Tag Archives: On Pop Culture

Surely, he’s joking: R.I.P. Gene Wilder

By Dennis Hartley

(Originally posted on Digby’s Hullabaloo on August 29, 2016)

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I guess I must have been in shock.

When I received a text from Digby asking if I’d heard about Gene Wilder, I steeled myself and immediately queried Mr. Google. There it was. But I refused to believe it. This just couldn’t be. That’s when I began a one-sided argument with my, erm…laptop:

“Wait a minute. Gene Wilder is no longer with us? Are you saying, he is no longer with us? Is that what you’re telling me, that Gene Wilder…is no longer here? No longer here. He was here, but now, he is not? IS THAT WHAT YOU’RE TRYING TO TELL ME?!”

Goddammit.

Sorry, but people that talented, that funny, are simply not allowed to just up and leave us.

Here are several reasons why, right off the top of my head:

Rest in peace, you bloody little genius.

# # #

UPDATE:

From his family’s official statement:

The decision to wait until this time to disclose his condition wasn’t vanity, but more so that the countless young children that would smile or call out to him “there’s Willy Wonka,” would not have to be then exposed to an adult referencing illness or trouble and causing delight to travel to worry, disappointment or confusion. He simply couldn’t bear the idea of one less smile in the world.

Wow. And then there’s this, from one comedy legend to another…

50 years gone: Lenny Bruce is not afraid

By Dennis Hartley

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Today is the 50th anniversary of comedian Lenny Bruce’s death.

On August 3, 1966, he was found dead in his Hollywood Hills home, from (what was ruled as) an accidental overdose of morphine.

For years following his passing, he was arguably more famous for the suffering he endured for his art, rather than the visionary nature of it.

In fact, it wasn’t until 2003, after years of lobbying  by members of the entertainment industry and free speech advocates, that New York governor George Pataki issued Bruce an official posthumous pardon for his 1964 obscenity conviction. It is worth noting that no comedians have  been jailed in America for telling jokes to roomfuls of drunks  since Bruce died (yet…I’m currently working on a review for a sobering new documentary called Can We Take a Joke? It’s an eye-opener).

Of course by now everybody has jumped on the bandwagon and acknowledges the man’s genius and the groundbreaking nature of his material. But I can’t help but wonder how Lenny would have fared in the age of social media, or in front of a modern college audience (oy).

Would today’s audiences grasp the subtlety of this bit, for example? Or would Lenny suffer a virtual lynching by an outraged Twitter mob before he could reach the end, when its true message becomes clear?

“Lenny Bruce”,  by Bob Dylan  

Lenny Bruce is dead but his ghost lived on and on
Never did get any Golden Globe award, never made it to Synanon
He was an outlaw, that’s for sure
More of an outlaw than you ever were
Lenny Bruce is gone but his spirit’s living on and on.

Maybe he had some problems, maybe some things that he couldn’t work out
But he sure was funny and he sure told the truth and he knew what he was talking about
Never robbed any churches, nor cut off any babies heads
He just took the folks in high places and he shined a light in their beds
He’s on some other shore, he didn’t want to live anymore.

Lenny Bruce is dead but he didn’t commit any crime
He just had the insight to rip off the lid before its time
I rode with him in a taxi once, only for a mile and a half
Seemed like it took a couple of months
Lenny Bruce moved on and like the ones that killed him, gone.

They say he was sick ’cause he didn’t play by the rules
He just showed the wise men of his day to be nothing more than fools
They stamped him and they labeled him like they do with pants and shirts
He fought a war on a battlefield where every victory hurts
Lenny Bruce was bad, he was the brother that you never had.

    
Related posts:
Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead: The Story of the National Lampoon
Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work
When Comedy Went to School & a Top 5 list
Funny People
Hotel Lux
Winnebago Man

I got yer campaign song right heah

By Dennis Hartley

I did a post back in June about Donald Trump co-opting Queen’s “We Are the Champions”  as a music cue for his grand entrances.  To be fair, he’s not the first politician to utilize a popular song  without first securing permission from the artist and/or  agreeing to pay licensing fees.  Yesterday, on his HBO program Last Week Tonight, John Oliver debuted a hilarious (and pointed) music video addressing this issue:

Chachi on the dais

By Dennis Hartley

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Distinguished thespian and stentorian speaker Scott Baio gave an awesome speech at the RNC last night! He tore Hillary a new one:

“We have a choice in November, we can go for Hillary Clinton, … who wants to continue the same policies that are wrecking this country, policies that make us unsafe, a woman who somehow feels that she’s entitled to the presidency, that she’s somehow owed it, or we can go for Donald Trump.”

Dude! He cut her so low! Speaking of “wrecked”, here’s Baio delivering his finest turn in the best ABC After-school Special ever:

ACT-ing!

Today? Christie’s. Tomorrow…the World!

By Dennis Hartley

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So there’s Michelangelo, Rodin…and then there’s this guy:

(from Independent UK)

A statue of Hitler on his knees by Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan has sold at auction for an earth-shattering $17.2 million (£12 million).

Titled Him, the wax sculpture was expected to make between $10million and $15 million at Christie’s auction house in New York. 

Having made well over the estimated amount, the sale set a record for the Italian satirical artist, best known for La Nona Ora (The Ninth Hour) – a sculpture of  Pope John Paul II having been hit by a meteorite. Cattelan’s previous record was $7.9 million for a statue of himself peeping through a hole in the floor.

Completed in 2001, Him is supposed to disrupt the viewers sense, with the work appearing like a small child from behind, yet with Hitler’s face offering a sinister contrast.

Describing the piece, the 55-year-old artists said: “Hitler is pure fear; it’s an image of terrible pain. It even hurts to pronounce his name. And yet that name has conquered my memory, it lives in my head, even if it remains taboo.

“Hitler is everywhere, haunting the spectre of history; and yet he is unmentionable, irreproducible, wrapped in a blanket of silence. 

The work previously caused controversy when it was installed in a former Warsaw Ghetto, a place where thousands of Jews died under Nazi rule.

“I’m not trying to offend anyone,” Cattelan continued. “I don’t want to raise a new conflict or create some publicity; I would just like that image to become a territory for negotiation or a test for our psychoses.”

Fair enough. Although, if your intent is so truly benign (and far be it from me to feel I have any presumptive right to advise you what to do with your own hard-earned  money), it would be a nice gesture to donate a portion of that $17 mil to, oh, I don’t know…The Holocaust Museum? Or maybe a human rights organization? So, what’s next?

Earlier this year, the artist revealed he would be returning to the Guggenheim Museum in New York to install a new artwork: a solid gold toilet titled America which patrons of the gallery may use.

Hang on. Crapping on America whilst seated on a solid gold toilet? Hate to break it to you, but Mr. Trump could sue you for plagiarism.

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England swings like a pendulum do

By Dennis Hartley

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It was 50 years ago today (or thereabouts)…

(from USA Today)

This year, 400 since the death of Shakespeare and 90 since the birth of Elizabeth II, is also the 50th anniversary of Swinging London, a time and place that produced the British Invasion rock bands, Georgy Girl and Darling, Twiggy and The Shrimp and the miniskirt.

In the 1960s, London — epitome of everything hierarchical, traditional and stodgy — was the site of a revolution in music, fashion and design. Lords partied with bricklayers, rockers with gangsters. Anything seemed possible.

The scene was made famous by an April 1966 Time magazine cover story, titled “The city that swings.’’ It described a place where “ancient elegance and new opulence are all tangled up in a dazzling blur of op and pop.’’

[…]

The 50th anniversary of Swinging London is being marked at a Saatchi Gallery show of Stones memorabilia. Jimi Hendrix’ old flat (once Handel’s attic) has opened to tourists.This summer the Victoria & Albert Museum begins an exhibition, You Say You Want a Revolution?

Yeaahh, baby!

I’m a bit of an Anglophile; I particularly love the British music,  films  and TV shows of that era.  In fact, 1966 was a watershed year for British cinema: Alfie, After the Fox, The Deadly Affair,  Fahrenheit 451,  Funeral in Berlin,  Georgy Girl,  A Man For All Seasons, The Wrong Box, and of course, Antonioni’s Blow-Up. Here’s my favorite scene:

As for the most memorable UK TV show of ’66, 2 words: Emma Peel!

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And lest we forget the fab UK music of 1966…here’s my Top 10 picks:

Now if you will excuse me,  it’s time for my tea and bickie. Cheers!