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Friday, September 25, 2009

Sharon Tate as Janet Trego

Back when I was a kid growing up in Milwaukee, I loved to watch the Beverly Hillbillies. As a Wisconsin yokel, one could easily relate to the Tennessee hillbillies who were all too often taken as rubes by the hoitey toity of Beverly Hills, California. In truth, all too often, Jed Clampett (Buddy Ebsen) was as wise as old King Solomon. The show was a huge hit, in spite of the supercilious critics who loved to hate the show.

Well, as a young boy (age 6-8 years old) - I loved the episodes with Miss Jane's assistant Janet Trego, played by Sharon Tate. She was really pretty and had a wonderful innocence about her that I found especially appealing. I was way too young to understand all the sexual innuendo jokes and I was a big fan of her white rain helmet hair, a style worn by many of the young women and mothers of the day. And though I did not really know what it meant, I always thought she was really cool. I had no idea who Roman Polanski was or anything, I was just a kid.

And I will never forget the news one day (August 9, 1969) - when I learned that a lady named Sharon Tate, the actress who played Janet Trego on the show, was murdered. And worse - she was very pregnant when it happened, so her soon to be born baby was also killed in the murder. It is hard to describe how awful such things are in the mind of a young boy, but I remember it to this day. And I was a huge fan of The Beatles too, but for a long time, The White album, filled with songs like Helter Skelter and Little Piggies gave me the creeps for several years. Till I was a teenager - and had grown as creepy as the society I lived in. (for a sample of the times, check out Angels as Hard as They Come, Maybe I'll Come home in the Spring, or Born to Win) - Lots of people thought the "new age" of the 1960s with free love (see Harrad Experiment) and all the new way of thinking was really cool, but as a young kid, I am awful glad my parents were squares.

Anyway - Susan Atkins, the woman who killed Sharon Tate died today of cancer. She was 61. That is all the ink she is going to get from me today. Personally, I would rather remember Sharon Tate, and how I thought she was really pretty when I just a seven year old kid. Nothing nasty like so much of today's world. I just thought she was really pretty, and as one often does at that age, I imagined she was also quite a nice person. Of course I never knew her, but I am happy to remember her today.

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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Back to Olde School Special

As a child born in the 1950s, I have been having this weird deja-vu experience, wondering to myself if I am in some kind of time warp or something. Growing up as a kid in the 1960s made the whole "revolution thing" kinda weird. I was very young, and actually was innocent too - which is nothing remarkable for children below the age of ten. So people doing drugs, experimenting with free love, and all the peace, love beautiful experience was at best, admirable yet quirky and at worst, gross and creepy. (see Born to Win Trailer for further clarification). And as I listen to people talk on TV about current politics - sorry - but it all has a familiar ring to it. Nice in theory, but people are still those pesky human creatures in spite of the best altruistic intentions. (Despotism or Democracy? provides an interesting angle on this).

To further clarify the point I am trying to make - check out a few movies from back in the 1970s that in retrospect seem downright idiotic. First up - The Harrad Experiment, featuring Tippi Hedron and Don Johnson, the film was all about free love and the desire to express our sexuality without the hassles of marriage - which really just made "us possessive and jealous in our expressions of love". Yeah - just fine thinking - unless you are a child of divorce. From that perspective, it just seems like you have self-absorbed parents who should have been more concerned about the kids "needs" than their own. It gets weird. Don Johnson is a student at Harrad College, where the kids are schooled in free love. Don wants to have sexual relations with a teacher, Tippi Hedron - who undresses herself to try and scare him away. Like I said - weird. Want weirder? In the real world - years later, Don Johnson would marry Melanie Griffith - who was Tippi Hedron's daughter. And don't fret about difficulty at holiday gatherings. They got divorced.

Now before you start thinking I am some kind of Joe Friday, you know, a square who works for "the man" type - rest assured I went through the teenage experience with unbridled passion for hippies, peace, love and all kinds of anti-capitalist ideology. At Duke, I took classes in Socialism and Communism, thinking it was a potential answer to the problems of the world. Jimi Hendrix was my favorite musician, I had an oversized libido (see Guido's Libido) like everyone else, and I might very well have tried a few pharmaceuticals that were not prescribed by my attending physician.

You see, from my befuddled perspective - both sides have a point, but it does no good when nobody is listening. For example - sexuality is a wonderful blessing and gift, and I love children - but is it right that I am subjected to old people in bathtubs musing about hooking up while trying to watch tv with my young daughter. Sorry - make it go away - please. And how could you do that do an Elvis movie about Vegas? Stop it.

And for those who have no recourse but to call people who disagree with them racists - go check out a few movie blasts from the past. The Klansman, is a really creepy, annoying, contrived, preachy film reduced to silliness. And then the real world makes it even weirder. The film features a scene where Linda Evans is raped by O.J. Simpson, who later tries to escape while holding a knife to Richard Burton's throat. The getaway car? - oh my, would you believe it is a Ford Bronco. I believe Martin Luther King's dream (see some MLK video snippets from the I Have a dream speech) - and the Bob Marley song, War - where he wished for a day when the color of a man's skin was of no more significance than the color of his eyes. And I like this dream, and I share in Dr. King's hope that is becomes reality. But calling people racist because they disagree with another man's views who has a different skin color - belittles the indelible images in my brain, of defenseless Black people getting slammed by blasting water from firehouses in a peaceful protest. It cheapens the courage of Rosa Parks, it makes light of a hard and long battle fought by your grandparents and their grandparents before them.

And war is wrong and terrible. (Grand Illusion, Forbidden Games, search for War) No two ways around it. Yet sometimes - a good man must fight to defend the rights of his family and children. Don't buy that? Watch Escape From Sobibor and convince yourself that good men should do nothing. It is not so easy as black and white.

In conclusion - I wish we would spend more time listening to another person's views, rather than shouting louder with this week's talking points. In most cases - both sides have valid things to say, that are heartfelt and true. And as Flannery O'Connor once said - The truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it.

And if this is way too serious - let me say, fine with me. I would rather laugh watching some early George Carlin doing the Hippy Dippy Weatherman.

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