1-1-03, 4:30 PM -
It's the first day of 2003. I've only been up for an hour. It's raining here in Brooklyn, and judging by the view from our window, the sun might well have never come up at all today. The Wifely's watching Coming To America on the tube (strange, I had forgotten that Eddie Murphy used to make halfway entertaining movies), and our neighbor has for the moment ceased his pan-flute barrage. Glad I wasn't here last night.
Helluva night, New Year's Eve. It was time to say goodbye to a year we ushered in last December standing on the Brooklyn Bridge with a group of tourists, using the Jehovah's Witnesses' Watchtower clock for our countdown. At that time, we were living in a spare bedroom at our friend Tomasland's house in Dallas, dreaming of the day we could plunk down our flag in NYC.
For this year's countdown, we found ourselves in The Groove, a Greenwich Village club where my friend Paul's wife works. A reasonably competent band held forth with Brick House and derivations thereof, and fashionably bald bartenders slung whiskey sours at us for Friend Of The Waitress prices. We maintained our tradition of avoiding the Times Square hootenanny, probably out of sheer bloody-mindedness. Though last year our hotel room was right there, and this year my temp assignment is also in the mouth of the beast.
I have this weird thing where if I avoid something for any length of time, I start believing that it's trying to kill me. Waxahachie, Texas, for instance. I can scarcely articulate the number of times I got lost while driving in Texas, and on how many of those occasions I inexplicably found myself heading towards Waxahachie. Quite naturally, I began to believe that if I ever actually set foot in Waxahachie, I would die. But the Times Square New Year is not merely a locational issue. It's a space-time issue. I've walked around Times Square more times than Jean-Luc's made it so, and death has not claimed my frail mortal form. But by Pete, if I'm there for the New Year's countdown...Death, I say.
I kinda wish Death, or at least a wormhole, would claim the Idiot Crew at the Times Square Burger King. I'm trying to keep track of when this particular crew works, because otherwise it's a fine burger-makin' machine. But on a number of recent occasions I have stood at the vaguely corporeal Wait For Your Order line and somehow found myself in a surrealist play: Empty-eyed figures lurch distractedly behind the counter, performing mysterious tasks such as turning the shake machine on & off, picking up salads and replacing them, and moving empty drink cups from counter to counter. None of this, while undoubtedly symbolic somehow, seems to have any effect on actually MAKING MY BURGER.
I know it's the same crew because I'm beginning to recognize them, and only purest optimism keeps me coming in when I spot them from the street window. Surely they've gotten better, SURELY by now...No. No, they haven't. It was only after catching Night of the Living Dead on TV the other night that I began to put the pieces together. These people aren't idiots. They're zombies. And zombies need killin'.
And speaking of the undead, last week we exhumed a corpse that was probably best left in its hermetically-sealed coffin. That's right, we watched the 1978 Star Wars Holiday Special. Wow. I mean...wowee-wow-wow-wowee-wowee-WOW-wow. And whuuugggh, even.
I really don't think I ever watched this pile of crap when it originally aired, but I could be wrong (Mom, Dad, any recollections?). I was only 4 years old, and I think something like that would've traumatized the hell out of me (but then again, I used to watch The Greatest American Hero).
For one thing, the show contained very few actual Star Wars characters. The bulk of the interstellar shenanigans were presided over by old schticksters such as Art Carney, Harvey Korman, and Bea Arthur. I felt like doing the goddamn Curly Shuffle during Carney's leftover Honeymooners gags. Hey, Boo-Boo!!
Oh, and in case anyone had any lingering doubts: Bea Arthur should never be allowed to sing. Ever.
Actually, the funny thing was that the Special was really not a whole lot worse than much of the other crapulence which passed for television in the late '70s. I mean, this was the era of Donnie & Marie, just for starters. The Special is merely an example of what would've happened if Lawrence Welk had gotten hold of Lucasfilm. It is interesting to note that George Lucas' name is conspicuously absent from the ending credits. It's as if he was already planning his exit strategy, just waiting for the show to finish airing so he could bury the tape in the backyard. But alas, it lives yet.
And in living, the Special magically undoes every single piece of special effects advancement that the original movie made, which is a prodigious achievement. I mean, we're at BBC levels here, with the fishing line hanging off of spaceships & stuff. Flash Gordon, anyone? It's fortunate for Lucas (even a little suspicious) that The Empire Strikes Back was so good that it burned the impression of this poop grenade from the public retina in 1980. Lord knows how fans coped in 1979: "Man, I liked the first one, but I hope they don't bring that singing chick from the Holiday Special back." (by the way, has That '70s Show ever mentioned the Special? I think not.)
WORST MOMENTS IN THE ACCURSED STAR WARS HOLIDAY SPECIAL REVUE:
1. Actors attempting to "emote" through Wookie masks during long, pointless closeups.
2. Mark Hamill's rather successful Tammy Fay Baker impersonation. (Excessive makeup a Jedi needs not...)
3. Walrusman's in the Mos Eisley Cantina? Didn't he get his fucking arm cut off by Ben Kenobi? Where'd he get the new one?
4. Diann Carroll's turn in a Wookie soft-porn flick (viewed through a "mind evaporator"). No, I'm not kidding.
5. Harvey Korman, Harvey Korman, Harvey Korman.
6. JEFFERSON STARSHIP? Oh, my sweet Jesus. And what is he singing through, a neon dildo?
7. Princess Leia's pupils. Who knew Alderaanian cocaine was the best?
8. Did I mention about Bea Arthur and the singing? Good.
9. The conversion of the Cantina swing theme into a possibly the worst Jewish hora/drinking song ever.
10. Chewbacca's family are named things like Itchy and Lumpy. What is this, Leave It To Beaver?
1. Harrison Ford trying desperately not to run screaming from the set. You never saw such pain in a man's eyes.
2. The little Japanimation cartoon featuring Boba Fett, who had not yet been introduced into the Star Wars universe. It's the only thing about the Special that might even remotely be called "cool". Though Lumpy watched it on a Commodore 64 or something. God save us from the '70s.
Actually, the best thing about the whole viewing experience was that whoever taped this (in Baltimore, it seems) left all the original commercials in. "HUNGRYYYY!!! Hungry Jack!" The Wifely nearly leapt through the roof with joy when that one came on. And I'd completely forgotten about "Reggie", the candy they named after Reggie Jackson.
There was an ad for Lucy Comes To Nashville, wherein Lucille Ball performs with the likes of Ronnie Millsap, Lynn Anderson, & Mel Tillis. And don't forget to watch Alice. Or Dallas. Or Dolly, for that matter. Comes on the same night as Barbara Mandrell and the Mandrell Sisters and Hee Haw, if I recall correctly, which I probably don't.
Most interesting are the jingoistic labor union commercials, because I don't think we had those in Texas. And oh, yes, it was the late '70s: "Once, when a man made a product, he believed in its integrity and backed its quality up with his word. Now foreign forces (maybe the dirty Japs?) are threatening that idea..." The spots feature gangs of old ladies singing the "Look For The Union Label" song and stop just short of suggesting another nuke for the little slanty-eyes.
Then there's the Sheer Indulgence song: "Now we've got REAL PANTIES in our pantyhooooose..." And I'd completely forgotten about "There's more in the middle of an Egg McMuffin than an egg in the middle of a muffin...". AND the old Fruit of the Loom lady. AAAND did you know that you can get a brand new Mercury Bobcat for just $4,155? Betcha that's gone down EVEN MORE by now.
What's funny is that these ads seem to be primarily aimed at the adults in the house, who certainly were LONG GONE by this point in the program. You know Dad had run off to the shed & Mom had resorted to calling Aunt Esther about Grandma's corns by the time the Life Day Song rolled around, performed with blissful abandon by Carrie Fisher, sans ANY CONSCIOUSNESS WHATSOEVER.
Whoever recorded this thing apparently taped over not only part of Planet of the Apes, but also part of a Mister Rogers episode. And I must say it really freaked me out to see Mister Rogers as a young man. He was kinda creepy then. Apparently this didn't bother me as a child, because presumably this episode was taped in the late '70s, the same time I was watching his show and absorbing all of his mannerisms. I can't remember if I've said it before, but I think I've narrowed down the component parts of my personality, based on my early role models:
1. Mister Rogers. Politeness with a sense of naive adventure about life. Though I don't change my shoes nearly so often.
2. Kermit the Frog. He's just a nice guy trying to run a show, but these weirdos keep screwing it up, and he has to throw his arms in the air and scream a lot. This is my life.
3. Bill Cosby. Say anything with the proper delivery and it becomes funny. Or at least entertaining enough for people to determine you're harmless.
That should do it for the psychoanalysis portion of the evening...
And for the evening at large, I suspect. Gotta eat at some point, but I guess we're just going back to bed soon. The rain's supposed to turn into either snow or sleet by morning, and that'll provide some fun as we scale our steep block to the subway station.
I haven't had much experience with whiskey, but it seems I do all right the morning/afternoon after if I keep it moderate. I do remember getting up off of a barstool to make a point of some sort, then finding that I had not in fact gone anywhere. I can't work out whether I sat back down or just changed my mind. I do know that the band played neither Mustang Sally nor Cold Shot, and for that I am thankful. I love New York.