This would not be an usual thing to say on May 2nd, but as I’ve noted, the year is askew, the weather broken, the spring hobbled by repeated blows from storms that come up from the Rockies like a prizefighter’s haymaker. As I said in the work blog, the storm that hit Minnesota was cruel and unusual, which made it unconstitutional weather.
But it did not snow. Here. I woke and remembered and looked out the window prepared to wince and sag -
Nothing. It spent its fury on the southeastern part of the state, which got 15 inches of snow. All of which will melt and soak the soil and well, well, what do you know: the drought lifts. The dryness of the last few years is forgotten as the mean reasserts itself over the long run of the decade, which itself will be a wink, a blip, an inhalation to the next decades exhalation, just as the universe itself is a bang at the start and a great collapse at the end, like two flaps of a heart valve. Assuming there’s enough matter to cause the universe to contract, that is. I hope so. I hate the idea that it begins with a great gust of matter, spreads and cools and ends in silence. Because that would make the universe, in essence, a sneeze.
Daughter still has a cold, by the way. May have to cancel tomorrow’s piano recital again if she’s a virus-shedding infection vector - had her placed at the end of the program, just so no one else touches the keys, but still. When I went to get some cold medicine at the drugstore I noted that they were for children aged 2 - 11, which meant she had outgrown the tonics and syrups whose labels are written in faux crayon style, and had graduated to NyQuil. She thought it tasted disgusting, which it does - my wife bought “Cherry,” which is not, as opposed to Classic, which is like Creme De Menthe with training wheels.
I’m fine; wife is fine, although the presence of Germs in the house means we air-kiss on the cheek like enemies who meet on the red carpet at a casino opening. Dog is fine. He was content to watch the drywall installer from his bed all day. The drywall installer - as I noted before, he read one of my books! - was getting over a long cold himself. While he was working I asked him if he had any experience removing rusted nuts, figuring he was, you know, handy.
“You’ll have to talk to my back,” he apologized. “This stuff sets fast.” He was swabbing the walls with plaster and I said you know, it can wait.
When I got new license tabs I was also given new license plates. The old ones will not come off. The nuts are rusted solid. Until I can solve this I am driving around in a state of illegality, but I have the new plates AND a wrench in the front seat, so when I’m pulled over and the cop comes up I can hold up the plate and say “I know. Believe me.” And I’d think of how I got the plates late in the month, and if I’d done it sooner, but it was snowing, and I was busy, and now my procrastination means I’m sitting on the side of the highway with everyone looking at me as they drive past, wondering what I did, and I’m wondering whether some unpaid traffic ticket from 1984 still in the system will result in my arrest.
Well, it would be a great story.
From the interview with Peg Lynch, the secret to good domestic comedy:
“Things that aren’t funny when they happen, but are funny the next day.”
While I'm on the subject - and keep in mind I was typing as fast as possible; I was unprepared for the marvelous torrent of tales that poured forth when I called her - another snippet from the Peg Lynch interview:
“I said know this is hypothetical, Mr. Nielsen, but there 25 million people listening and 12 million on the rebroadcast, , if they go to bed and leave their radio on and the dog is listening, does that count? Yes, he said and he laughed, and I thought well that’s discouraging.”
Me: Mr. Nielsen? You mean, well, Nielsen Mr. Nielsen?
“Yes! So I would get up at a quarter to four to write, and think now 37 million people are going to be listening and I don’t have a script. I went through that every night."
All the worse because it wasn’t 37 million dogs. I go through this before every column. Went through that before every Diner radio show. But: it's not about waiting for inspiraton. Art schmart, this is your job. So go to work.
Things accumulate in the most interesting ways.
1. Just watch this.
British teen pop. Pretty sure that’s Laura Dern at :48. Love the shot of the kids grooving solidly with the happening sound.
Those were the King Brothers; they had a string of top 10 hits, and were regulars on TV. Top Vocal Group according to the New Musical Express in 1960. Rock was not yet important; it was just gloriously fun, and cheeky enough to make parents roll their eyes.
2. I got a tweet today from Peg Lynch’s daughter, just saying hello and offering assistance with the project, however it may take shape. When I looked at her twitter page to see if there was contact info - hard to set things up and explain myself and intentions in 140 characters - I noted two things:
A) She followed someone named AlanBunce, who could only be the grandson of the “Couple Next Door” co-star. So now two descendants of the show’s stars are on Twitter.
B) I saw a reply to someone who asked about an actress from the show:
@reggiesroast"Aunt" Maggie entertained at my bday parties growing up in CT (not in witch costume). Also played on my moms tv show. Missed!
“Aunt Maggie” would be the actress who played Aunt Effie with spinstery perfection. She also had another role that might be familiar to you. Ladies and gentlemen, Aunt Maggie:
She didn’t do the costume when she entertained at birthday parties.
If you were too old not to be scared, you wouldn’t get it. If you were too young to distinguish between fantasy and reality, it would be too horrible. Because: imagine you’re a small child who was properly terrified by the Witch, and the horrid things she represented - death, pain, monkeys. You go to a party and there’s a woman who looks like the Wicked Witch of the West. She comes closer.
IT IS THE WICKED WITCH OF THE WEST MOM WE HAVE TO GO
3. The piano player in the video above is Denis King, the husband of the daughter of Peg Lynch. Not that this ties anything together at all; there's no particular lesson to be gleaned, except to remind us that the internet is the greatest thing ever. By chance I stumble across an old radio show I like. Which leands to finding 730 episodes. Which leads to curiousity about its creator. Which leads to a delightful phone call and an invitation to come visit. Which leads to a tweet from the creator's daughter. Which leads to tapping my toes to a Brit boy-band ditty from long ago which I found after, oh, 17 seconds of searching.
How this would have been pre-internet:
1. Hear an old radio show on the late-night Sunday program that plays them because it's Sunday night and no one's listening
2. Tune in the next week in hopes they play another
3. They don't
4. The end
Oh, this. Right. After the ads, so much more.
Speaking of Alan Bunce: Peg Lynch gets all the hoopla here, and rightly so; it was her show. But Bunce was indispensable, and he made the character endearing in a way a lesser talent would have fumbled. A trademark of the Sitcom Husband, after all, is the way he eventually loses it, and Bunce could either blow up in fine style, or just go absolutely mad.
The original actor who played the role?
No sir, I don't see it. As compared to:
Much better. From the interview:
“Richard Widmark was my first Albert. I didn’t like him at all. When he left Alan took the role, and it took him about eight months to get out of the soap opera style, to talk like people talk in every day life. Well, about 800 people wrote and said they didn’t like him, Widmark was better, but I answered every one and said be patient! And I heard back from everyone one of them except one.
Then the network (ran a spot) and said, would you write to tell us if you’d like to see the show changed to a different time? That was a network trick to see how you’re doing. We got 10,000 letters.”
Alan was in.
The clips. Again, if you're just joining the LISTEN project, there's two aspects - sites devoted to individual shows for people who are mildly intrigued by a bygone medium, and this Friday segment, which concentrates on the incidental music, commercials, and odd moments gleaned from the countless hours of extant shows. "The Couple Next Door" made extensive use of the CBS EZ-cue library - although this week's batch is scant, for some reason.
This first clip scurries around for a while, then settles down to that familiar downtown / office music cliche. Don't you get a particular image in your head when you see this - women in skirts, men in hats, cars with big round fenders, all the trappings of 40s / 50s streets? Or maybe you imagine an office from the same era.
Perhaps the most perfect example of cheerful Attention K-Mart Shoppers music there is:
Change subjects: some library music from X-Minus One.
It's missing something, isn't it? Almost all the library music from X-Minus One is bored with itself.
The music is from an episode called “Hallucination Orbit,” and it featured an actor whose style is immediately distinctive and particular to his age: disaffected, intellectual in a useless sort of way, cynical, suspicious, alienated. Youth in the 50s. He could play it comic; he could play it dark. This guy.
Doesn't he look the part? Here's a sample.
It wasn't until I tried to find his name that I realized he was in one of my favorite childhood movies:
He was the pilot of the Proteus in "Fantastic Voyage" - an experience which would drive anyone mad.
Which, apparently, it did.
William Redfield. His last role was in "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest." I've been listening to him for the last few years and had no idea whatsoever. But it's like that with so many of these old shows - people played out their careers in TV shows and movies I saw when I was young, and hence had no idea who they were before.
Everyone was someone else before. And after.
Finally, a daytime ad for daytime programming c.1958. The announcer makes a mistake, and he seems to know in advance he's going to make it. I'll bet the guy running the board looked up for a second: no, we can let that one go.
See if you can spot what I'm talking about.
Update: I have no idea why the motel link was sending people to the work blog. Didn't do that for me. If you missed yesterday's Motel update: HERE.
If today's collection of 1930s cigarette ads doesn't work: HERE.