHOLD HINTS LACED WITH INSIDER SEX AND DRUG REFERENCES LIKE; THE BEST WAYS TO DEAL WITH YOUR, "ROACHES."
One of the other writers, Pat Paulsen also became a common on-screen character. He was discovered and given his big break into show business when Tom and Dick spotted him performing in a San Francisco nightclub. They hired him because he sold his songs cheap and agreed to run errands.
Paulsen, (July 6, 1927-April 24, 1997), was first cast as an editorialist due to his deadpan expression and skill when delivering double-talk, on contemporary issues. The logical next step was to have him do a mock presidential election campaign. In 1968, this recurring skit injected him into national consciousness.
LIKE A PAVLOVIAN CUE, EVERY ELECTION DAY, I SALIVATE AND THINK OF THE SMOTHERS BROTHERS AND PAT PAULSEN. EVEN AFTER THE SHOW ENDED, HE "RAN" FOR PRESIDENT AGAIN IN, '72, '80, '92 AND '96. IN EACH ELECTION, HE RECEIVED A SURPRISING AMOUNT OF PROTEST VOTES.
Paulsen's anti-establishment platform was purely comedic. But over the course of twenty-five years his sarcastic zingers against mainstream politicos and relevant social problems got voters to think in new ways. Although his comments and criticisms were based on seriousness, it was obvious that his clowning was exaggerations, lies and tongue-in-cheek raillery. Some of my favorite Paulsen-isms are:
- A good many people feel our present draft laws are unjust. These people are called soldiers.
- (Campaign chant) We can't stand pat!
- I'm neither left wing or right wing. I'm middle of the bird.
- If either the left wing or the right wing gained control of the USA, we'd fly in circles.
I will never lose my appreciation for Pat Paulsen, the Smothers Brothers or their writers. But I feel that the whole concept of him running for president was stolen from, "MAD MAGAZINE."
"MAD MAGAZINE," STARTED THEIR, "ALFRED E. NEUMAN FOR PRESIDENT CAMPAIGN," IN 1960. HE NEVER RECEIVED THE VOLUME OF PROTEST VOTES THAT PAULSEN GOT BUT TO ME, HE'LL ALWAYS BE THE ORIGINAL AND BEST FAKE CANDIDATE... OOPS, I LIKED RONALD REAGAN TOO.
Ironically, the same humor that played a role in, "THE SMOTHERS BROTHERS COMEDY HOUR," getting cancelled is still considered politically incorrect, (they were actually fired after only 72 episodes, on April 4, 1969). This was proven when this "poster show for the first amendment," was re-run with plenty of bleeps, in 1993, on the E-CHANNEL.
When you consider that the Smothers Brothers and "Mad," both scoffed at the same things, I think if Paulsen and Neuman were on next year's ballot, I'd vote for Alfred E. Neuman. My reason is, "MAD" has been going strong since 1952 and because they don't cave-in to their sponsors, (they don't allow advertisements), I doubt Mr. Neuman was ever censored. But far more importantly, even though Pat Paulsen has not been with us for fourteen years...he's a perennial...which means he left a lasting impression on many people.
I'm sure Pavlov would again be proud to know, next November at election time, the mere thought of Paulsen's name will result in some disgruntled Americans having their mouth water...as they cast a write-in vote for him. And I bet its a landslide compared to what Neuman gets.