I’m Seriously Not Joking: Call Me Barnhart!

The vast emptiness of Commonwealth Stadium, November 3, 2012. I’d fill this bad boy.

I was inspired to originally write this post after my good friend, Roger, and I sat through the entire, sorry University of Kentucky/Western Kentucky University football game earlier this season. Today, November 4, 2012, UK announced that it will have a new football coach next season. So, I again announce my candidacy for what is now a vacancy. UK Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart can now consider this an open letter to him.

The Western game was just another of many inexplicable UK losses we’ve watched over the years. UK football games are like watching Old Yeller. You know how it ends. You know you’ll be sad, but you watch it anyway.

Roll forward several weeks and our beloved Cats stand–or kneel–at 1 and 9. The latest loss was ignominious 40-0 pounding by Vanderbilt. The last time Vandy stomped us like that, Teddy Roosevelt was President and football was literally played with a pigskin.

We’ve also been eviscerated by Arkansas and Missouri for their first conference wins. We did play well for a half against South Carolina and most of the game against Georgia. We took a beating from Florida when we tried an ill-conceived game plan of playing without a quarteback. Mississippi State bludgeoned us, too.

Inspiration is the bastard child of bitter defeat. No one ever said that. I just made it up, but feel free to quote me. After the game, we were bemoaning the loss–on a trick-play, two point conversion that a high school team could have stopped. Of course, we need a new coach. Except for a few random seasons, that’s pretty much the constant state of affairs for our beloved Wildcats.

My optimism for this season was short-lived. The inevitable coaching change is now upon us. Names like David Cutcliffe of Duke and Sonny Dykes of Louisiana Tech have been floated. What about an old warhorse like Phillip Fulmer?

My thought earlier this year was to go contrarian and hire the worst coach we can find. Maybe Bobby Hauck at UNLV (4-21 in his first two seasons). How about Indiana’s coach, Kevin Wilson? He went 1-11 in his first season. Gene Chizek is on his way out at Auburn. He’s looking at two wins at AUBURN! He has to be bad.

Just hire the worst we can find and accept our fate. My friend, Roger, had an inspired thought: Why not hire someone who’s NEVER coached football on any level?

He suggested hiring himself, which is just foolish. He lives in another state. It would be very inconvenient. I, on the other hand, live right here in Lexington. Again, I officially declare myself a candidate. Not only a candidate. The only candidate.

QUALIFICATIONS

Except for some limited experience in my backyard, I’ve never played football. I never even seriously considered it. I was too small, and I don’t like getting hit. I also don’t like getting dirty. This is an advantage. Many great athletes make poor coaches because they don’t understand why their players can’t perform at a high level. This won’t be a problem for me. Almost anyone would be a better athlete than I ever was. I’ll be impressed by pretty much everything.

I’m 50 years old. That’s the prime of the my professional life. After 25 years practicing law, I’m ready for a new challenge. Bring it on.

I’ve watched a lot of football. I mean A LOT. College, NFL, Arena League–even Canadian Football. I even watched the XFL. According to the radio call-in shows, watching football makes one an excellent football coach. I’ve also played a lot of Madden Football. Hundreds, if not thousands, of games. I’m a good strategist.

I’m also a UK alum–two times, in fact. Add to that my 40 year allegiance to the football program, and I bring an every man quality to the job that other candidates lack. I remember all the bitter defeats. I’ll cry and carry on after every loss just like a fan, because that’s what I am. In fact, I’ll call for my own firing if we lose. Fans will love me.

CONTRACT

My contract will be simple. Here are my terms:

  • $500,000 base salary–easily the lowest in the Southeastern Conference.
  • $100,000 bonus for each win. I’ll guarantee you that I’ll do anything to win if I get 100 large.
  • Discretion to hire my friends as assistant coaches.
  • Two days a week off. I’m used to working 5 days a week. I can’t really change that at my age.
  • A provision that excuses me for NCAA violations. As a low-paid coach, I can’t be expected to learn all that legal mumbo jumbo.
  • No long-term deal or buyout needed. If you want to fire me, do it. I don’t care.

We’ll have this deal wrapped up in about 15 minutes.

RECRUITING

You probably think I can’t recruit. Oh, how wrong you are on that one. First, I’ll completely ignore the NCAA rules and be open about it. We know that all coaches operate in the gray areas of the rules, anyway. I’ll head straight to the black area. You want a car? You got it. Cash? Sure. A house? You’ll have to be pretty damn good for that, but it’s doable. Now, if I give you this stuff and you suck, I want it back. That’ll be some good incentive.

The best part is that my lack of coaching skill will be a selling point. The first thing I’ll do is ask some recruiting nerd to identify the best quarterback in the country. Then, I’ll go to his house. Here’s my recruiting pitch:

Okay, son, here’s the deal. If you want to be the best quarterback in the country, UK is your school. Why? Because you’ll call every play we run. All of them. Why? Because I don’t know a damn thing about football. You can throw it every down if you want. Trick plays, everyone out for a pass. I won’t give a shit. And don’t worry about that headset I wear. It’s hooked to my iPod. If you want a nanny to wipe your nose or someone to treat you like an idiot, go to one of these “power” schools. I’ll admit that UK isn’t for everyone, but you’ve got what it takes. Want a car?

We’ll have so many quarterbacks, I wouldn’t know what do with them even if I actually did know what I was doing. If I need an offense lineman, here’s the pitch:

ME: How much you weigh?

PLAYER: About 260, sir.

ME: If you can put on 100 pounds, we want you.

PLAYER: Sir, I’m willing to work hard in the weight room.

ME: Weeeellll, that’s one way, I guess. Really, if you can just eat like a pig that will work, too. We want the biggest players we can get. I don’t care if they’re fat. I want the offensive line to average 350–or even bigger. We don’t really waste a lot of time on things like “technique” and weird blocking schemes. We’re going for bulk. Want a car?

What kid could resist that? A full scholarship and permission to eat like a horse. Plus, a car. They’ll line up.

There has been a lot of talk about UK needing a recruiting. Once I saw, I understood:

The UK Football Recruiting Room, where top high school talent can enjoy a fine meal and then run the calories off on the track.

While I agree this is pathetic, I won’t demand huge money for a new one. Here is my basement:

My basement. Plenty of sitting area, 60 inch plasma TV. What recruit wouldn’t be impressed?

Recruits can laze around on the couch watching TV with my teenage son. It will be just like being in someone’s home.

COACHING

I don’t have the patience to deal with a bunch of know-it-all so-called football “coaches.” Besides, we’ve had entire staffs full of these guys and still suck. I’ll hire whomever I want.

I won’t have offensive or defensive coordinators. That’s too complicated. The quarterback will call all the plays. On defense, they can just line up however they want. As far as I know, there aren’t any illegal defensive formations. 10 linemen? Let’s give it a shot. Blitz on every play? Why not? I’ll have only one defensive play: TACKLE THE GUY WITH THE DAMN BALL! How you do that is up to you. I need self-starters–not a bunch of mama’s boys who expect me to figure out everything for them.

There is one play I will run–the strongside toss/stiff arm. Years ago, Roger and I were both quite good at EA Sports NCAA Football. At the time, Anthony White was UK’s tailback. In my games, the toss to White to the strongside always resulted in large gains because of his crippling stiff-arm. If I recall correctly, Roger once rushed for 700 yards in a game using that play. It’s all in the timing. I may even bring Anthony in to teach it or I can just show it on a video game.

One thing won’t do is punt, except on first down sometimes. Then, it will be a quick kick by the quarterback designed to stun the defense and to put up ridiculously long punting yardage averages.

I also won’t waste a lot of time on practice. Our teams have practiced and practiced over the years and have almost nothing to show for it. Here’s what we’ll do. All the big guys will hit each other. All the fast guys will have balls thrown or handed to them. All the white guys will practice kicking. After a couple of hours of that, we’ll talk about our next opponent to see if anyone has seen them play and has suggestions. That’s it. Oh, and all the practices are open to the media and fans, even to opposing coaches. I’ve got nothing to hide, plus someone might have some ideas.

I won’t be a disciplinarian. I have three children whom I dearly love. I’ve not been much of disciplinarian with them. I can hardly be expected to be one with someone else’s kids. In fact, I won’t really care what they do. They can smoke and drink if they want. During games. We’ve played many games over the years where our players (and coaches) appeared to be drunk. Why not give it a real shot and see what happens? Imagine the shock if a huge Alabama defensive tackle lines up and sees our lineman dragging on a Marlboro. We’ll win the psychological war before the ball is even snapped.

I do expect some effort in class. Just enough to stay eligible will be fine. I don’t want a bunch of eggheads who think they’re better than I am.

MEDIA/FAN RELATIONS

This may be my one weak point. I am overly sensitive to criticism, especially when it is valid. One might also say that I’m volatile and dangerously so on occasion. I am subject to unprovoked fits of pique. I tend to hold grudges over both real and imagined slights. I will need tamp down these and other psychological problems. To build strong media and fan relationships, I will do the following:

  • In an effort to stay in a good mood, I will never watch game film. If we’ve won, I’ve obviously done a good job and don’t need to do anything else. If we’ve lost, I’ll just get depressed if I see what our next opponent looks like. Obviously, as a fan, I’d never watch any of our own defeats. Why subject myself to that?
  • Personally recruit the greatest flautist in the country to prance about the field playing the entire Jethro Tull catalogue at each game. Aqualung will become our fight song.
  • Take my medication.
  • Engage the fans by asking for play calls via Twitter during the games.
  • Insist on being introduced as the head coach of the “Greatest Program in the History of College Football.”
  • Have Nike make an array of garish uniforms. Each player can wear whatever he wants each game.
  • Punch Steve Spurrier in the throat.
  • End our decades long losing streak to Florida by constant prayer that their entire team be stricken with a non-serious disease that will debilitate them for only 3-4 hours.
  • IF we lose a game, I will start my post-game press conference by saying: “We meant to lose.”
  • Buy O.J. Simpson’s Heisman Trophy and then claim that I won it.

These are but a few of the things which come to mind. Mostly, I’ll try to be like the fan I am. If we lose, I will call-in to radio shows and demand my own firing. I’ll tailgate before and even during games. I’ll treat the media with disdain by calling them “ink-stained wretches” or I’ll kiss up to them depending on my many moods. I’ll call our fans the greatest in all the world until I get booed. Then, I will consistently refer to them as a bunch of miserable jackasses spoiled by success. I promise that it won’t be boring.

RESULTS

I predict great things. I’m certain I can win two games or so a season, which will make me quite successful by UK standards. Even if the heat is on, I’ll get 4 or 5 years to implement my system. By then, I’ll have knocked down a boatload of money anyway.

If things get really bad, I’ll wreck a motorcycle or start betting on games or coach a game naked or something that will make it easy to get rid of me. Then, I’ll get a gig at ESPN as a football expert–the last bastion of washed out coaches.

Our one win was against Kent State. I’m pretty sure this is now the low point in the history of their university, surpassing the whole National Guard thing.

I still hold out hope that we can beat Samford–assuming they are really bad. Regardless, we all have something to look forward to now. Go Cats!

©thetrivialtroll.wordpress.com 2012

Canada: The Slumbering Menace

We live in the shadow of the Maple Leaf.

North Korea is in the news a lot these days, yet I find myself pondering larger issues, instead of my usual concerns about whether I’ll miss the latest episode of Here Comes Honey Boo Boo or when I’ll get my nap.  I offer this as a warning of which I hope our leaders, whomever they might be, will take heed.

I’ll confess that I don’t keep abreast of geopolitical issues.  One might say that I don’t have a “world view” of things.  One might also say that I don’t pay much “attention.”  Both are true.  I am hamstrung by an ignorance of geography which is a result of my poor sense of direction.  I have never been able to readily tell left from right, for example.  When I think of the world, I sense the U.S. in the middle with lots of Spanish-speaking people to the south, Europe to the right; somewhere south of that is the dreaded Middle East; Africa is below that; way to the right is Russia; Asia is somewhere WAY out there;  there is nothing to the left but Hawaii.

I also can’t keep track of all the countries.  I’ve never heard of most of the countries in Africa.  Don’t get me started on the sundry island countries scattered about.

I watch quite a bit of TV, though.  As result, I do know some things.  Ronald Reagan spoke of the Axis of Evil:  The Soviet Union, Iran and North Korea.  John Bolton listed Cuba, Libya and Syria as Beyond the Axis of Evil.  George W. Bush taught me about The Evil Doers–Iran, North Korea, Iraq and random freelance terrorists.  Condoleeza Rice added the Outposts of Tyranny:  Belarus, Zimbabwe and Myanmar.  There are a LOT of threats out there.

Since we overthrew the government of Iraq, I guess they’re not evil anymore.  An example of my ignorance is that I have no idea who the President/Prime Minister/King/Dictator of Iraq is.  Oh, you don’t either?  I feel slightly better.

You can probably also surmise that I have trouble focusing on one topic.  This, too, keeps me from dwelling very long on world events.  Where was I?

While many Americans wring their hands over such mundane topics as health care, deficits, random shootings, war and what not, I have focused on a much insidious threat to our security–our so-called neighbors to the North.

Most Americans fear the Mexicans.  Well, maybe not most, but a goodly number do anyway.  Why?  They look different. They sound different.  Like my German ancestors, they don’t have the common courtesy to learn English before the come here.  Here’s how Americans historically thought of foreigners:

If the Japanese really looked like this, we would have lost World War II out of sheer terror.

So fearful were we of the Japanese, that we sent Japanese-Americans off to fight for the US, while we housed their families in concentration camps.  With a history like that, one would think we would be prepared against any foreign threat.  Think again.

Canadians, of course, strike no such fear in us.  Why not?  They look like us, more or less–except perhaps a bit duller.  They also speak English, except for the ones who–for reasons still obscure–speak French, for God’s sake. Plus, I can’t remember them ever winning a war.

I, for one, am not fooled.  I’m quite confident that our border with Canada is every bit as porous as the one with Mexico.  I offer this warning to all right-thinking Americans.  Why be concerned?  Read on.

O! Canada!

Have you ever heard their national anthem?  It’s beautiful.  It makes you swell with Canadian pride.  Ours, on the other hand, is an unsingable poem set to music.  The Canadians know this.  That’s why theirs is so much better.  If you hear it, you want to be one of them, even if just for a moment.  That momentary weakness is all it takes to begin the slide down the slippery slope to Canadianism.

Hockey

We all know they play hockey in Canada.  We play it, too, but mostly with Canadians.  It was once observed that Canadians taught the French to play hockey, which Europeans have never been able to do.  They haven’t had the same success with Americans.  At one time, US hockey was confined to places like New York, Philadelphia, Detroit and Chicago, places so far north that they are practically part of Canada anyway.  Now, we have hockey in California, Tennessee, North Carolina, Florida–everywhere.  What better way to infiltrate our country than by distributing their toothless, hockey-playing goons around our great nation.  Plus, this gives them ample opportunity to indoctrinate more Americans with their entrancing national anthem.  Well played.

Their Culture

What do we really know of the Canadian culture?  Oh, we’ve all eaten their bacon, which really isn’t bacon at all.  Ice-fishing is probably popular.  I’ll grant them the contributions of Steve Nash, Alex Trebek, Geddy Lee and Pamela Anderson to our culture.  Beyond those minor accomplishments, what do they offer us?

Here’s food for thought:  I read somewhere that they embrace multiculturalism.  I don’t even know what that means, but Glenn Beck says it’s really bad.  It sure sounds bad.

First off, although they speak English, it’s not really English, is it?  Do you want your kids going around saying “aboot” instead of “about?”  How about sprinkling your conversations with “eh?”  It will render our language incomprehensible.  Your kid will no longer be in the 3rd grade.  No, he’ll be in “Grade 3.”  You’ll soon be wearing a tuque on your head.  Welcome to the Great White North, my friends.

They don’t even speak English everywhere, either.  Part of the country speaks French.  Not just any French, but some kind of weird-sounding French that could be spoken on Pluto for all I know.   I had a trial once where a witness was a French-speaking Canadian.  His ridiculous French-like accent combined with my Eastern Kentucky mumble left the jury baffled.  Wouldn’t that be nice to deal with every day?

The Canadians keep their culture under wraps for the most part.  Beyond the greatness of Rush, what do we know of their music?  Their cinema?  William Shatner is, of course, their greatest actor, but he made his bones in the good old U.S. of A.

Canada’s idea of entertainment. A typical Canadian woman attempts to corrupt the morals of our youth.

The number one occupation in Canada is lumberjack, followed closely by illiterate fisherman.  Their policemen dress in Fancy Dan garb that would embarrass Siegfried and Roy.

I know nothing of their religion and don’t want to.  Suffice to say that it likely involves snow gods.

Canada boasts a much a lower violent crime rate than the U.S., even though they own a hell of a lot of guns.  This just proves that they lack the wherewithal to be a major player on the world stage.  They didn’t even wipe out all their Indians like we did.  Americans are hot-headed and prone to violence.  Look at our respective records on serial killers.  The U.S. is a veritable serial killing playground.  As far as I know, Canada has had own notorious serial killer, Robert Pickton, and they called him the “Pig Farm Killer.”  Seriously.  Oooh, scary.

THEIR “GOVERNMENT”

Like most people, I don’t know what form of government they have, other than some form of socialism.  They seem to swear allegiance to the Queen of England, so maybe they’re a British territory or part of the Commonwealth of Nations, whatever the hell that is.  They’re probably Communists.

Lest you think I’m exaggerating, the Queen is on some of their money.  Bet you thought it Wayne Gretzky or Alan Thicke.  Obviously, they’ve sworn some sort of allegiance to the Crown.  I don’t need to remind you that we fought a little war back in 1776 to get away from that kind of thing.  Speaking of their money, check this out:

Inexplicably, Jimmy Hoffa adorns the Canadian $50 bill.

It doesn’t even look like money.  It looks like a napkin or a bus pass.  Have you ever gotten one of their quarters and tried to use it in a Coke machine?  Surprise!!  NO COKE FOR YOU!! I say keep your money in Canada.

But, don’t they have a great healthcare system? According a bunch of emails I’ve gotten, you can get prescription drugs really cheap in Canada over the Internet.  Great.  Now, we can assure that our entire country is drug-addled or in some constant state of arousal further eroding our moral foundation.  Just what we need.

They also have universal healthcare.  Think about that.  “Universal?”  What kind of crazy “one-world” bunch of fellow travelers are these people? If you go to the doctor in Canada, you have to wait 10-12 hours just to get weighed and then they give your weight in kilos or stones or some other incomprehensible measure than no civilized person would understand.  No thank you, Commissar.

A SIMPLE SOLUTION

For years, I’ve written the Pentagon urging a preemptive strike on Canada.  Other than a few uncomfortable interviews with the FBI, I’ve never gotten a response.  Thus, I’m left with presenting a modest proposal to stop the Northern Horde in its tracks before it’s too late:

  • Outlaw hockey in the Continental United States.  I believe this can be done under the auspices of the Patriot Act.
  • Once hockey is outlawed, most Canadians will leave the U.S.  Those who don’t can be sent to Gitmo.
  • Dig a moat on the Canadian border (except the Great Lakes which will serve as their own moat).  It should be 50 feet wide and 20 feet deep.  I know what you’re thinking.  Won’t the Canadians just swim across like they do in Mexico?  No.  It will be too damn cold.  Plus, they all wear flannel and would surely get weighted down and drown.
  • Once the moat is in place, launch a series of surgical drone strikes knocking out their breweries and skating rinks.  In the ensuing turmoil, declare Canada to be part of the United States.

Once we’ve declared victory, redraw the Canadian map as follows:

New Canada, a safe place for all Americans, except the part where we’ll be testing our chemical weaponry.

By dividing New Canada into five distinct zones, I have eliminated the threat:

ZONE 1:  Gulag:  This will be used as detention facility for those native Canadians unwillingly to embrace the American way of life.

ZONE 2: Chemical Test Area:  This will be reserved for testing America’s impressive chemical weapons cache.  It will also be used for storage and disposal of our massive pile of nuclear waste.

ZONE 3: Reservation:  This will be the home of those Canadians willing to embrace American ideals.

ZONE 4: Hockey:  This is where the hockey will be played.

ZONE 5:  French:  We really don’t want to fool with the French whom Bart Simpson aptly described as “rifle-dropping surrender monkeys.”  Those who can’t move to France will live here.  That way, if we have a war we want to lose, they’ll be close by.

Too radical you say?  Neville Chamberlain would have been well-advised to have been so radical when dealing with Hitler.  Just don’t blame me if you wake up one day and lumberjacks are chopping down your door looking for house pets to chain to their sleds.  You might as well get fitted for a pair of mukluks, my friend.

Don’t expect to hear either of our so-called American leaders address these issues.  Note that in the 2012 Presidential election neither candidate produced a shred of proof to show that he wasn’t born in Canada.  By their silence, they sow the seeds of our destruction.  Oh, well, God save the Queen. Eh?

©thetrivialtroll.wordpress.com 2012

Raising Cane’s Courts Controversy

In a stunning development, this reporter has learned that Raising Cane’s Chicken Fingers has become embroiled (or emfried) in its own marriage controversy.  Raising Cane’s reclusive President, Kane (possibly pictured below), has been investing in several well-known anti-straight marriage organizations for a number of years now.  These groups include Ashley Madison.com, the NFL Network, Playboy Magazine and Ted Haggard Ministries.  When reached for comment, Kane stated:  “Guilty as charged!  Heterosexuals present the greatest threat on Earth to the sanctity of marriage.  I’m proud to say that I stand by my principles in opposing these hellish unions.”

Kane notes that “One day you wake up and your spouse looks like me. Who in their right mind wouldn’t oppose that?”

This foray into such controversy might be a PR mine field, but Kane disagrees:  “Half of all married people get divorced anyway.  I’m certain that the other half want to.  That makes everyone on the planet welcome at our restaurants.”  When asked if his open prejudice applied to same-sex marriage, Kane responded:  “Not yet, but give it some time.  They haven’t had enough time to make a mockery of their wedding vows.  I’m confident that they will.”

When reached for comment, Herman Cain said: “I don’t have anything to do with that place, but they might be on to something!”

Raising Cane’s actually derives its name from the original Cane whose parents were, according to many, the first married couple.  Kane notes that he–and everyone else–is a direct descendant of the murderous offspring of Adam and Eve.  “Look at the facts.  The first married couple and–BOOM!–they produce a homicidal maniac. Let’s face it.  It’s gone downhill from there.  Paul said it was better to marry than to burn.  All I can say is that that sounds like something you’d say if you’d never been married.”

There are over two million marriages a year in the United States.  Raising Cane’s would seem to be courting trouble, but Kane is steadfast.  “We’re inviting God’s judgment on us with every one of those marriages.  Better or worse; richer or poorer; sick and in health–give me a break!  There’s only one thing for certain:  People like fried chicken.  That’s it.”

Dr. Timothy Vanderboosen of a well-known think-tank believes that such prejudice is more widespread than the public realizes.  “Okay. Half of the married people get divorced, right?  Then, they get married again.  I’d call that crazy. My own wife is a complete pain in the ass.  She gained about 50 pounds within 5 years of our wedding and just lies around the house all day watching Oprah.  Oh, and she has a goddamn mustache, too.  I mean, she’d have to do that on purpose, don’t you think? You’d think I could get a decent meal every now and then, but noooo…I’m sorry, what was your question?”

Famed Muppets Ernie and his long-time companion Bert are encouraged by Cane’s stance.  “We may not be welcome at Chik Fil A, but we can still gorge ourselves at Raising Cane’s.  Bert and I don’t give a shit if they’re heterophobic.”  For his part, Kane said:  “Hey, those two little fruit baskets are always welcome at our restaurant.”

Several anti-straight marriage groups have already rallied to support Cane’s.  Rumors are rampant that the thrice-married Newt Gingrich and four-times-married Rush Limbaugh are organizing a “Support Raising Cane’s Day” encouraging everyone who hates marriage to patronize the restaurant.  As part of a promotion, Cane’s is considering giving a house to a lucky male customer for him to give to a woman who hates him.

(Disclaimer:  This is a work of fiction.  Any resemblance between the characters and story and any person living or dead is purely coincidental, except for Kane and Herman Cain, because I used their real pictures. This doesn’t mean that Kane  or Cain said any of things attributed them, which they didn’t as far as I know.  Kane, in particular, should take no offense.  I saw him in a movie called See No Evil where he tore out people’s eyes, which I don’t want to happen to me.  Kane is not really the President of Raising Cane’s nor does Raising Cane’s engage in any such outlandish behavior.  That doesn’t keep me from wishing it were all true.)

©thetrivialtroll.wordpress.com 2012

Aunt Bee, as in……

The Evil that is Aunt Bee

On July 3, 2012, Andy Griffith died. Earlier this year, George (“Goober”) Lindsey passed. Don Knotts died in 2006. Aneta Corsaut (“Miss Crump”) died several years ago. Same for Thelma Lou (Betty Lynn). Floyd (Howard McNear), Howard Sprague (Jack Dodson), Ernest T. Bass (Howard Morris)–dead, dead, dead. Opie and Gomer are about all that’s left.

Like most people my age, I love The Andy Griffith Show or Andy of Mayberry as we used to call it.  It was the perfect TV show.  All the characters fit together seamlessly.  Andy and Barney really seemed like friends.  If you lived in a small town, you knew someone like Goober.  Even characters like Howard Sprague and Emmitt, though introduced several years into the show’s run, seemed like they had always been there.  Plus, Mayberry was the kind of town where you’d want to live.  That is was hilarious was a bonus.

The characters themselves were great.  Barney, of course, was the greatest of all TV creations (just ahead of Jethro Bodine).  I laughed myself silly at Ernest T. Bass.  The Fun Girls (“Heeelllooo, Doll”) were only in a couple of episodes but were classic characters.  Every person in Mayberry was alright, “good people” as we say.

The writers knew that the one basic requirement of good TV or film making is conflict.  Even in a 30 minute sitcom, you need conflict to push the story.  To do this, they created one character so vile, so meddlesome, so disruptive that it assured conflict whenever needed.  Of course, I’m talking about Aunt Bee, one of the most subhuman misanthropes to ever lumber across the TV screen. Only Torgo in Manos The Hands of Fate rivals her for sheer unpleasantness in a fictional character.

Andy thinking: “I’m the high Sheriff. I could shoot her and get away with it.”

Aunt Bee was Andy’s aunt, I guess, although the exact relationship is never explained. Since her last name is Taylor, I assume that she was the spinster sister of Andy’s father. As was painfully made clear when she bellyached about a statue of one of Andy’s ancestors, she was a blood relation for sure.

She was introduced in the very first episode when she came to live with Andy to help take care of him and Opie. Children often have a sixth sense about people. This was true with Opie. He wanted to send Aunt Bee’s freeloading ass packing the minute they met. Alas, he ultimately felt sorry for her and begged Andy to let her stay. Had he only known.

I’m not sure where Aunt Bee came from.  Seems like she was originally from Mayberry.  Floyd, at least, seemed to have known her for a long time.  Maybe they were lovers.  Odd, though, that it seems that Opie had never met her before she came to live with them.  Maybe she was one of those poor relations that you don’t talk about.  I had an uncle who worked in carnivals.  My Granny kind of treated him like that.

Aunt Bee was portrayed by Frances Bavier, an actress from New York.   During the first couple of years of the show, she tried to effect a southern accent.  She soon abandoned it for some kind of haughty accent which was probably how she really talked.  It fit her character, for sure.

Thus, began Aunt Bee’s reign of terror. It is almost impossible to catalogue the number of times Aunt Bee nagged, cajoled or browbeat the Taylors. Below I offer just a sampling of the times I was ready to dive into the TV mad garrote her. I have included in italics my writer’s embellishment offering common sense solutions to the Aunt Bee problem:

THE PICKLES

Poor Opie being forced to choke down Aunt Bee’s pickles.

Aunt entered her pickles in the county fair. Her big rival was the equally insufferable Clara Johnson (in later episodes she was dubbed Edwards). Aunt Bee’s pickles were an inedible abomination, while Clara’s were greeted as some sort of nectar of the Gods.

Andy can’t leave well enough alone. Instead of allowing Aunt Bee to be shamed in front of the town, he decides to replace her foul creations with store-bought pickles.  The store pickles are vastly superior to Aunt Bee’s and Clara’s, pointing out the common reality that “homemade” is not synonymous with “better.”

After finding out that Clara’s life is meaningless without that blue ribbon and that she may well stick her head in the oven if she loses, Andy and Barney eat all the store pickles forcing Aunt Bee make a new batch of her bastardized ones. Hilarity ensues, Clara wins the blue ribbon and Aunt Bee announces that will make even MORE because Andy loved them so.

Aunt Bee’s inability to make pickles–which, by the way are so foul that it begs the question of how you could screw them up–forces Andy to bend over backwards so as not to offend her.  This walking on egg shells around her was a common theme.

After Aunt Bee announces her plans, Andy looks at her with a steely glare and flicks his burning cigarette off her forehead. He then says: “I’ll say this once. I better never see another jar of those —-ing things again! If I do, Barney’s putting that one bullet square between your eyes! Oh, one more thing.  Even if we liked those damn things, who in their right mind would can 20 jars of pickles?  Jesus H. Christ!  They’re not a main course!”

THE SIDE OF BEEF

Andy spent many years building a good relationship with Mr. Foley, the town grocer. Aunt Bee blew it all to Hell by buying an ENTIRE FREAKIN’ SIDE OF BEEF from a new butcher in town. Her rationale was that it was a few cents per pound cheaper.

There was no place to store the mammoth purchase, save for a freezer which malfunctioned. Rather than heeding Andy’s entreaties to “call the man!”–as in the freezer repairman–Bee gets Gomer to repair it.  Of course, he can’t, resulting in the potential ruin of the new purchase.

Compounding all of this is that the meat is tough and not fit for human consumption. Having no shame, Bee then asks MR. FOLEY (!) to store it for her! For once Andy intervenes and puts an end to her bullying. He buys a new freezer and then has to listen to Aunt Bee bitch and moan about him spending too much money.

Oh, Andy! You DIDN’T buy a new freezer! I know someone who would be much cheaper. Andy responds: “The last time I checked, I’m the only one with an income around here. Why don’t you do me a favor and shut the hell up?  Better yet, why don’t you take that side of beef and the rest of your shit and move in with Gomer?”

KEEVY HAZELTON

Famous rock star Keevy Hazelton happens to stop in Mayberry. Aunt Bee and Clara ask him to listen to their song, My Home Town, a treacly piece of tripe that could have been written by tone-deaf chimps. Surprise! Keevy agrees to sing it on the popular Keevy Hazelton Show.

Keevy, apparently wanting to keep his fan base, rocks up the tune with a groovy beat. You guessed it. Aunt Bee gets completely hair-lipped and refuses to let Keevy sing it. Like most folks, he bows to her yammering just to shut her up.  He sings the song in its original version and it is quite popular, much to the surprise of both Keevy and the world at large.

Keevy Hazleton and Andy. Andy thinks: “Go ahead, Keevy. Punch her right in the mouth.”

I would have made it slightly different.  When Aunt Bee and Clara refuse to allow the song to be sung, Keevy says “Fine.  Get out of my sight!”  Security then removes them both from the set of the popular Keevy Hazelton Show.  Andy then berates them both for wasting his time driving them to Raleigh only to be embarrassed once again.  He then goes on another rant about the pickles.

(As an aside, the guy who played Keevy was also Johnny Poke on an episode of The Beverly Hillbillies.  He was quite funny.)

AUNT BEE IN JAIL

There was some kind of dust up in Mayberry where all the women insisted on being arrested.  Running out of patience, Andy threw them in jail, Aunt Bee included.  I don’t remember the details, but it had something to do with some kind of inane protest.  Predictably, the menfolk were unable to function, burning their dinner and clothes.

Here’s what I would have done:  She wants to be in jail, fine.  Go round up the Darling Boys on some trumped-up charges and throw them in there, too.  A couple of nights with those Deliverance rejects should teach Aunt Bee and her gang of gadflies a lesson or two.

“I could wheel around and back hand her, and there’s nothing she could do about it. Nothing.”

I could include many, many more episodes.  For brevity’s sake–and to calm my rage–I won’t.  Aunt Bee learns to drive; Aunt Bee wrecks the car; A baby hates Aunt Bee (smart baby!); Aunt Bee and the elixir salesman; Aunt Bee’s deadbeat cousin; Aunt Bee and the egg man; Aunt Bee on the jury. This list goes on and on and on.

Aunt Bee was not the only annoying person in Mayberry. Warren was awful.  Howard Sprague’s mother gave Mrs. Bates a run for her money.  Emmitt was a bit of pain.  Mayor Pike? Whew.  These characters would come and go, making them at least tolerable.  Aunt Bee was a constant.

Andy showed remarkable patience with Aunt Bee.  Remember–this is the same man who threatened to shoot Goober over building a car in the courthouse.  Oh, he would occasionally snap at her but, by and large, he absorbed her abuse.  When he and Miss Crump married, though, he had the good sense to high-tail it to Alabama and leave her to terrorize Sam Jones and his kid.  Good move, Sheriff.

Just once, I wish Andy would have told Aunt Bee to shut up.  He told Goober shut up.  He’d yell at Barney.  Hell, he whipped Opie!  She got nothing but kid glove treatment.

Andy should have run off with Peggy, the uber-hot nurse he dated.  Even one of the Fun Girls from Mount Pilot–Daphne or Skippy–would have been an improvement.  He could have embraced an alternative lifestyle with Malcolm Merriweather.  Instead, he married Miss Crump, who was really nothing but a younger version of Aunt Bee.

Of course, I know that Aunt Bee is a fictional character.  Frances Bavier was real.  I would like to report to you that my scant research reveals that Ms. Bavier was a wonderful person.  She was, however, difficult with which to work.  Andy Griffith himself once said:  “There was just something about me she did not like.”  Regardless, most people deserve to be remembered for their best work.  We don’t honor Don Knotts for his work as Mr. Furley or Andy Griffith for his performance in Pray for the Wildcats.  I surmise that Aunt Bee was supposed be annoying and a source of conflict.  Frances Bavier played it well.

Interestingly, Ms. Bavier lived the last years of her life in Siler City, North Carolina.  She lived alone with a bunch of cats, but was by all accounts a nice lady but reclusive. She answered her fan mail and lived to the ripe old age of 86. She even called Andy a few months before she died to make amends for being difficult. When she died, the Studebaker she drove on the Andy Griffith Show was in her garage.

RIP Frances Bavier

A native of New York, turns out Ms. Bavier embraced the Mayberry ideal as much as anyone by actually moving to North Carolina.  I guess she wasn’t all bad, even if Aunt Bee was.

©thetrivialtroll.wordpress.com 2012

Grandma and the Cat Litter Beatdown

This is another largely true story.  This is my Mothers Day story, because it involves someone’s mother.

I knew all the folks involved, so  I guess I believe every word of it.  Like any event I write about it, I hope it’s true.  If not, it is certainly based on a true story, and that’s good enough for me.  I’m not using names in this story, because those involved may not appreciate it.  I hope it doesn’t make the reading too awkward.

I had two or three close friends most of my childhood.  Like most kids, my friends would come and go with the school year, people moving, etc.  I had one friend who was a constant . He lived a few blocks from me, and we spent most of our free time together.

Despite what you’ve seen or heard, Eastern Kentucky is not just shacks and run down trailers.  There are nice little neighborhoods in almost every town.  I lived in one of those.  So did my friend.

My friend lived at the end of a street in a garage apartment next door to his grandmother.  Grandma lived alone in a small but nice house.  That is to say that Grandma lived alone until my friend’s cousins moved in with her.  The cousins were teenagers, probably 15 and 17.  They had moved from “up North.”  Typically, up North meant Michigan or Ohio, where the people talked funny.  The cousins talked funny, too.

The cousins were odd lads.  They didn’t go school.  I never found out what happened–if anything–to their parents.  The cousins just arrived one day.  They delivered the morning newspaper for a while.  When people stopped getting their papers, Dick Russell, owner of a the store where the papers were picked up in the morning, spied on them one morning.  When the papers were dropped in front of his store,  Mr. Russell watched the cousins take the bundle and toss it in the river.  When they didn’t throw them in the river, they dragged the papers along the ground crying as they made their rounds.  Like I said, odd.

My friend was always regaling me in stories of his cousins’ antics.  The cousins were several years older than us, but we took great delight in terrorizing them.  Once, we told one of them that we had put grass and sticks in the gas tank of his car.  Oh, did he get mad.  The joke was almost on us as he lit his cigarette lighter to get a better look in the tank.  Our screams of terror made him drop the lighter.  Again, odd birds they were.

One of the cousins, in particular, was a bit of a thorn in the side of his uncle (my friend’s father).  Now, I don’t know if he actually did anything to merit this or if the Uncle was just generally disagreeable.  Regardless, it was a bit of ritual for the Uncle to castigate the Cousin when got home from work.  Usually, this centered around the Cousin being lazy and good-for-nothin’.  I witnessed this several times myself.  Normally, it started with the Uncle getting out  of his truck and greeting the Cousin with something like, “What in the hell have you been doing all day?  Pick up this stuff up out of the yard!”

So it went one fateful afternoon.  There was a driveway leading from the street to the garage on the left side of Grandma’s house.  The drive was about 75 feet long.  The Uncle parked his truck right in front of the garage.  He got out of the truck and slammed the door.  He immediately spotted the Cousin reclined at the bottom of a tree enjoying a cigarette.  “What the hell are you doing? Clean all this up!”  The Cousin had been working on some type of project requiring the dis-assembly of various small engines.  Apparently, he had lost interest or direction during the project and abandoned it.  The Cousin only responded that he was “working on it.”

This did not sit well with the Uncle, who glared but said nothing.  The Cousin–perhaps emboldened by the silence–yelled “You can’t tell me what to do!!”  The Uncle would have no more of his insolence.  A great shouting match ensued with each hurling threats and invectives toward the other.  Finally, the Uncle removed his glasses and headed toward the Cousin.  It appeared that the Cousin was about to get taught a bit of a lesson.

The Cousin hopped to his feet and looked about for anything with which to defend himself.  There were no weapons to be found, only random engine parts.  What would he do?  Then, he spotted Pedro, the family cat.  In a move which can only be described as a combination of madness, desperation and admirable creativity, he scooped up Pedro with one hand.

There was a bucket beside the tree.  I know this is true, because I had seen that bucket many times.  It was like a big paint bucket or maybe a drywall bucket.  It was full of water.

Often, heroic acts are performed not because the person is brave or fearless but because the person is in a situation where only a daring act can spare him.  Such was the case here, I believe.  By the time Pedro was in the Cousin’s grasp, the Uncle was mere 10 feet or so away and closing quickly.  The Cousin spotted the bucket, and without any apparent thought, dunked Pedro into the stagnant water.  In one motion, the Cousin pulled Pedro from the water and threw him at his would-be attacker.

By all accounts, Pedro hit the Uncle in the chest, claws out, tearing into his shirt.  This did nothing to stop the Uncle’s advance.  The Uncle wrenched Pedro from his shirt and tossed him on the ground.  The Cousin, though, had made a run for the back door of Grandma’s house.  He was not quick enough, and the Uncle cut him off.  The Cousin now ran to the other side of the truck.  The combatants were on opposite sides of truck.  Each move by the Uncle was met with a counter move in the opposite direction by the Cousin.

Grandma, being advanced in years and hard of hearing, had missed most of the action; however, she now emerged from the backdoor.  (As an aside, in all the years I knew my friend, I only saw her once or twice.  I had images of Norman Bates’s mother in her rocker.)  She tottered down the three or four steps to see what was happening.

The Cousin was in again dire straights, trying to keep himself on the opposite side of the truck from his uncle but the Uncle was relentless.  Underneath the steps which went up to the garage apartment were several bags of cat litter.  The Cousin grabbed one and ran from behind the truck. Here came his uncle. Like an Olympic hammer thrower, the Cousin twisted sideways with the bag at arms’ length.  He then swung forward with a mighty heavy toward his uncle, letting the bag fly.

The Uncle ducked.  Grandma, again being advanced in years, did not.  The cat litter bag caught her right in the old bread basket.  I was told that you could hear the air come out of her on contact.  Doubled over, she folded in half and hit the ground.

Say what one will, the Cousin loved his Grandma and was horrified.   He ran toward her, screaming “GRANDMA!”  This was a mistake.  The Uncle caught him with a really nice punch right in the middle of his face, breaking his glasses in two.  He fell to the ground and cried quite a bit.

Oh, Grandma.  She was okay.  Just had the wind knocked out of her.  Surprisingly, there were no broken bones or internal injuries.  She didn’t even go to the hospital.  Pedro was fine, too, although I’m sure he was traumatized by the whole experience.  I’m pleased to say the both Grandma and Pedro lived several more years after this. As far as I know, Pedro was never again used as a weapon and Grandma was never again violently assaulted.

Over the years, I came to realize that the cousins were alright.  They weren’t even all that odd.  Just a bit different. 

So, I guess that’s the end.  I don’t really have an interesting way to end the story.  The late, great Michael O’Donoghue once  noted that poor writers don’t know how to end their stories.  When stumped, he suggested this sentence: Suddenly, everyone was run over by a truck.

 Since my story is set in Eastern Kentucky, here is the ending:

Suddenly, everyone was run over by a coal truck.  The end.

©thetrivialtroll.wordpress.com 2012

All the World’s a Stooge

Classic Columbia Pictures Title Card

I am an unapologetic Three Stooges fan.  I have been almost my entire life.  My Dad and I watched them and laughed together.  My sons and I have done the same.  My youngest son and I recently saw the Farrelly Brothers’ new Three Stooges film and laughed ourselves into fits.

Who were the Stooges?  Moses Horwitz (Moe Howard); Louis Feinberg (Larry Fine); Jerome Horwitz (Curly Howard); Samuel Horwitz (Shemp Howard);  Joe Besser; and Curly Joe DeRita.  Moe, Curly and Shemp were brothers.  The original line-up was Moe, Larry and Shemp.  Curly replaced Shemp.  Shemp then replaced Curly.  The abominable Joe Besser replaced Shemp.  Finally, Curly Joe replaced Besser.

People have always joked about men liking the Stooges and women hating them.  Back when Jay Leno was funny (yes, kids, he WAS very funny), he said the major difference between men and women is that all men believe that The Three Stooges are “comic geniuses” and all women think they are “shitheads.” Perhaps.

Just to prove my expertise to you the reader, I have done no research for this post.  I am simply drawing from my immense knowledge of the Three Stooges gathered over the years.  Impressed?  You should be.

MR. BILL

In Harlan County, Kentucky, we had cable TV before almost everyone in the country–since the 1950’s, in fact.  Why? Because we were so isolated in the mountains that we couldn’t get decent TV reception from antennas.  Thus, someone came up with the brilliant idea of connecting our homes one huge antenna by cable connections.  This was my pipeline to the Stooges.

For you youngsters out there, televisions used to have “dials” to change channels.  The channels ran from 2 through 13.  We Harlan Countians had reception on ALL of them.  Good, clear reception, too.  One of the channels we got was WLOS out of Asheville, North Carolina.  WLOS delivered the Stooges. On weekdays, before school, most kids watched WLOS’s “Mr. Bill Show.”  Mr. Bill was Bill Norwood.  There was nothing especially entertaining about Mr. Bill.  He was just a nice guy who read kids’ letters and showed their drawings on TV.  He showed cartoons and–most importantly–Three Stooges shorts.  When Mr. Bill was on vacation, his substitute was WLOS weatherman Bob Caldwell.  Bob did the same things as Mr. Bill but seemed to me to be an utter failure.

The Shorts

What is a “short?” you ask.  Well, theaters used to show cartoons and “shorts” before the feature.  Shorts were typically 20-25 minutes long.  Our Gang (aka The Little Rascals) was a classic short.  The Stooges were Columbia Pictures’s cash cow when it came to shorts.  They made shorts from the early 1930’s through the late 1950’s.  When TV came along, the Stooges made it on the air and found a whole new audience.  By the late ’50’s, the Stooges (those left) were long in the tooth but became more popular than ever.

Stooges shorts consist of the Stooges finding themselves in some type of predicament (pretending to be chefs, buying a racehorse, in the Army, etc.).  They usually are in conflict with someone else and each other.  Moe is the leader and inflicts frequent, violent punishment on the other Stooges.  Eye pokes, hammers to the head and face slaps are but a few examples.  My personal favorite is when Moe raked a cheese grater across Curly’s face.

Most films follow a similar story arc.  This first 10 minutes or so introduce the characters.  Then, a conflict is introduced as the first plot point and turns the film toward its story.  A final plot point is introduced and turns the film toward the resolution of the conflict, or end of the film.  Here’s an example from The Godfather:

  • Introduction:  Connie’s wedding introduces all the main characters of the Corleone family.
  • Conflict:  The four other crime families want the Corleones in the drug business.  This is the first plot point.
  • Story:  Michael becomes involved in the family after his father is shot.  Kills The Turk and McCluskey.  Goes into hiding.  Eventually returns.
  • Resolution:  Final plot point is the meeting between Michael and the Godfather in the garden.  Then the film moves toward resolution of the conflict.  In that case, killing everyone.

A film scholar would debate me on some of the details, but that’s the basic set-up of every film. The Stooges had none of that.  Their films were too short.  We know the Stooges and we know what they do:  Hit each other a bunch, make fun of people and ended up okay.  We watch for the slapstick, not the story.

So, why do I love the Stooges?  Read on, my friends.

Gimme Moe, Moe, Moe!

Don’t we all secretly (or not so secretly) want to be like Moe?  Moe is the boss, the ringleader, the one everyone looks to for their decisions.  He gladly accepts this role and gives no quarter.  He doesn’t hesitate to rip out huge hunks of Larry’s hair or to poke Curly in the eyes, despite the retinal damage it will cause.  He’s sawed Curly’s head, pulled his teeth and put his head in a vise.  He’s steam pressed Curly, slapped and kicked him.  Moe had to keep them in line and he did.

Moe helping Curly with a tooth problem.

Moe was a big brother, a boss and stern taskmaster.  When all was said and done, Moe cared for his fellow Stooges.  How many times did he say:  “I’m sorry, kid”?  He meant it, even if those words were followed by a slap in the face.

In real life, Moe was a fine fellow by all accounts. Kind, generous and caring.  He looked after his brothers, especially Curly when his health failed at far too young an age.  Moe enjoyed the Stooges’s resurgence in popularity and never shied away from his Moe persona.  I like that.  He was Moe.

Moe being Moe on the Mike Douglas Show in the 1970’s.

Curly

Curly (or Curley, as it was sometimes spelled) was the Olivier of the Stooges. The Stooge by which all Stooges are measured. Whether he was barking or spinning in the floor, Curly left an indelible mark on every short in which he appeared.

Curly was a comic genius.  He was a phenomenon.  I laugh almost every time he appears on-screen.  The following is just a sampling of his greatness:

  • Woob! Woob! Woob!  Curly’s trademark yell.
  • Nyuk, nyuk, nyuk.  Curly’s laugh.
  • The floor spin.  Curly lies on his side and spins in a circle.
  • “Soitenly!”  Curly’s pronunciation of “Certainly.”  Said in response to almost everthing.
  • “Hey, Moe!  Hey, Larry!’  Usually heard when Curly is in dire circumstances.
  • The Shuffle:  Curly’s ability to shuffle his feet in place, creating the illusion that both feet are off the floor.
  • “La da dee. La da dah!”  The tune Curly hums usually when he’s working on something.

Much more could be added to this list.  I always marveled at how agile Curly was for his weight.  He was one of the greatest ever at physical comedy.  Pure, unadulterated genius.

Like a lot of great comic actors, there was a dark side to Curly, or Babe as Moe called him. He ate and drank to excess and gambled away his money. Debilitated by a series of strokes, Curly died before age 50.  When he died, it seemed that the Stooges were done.

Shemp: The Once and Future Stooge

In Vaudeville, Shemp had been the “third” Stooge. Only when he left the act did Curly join. In the ’30’s and ’40’s Shemp had a modest but successful comedic acting career. Legend has it that Columbia resisted adding Shemp because of his resemblance to Moe.

Side by side, Moe and Shemp were obviously brothers. But Moe’s trademark bowl haircut and Shemp’s long, greasy slicked back hair created enough difference that it worked.

If Shemp was no Curly, he was a helluva Shemp. Whereas Curly was frantic and perpetual energy, Shemp was nervous and neurotic. This was, in fact, Shemp’s personality.   A typical Shemp moment has him terrified by some person event, his hair disheveled yammering “yeeb, yeeb, yeeb!” Moe would slap his face or poke his eyes.  Shemp would snap out of it.

Shemp also fancied himself a ladies man, usually finding himself the victim of a femme fatale.  It wasn’t unusual for Shemp to absorb a beating at the hands of a woman.   I can identify with that.  I like Shemp.

Real Shemp

Shemp died unexpectedly of a heart attack in the 1950’s. Again, it seemed that the Stooges were done. Shemp’s untimely death resulted in what die-hard Stoogephiles know as the phenomenon of Fake Shemp.

The Stooges had a contract with Columbia which required a certain number of shorts each year.  Shemp died while they were filming one.  To complete the film, they used a body double for Shemp.  The double was obviously NOT Shemp.

(L-R) Larry, Moe and Fake Shemp

To fulfill their contract, the Stooges actually “completed” several more shorts without Shemp, using stock footage and Fake Shemp.  Fake Shemp was always shown from the side or back. If you watch any of the films of director Sam Raimi (Evil Dead, Spiderman), watch the closing credits.  He often dubs several extras in his films as “Fake Shemp.”  Only true Stooge fans get the joke.

It was the mid-’50’s and Shemp was gone.  The Stooges had begun to be shown on television, and Columbia wanted to continue the series.  Joe Besser was a fat, allegedly comic actor on Columbia’s payroll.  He would be Joe, the new Stooge.  Good God.

Joe

Joe has nothing to do with why I love the Stooges.  Nothing crushed my little spirit more than to see the title card pop up on the screen with freakin’ Joe as the third Stooge.  If you think I was disappointed when Mr. Bill went on vacation, I can’t describe how the mere sight of Joe sucked the life out of me.  I’m not going to spend much time on this, but Joe wasn’t funny.  He was a whining, mincing, pansy.  “Not so haaaaard!”  followed by ultra-feminine slapping at Moe was his usual response to any attack.  It turns out that Joe Besser didn’t like being hit.  Really?  Then don’t be a Stooge!  Go do Shakespeare somewhere.  Fortunately, Joe wasn’t around long.  Columbia shut down its shorts department and this horrific sequence was over.

The mere sight of Joe still disturbs your author.

I’ll qualify this by saying that Joe Besser seemed to be fine fellow.  He spoke fondly of his brief time as a Stooge.  He just didn’t like being hit.  Oh well.  Who does?

What about Larry?

Larry was the Forgotten Stooge, rarely discussed but the glue that held them together.  Larry was often the butt of Moe’s temper (especially during the dark days of Joe), but he was often the voice of reason.  He wasn’t a straight man.  He was the man in the middle.  He often doled out abuse to Moe, but it was usually inadvertent, followed by “I’m sorry, Moe.”  Moe, of course, would accept the apology only to crack Larry over the head or pull out his hair.

I’m a Larry fan.  Without Larry, there were no Stooges. 

Curly Joe

With their new-found popularity on TV, the Stooges finally made feature films starting in the late 1950’s.  Joe De Rita took Besser’s place as Curly Joe.  I’ll be honest.  I never really cared much for the feature films, but Curly Joe was pretty good.  The Stooges were old by then and it just didn’t seem the same to me.  That said, they could still be pretty funny, and Curly Joe was a VAST improvement over Besser.

The Foils

I couldn’t finish this without mentioning Vernon Dent, Christine McIntyre and Emil Sitka, all of whom were straight “men” to the Stooges.  One of the great things about the Stooges is that they were frequently in conflict with society’s upper crust, crashing parties or finding themselves pushed into the upper echelon.  They would abuse these folks thoroughly.  Many a pie fight started under these circumstances.  The straight men would be exasperated by these antics and quite often started doling out their own abuse. 

The End

My vast Stooge knowledge has no doubt staggered you.  Oh, I’m sure it takes up brain space needed for things like birthdays, internet passwords and important account numbers.  So be it.  I think I’ll hum “Three Blind Mice” for the rest of the day.

What’s in a (Nick) Name?

Why don’t I have a nickname?  Someone posted on Facebook that an American Idol contestant was “Mr. Yummy Pants.”  It got me thinking about nicknames.  I’m not sure I’d like Mr. Yummy Pants, but I might be willing to try it out.

I don’t have a nickname.  This troubles me or at least it used to.  I wanted a nickname.  Something cool like Buzzsaw or Rip.  Nothing ever stuck.  When I was a lad, I had very blonde hair.  As a result, I was occasionally called Blondie.  Not very clever, huh?  Also, not very manly, not that I was particularly manly then or now.

Your author back in his tow-headed days pondered why he had no nickname.

A couple of people used to call me Harlan because I’m from Harlan County, Kentucky.  One was a college classmate.  The other was an old boss of mine who couldn’t always remember my name.  I’m glad that one didn’t stick.  I’m from Harlan County, not the town of Harlan.  I’ve never lived in Harlan.  I didn’t go to school in Harlan.  I lived in Loyall.  Calling me Harlan makes as much sense as calling someone from Louisville “Jefferson.”

Growing up in the 1970’s, I was often called “John Boy.”  Much to my chagrin, my wife often calls me that, too.  I had no interest in being the namesake of one of the pathetic Walton clan.

Why did I want a nickname?  I don’t know.  Maybe it’s because I have a very vanilla name.  It’s so vanilla that I am a life member of the TSA “Watch List,” meaning that I can’t check in on-line for airline flights.  They have to eye-ball me to determine my dangerous propensities.

I think the primary reason is that I grew up in Eastern Kentucky, the Land of Nicknames.  My dad had a nickname–two, in fact.  People who grew up with him called him Cootie.  Lest you think this was because of a hygiene issue, it was not.   Dad played the cornet and trumpet.  There was a famous cornet player named “Cootie;” thus, he was Cootie, too.  He was also called Sherm, mostly by one of his brothers.  This had something to do with Dad being interviewed on the radio to discuss his fictional war exploits.  For the interview, he adopted the nom de plume Sherm Cuffs.

My father when he was known to the world as "Cootie."

My uncles had nicknames.  Jack was called Powd.  This came from his mocking of how a neighbor pronounced her dog’s name, “Powder.”  Paul was called Meek.  I never knew why, but I assume it had something to do with being the youngest of seven children.  I have a cousin that people called Bird Neck.  Another is called Tee.  Yet another is Pie.  Good God, even my brother’s wife has a nickname.

Harlan County was a nickname paradise.  There were Slop Daddy (aka Slop Jar); Mighty Moe; Bubby; Foots (aka Feets); Crip; Humpy; Deacon; Hoss; Dirty Ears; Preacher; Night Rider; Bucky; Rubber Duck; Doc; Courthouse; Tiny; Big D; Ring Eye; Clunk; Peanut; T-Bone; Hambone; Bones; and many, many variations of Junior.  One would think I could have picked up a cool name, but it didn’t happen.

Another factor is that I work in the coal industry, THE number one nickname industry in the world.  EVERYONE has a nickname.  Here’s a typical discussion between me and a mine employee:

ME:  “Okay.  You muck the No. 1 belt.  Do you know the belt foreman, Joe Jones?

MINER:  “I don’t believe I know him.”

ME:  “Well, he’s the foreman on your shift.  You have to know him.”

MINER:  “Oooohhh.  You mean Whirlybird?”

ME:  I guess. Is he the belt boss?

MINER:  Yeah, but everybody calls him Whirlybird.  I ain’t never heared him called anything else.

This has been repeated many, many times.  I always feel a tad inferior because I can’t respond with something like:  “Hey, they call me Crow Bar.”

A major problem for me is that I have no distinctive traits.  I am not a handsome man, but I’m fortunate that I do not have any obvious deformities.  Thus, names like Humpy (he was a hunchback) are out of the question.  Lefty won’t work (right-handed).  I’m a small fellow, but Tiny won’t work, because I AM tiny.  Tiny is reserved for people who are behemoths.  I don’t have red hair; thus, the ubiquitous “Red” is out.  I have small hands and feet, but I reject “Tiny Hands” for obvious reasons.   Coming from German and Welsh stock, I have this homogenous Aryan look to me, which is of no interest to anyone save possibly Mel Gibson.

I did, however, look like this at one time:

Inexplicably, your author's ghastly appearance led to no lasting nicknames.

One would think that a nickname would have naturally developed.  Alas, there is a fine–but important–difference between nicknaming and name-calling.

I also have done nothing spectacular in my life to get a nickname.  I heard of guy that got nicknamed Gizmo because of his inept handling of a situation.  I could be called Good Student or Mr. Punctual.  Nothing seems to work.

If I had been an athlete, I could have had something cool like The Eastin Assassin (Larry Holmes); The Brockton Blockbuster (Marvin Hagler); The Iron Horse (Lou Gehrig); The Worm (Dennis Rodman); Magic; White Chocolate; Crazy Legs; and many others.  Based on my athletic skills I would have been something like “Slow Foot” or “Easy Out.”  No good.

A nickname has to fit, too.  I knew a guy named Hoss.  He was a hoss alright.  I have a friend called Wishbone.  It fits him for some reason.  I don’t think anything ever fit me.  When I had braces, my little brother called me Long John Silver Teeth, but that’s too long even though it did sort of fit.

You also can’t give yourself a nickname.  It’s doesn’t work.  In an episode of Seinfeld, George wants to be called T-Bone.  It doesn’t take.  I know a guy nicknamed T-Bone.  I’m sure there’s a story behind it, but I’m also sure he didn’t give himself that name.  I thought perhaps will.i.ams would be cool, but turns out it’s pronounced “Williams.”  Curb Stomper is cool, but I’ve never curb stomped anyone.  I’m much more likely to be tagged with Curb Stomped.  I knew an Irish lady who called my Wee John, but I just can’t support that.

So, I’ve abandoned my quest.  Hopefully, I won’t get hung with a nickname at my age.  Then again, maybe Mr. Yummy Pants will catch on.

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