You’d have to go all the way back to the epistles of Abigail Adams and the poems of Emily Dickinson to find such a profound articulation of the soul of American womanhood as the stunning new collection of never-before-published letters, “Dear Andy Kaufman, I Hate Your Guts!,” forthcoming from the fine folks at Process Books.
In 1977, Kaufman offered a $1000 reward to any woman who could pin him in a televised wrestling match, vowing to shave his head and wed his vanquisher. His taunt spurred an impassioned response from hundreds of would-be contenders from across our great land, from all-CAPS typewritten manifestos to hand-scrawled hate mail accompanied by photos and illustrations that Process rightly calls “an astonishing Rorschach of the late-‘70s liberated female psyche.”
Samples leave us in humbled awe and ever more mindful of how much we miss the pranking spirit of our dear departed Latka:
Before the Twist and the Macarena and the Mashed Potato, there was the Tango, the first international dance craze, the first to cause mass hysteria and public outrage, as critics went as purple as any present-day haters of hip-hop, as they denounced the universal appeal of a mongrel music that sprang from the bordellos of Buenos Aires to the ballrooms of the world.
“It is a monotonous and expressionless dance, with the stylized rhythm of coupling,” wrote an appalled Argentine commentator in 1933. “It does not arouse in the spectator’s spirit feelings of joy, of enthusiasm, of admiration, of desire. It is a dance without soul, for automatons, a dance of everyone’s sorrow: It is the same sorrow we feel upon seeing young horses tied to a hoisting machine.”
Such harangues have done nothing to halt the enduring popularity of tango, one of the last dances standing from the past century. But there is another reason we come today to praise it.
Without tango and its patron city, Buenos Aires, we would not have the strange noir fantasia of Robert Duvalls’ B-movie vanity piece, “Assassination Tango,” generally reviled and ultimately ignored upon its release in 2002 but which now retains its rightful place in the Duvall canon somewhere between his haunting youthful cameo in “To Kill a Mocking Bird" and his autumnal masterpiece, “The Apostle.” And every Duvall performance--with graying pony-tail or not--that we can get in his pushing-80-plus twilight years is worth a thousand ham-bone Pacinos.
Bring it on Bobby D. We will always have a place on the dance floor for you.
Great Moments In Pulp Fiction, Continued:
"The Virginian's pistol came out, and his hand lay on the table, holding it unaimed.
And with a voice as gentle as ever, the voice that sounded almost like a caress,
but drawling a little more than usual, so that there was almost a space between each word,
he issused his orders to the man Trampas:
'When you call me that, SMILE!'"
from Owen Wister's The Virginian, 1902, dedicated to Theodore Roosevelt.
In these strange days of angry, foul-mouthed senior citizens who gather in hate-mongering mobs and bring shame and disgrace not only to their age but to public decorum and common decency, it seems worthwhile to pay tribute to the great Uncle Dave Macon, a man who knew how to grow old with grace and flare, his gold teeth shining like a beacon to all who hold life to be a gift and a blessing rather than a curse and a burden.
An example for late bloomers everywhere, Uncle Dave cut his first record “Keep My Skillet Good and Greasy” in 1924 when he was past 54 years old, at a time when the nascent country-music industry rated performers not by their looks but by their musical talent. For the next 30 years, he was one of country music’s most beloved entertainers and characters, known as the Dixie Dewdrop, and he lit up the Grand Ole Opry right up until his death at 81.