Thursday, June 16, 2005

Hello, Hooray!

I must give Bill at Kos big props for linking to the Paul Lynde section of the classic squares site.

It's been a long while since I've read it, and in the meantime it's grown by an extra page -- almost all of the additions being "zingers".

Read them. Laugh. They hold up beautifully. This is what you could get away with in the 70s, and not just on TV, but on daytime TV. Lynde's jokes were filthy, his innuendos atrocious. He was very un-PC. He was also "as gay as christmas". I mean to say that these are all good things.

This is how it was before the Moral Majority took hold. True, Anita Bryant was basically a Falwell-Santorum type back then, but the puritans had yet to coagulate into the mass movement that they became in the 80s. It was also before the Left overreacted whereby every joke had to be closely inspected for possible misogyny, homophobia, racism, etc. This was the era of Richard Pryor and George Carlin records.

Look, Alice Fucking Cooper was on Hollywood Squares, for God's sake. Yeah, he's a wrinkled old golf-playing fart now, but in his day he was pure Satan (in the, uh, best sense of the term), Marilyn Manson to the thousandth power (though unlike Manson, Alice had real musical talent: even Bob Dylan said that Alice was an overlooked songwriter). You had Billy Crystal playing a gay guy on Soap. The average Charlie's Angels episode was far more.. well, titilating than our era's infamous "wardrobe malfunctions". Aside the great Jonathan Winters, all the great comics of that day worked "blue": Pryor, Foxx, Carlin, the incomparable Buddy Hackett. You had real music on In Concert and Don Kirschner's ABC stuff. Hee Haw had real country music every week; Johnny Cash even had a TV show -- this was before Garth Brooks killed the genre. SNL was never fresher nor more subversive. Talking heads then, too, were of infinitely better quality. You had Gore Vidal and Norman Mailer on TV all the time; from the right you had Buckley on Firing Line and John Simon occasionally on the Tonight Show.

I know the 70s were bad in a lot of ways, and I admit I see the decade through the filter of my early childhood. I must admit that I'm not old enough to remember anything but the last three or so years of the decade. But post-Watergate, we were on the right track; it was a great time to be a child in rural America. Earl Butz's "Farming Is Now Big Business!" policies hadn't yet fully congealed into the system; every farm family had money in the 70s. Unlike my parents' generation, I didn't fear being incinerated at any moment by a nuclear exchange -- I didn't know that fear until the 80s, thank you, Ronald Reagan, may you burn in hell -- because detente was a sane policy even though it was perfected by a sociopath. I understand why Mike Watt and Eddie Vedder sang to Generation Y that "Kids Today Should Defend Themselves Against The 70s", and I admit their point, but also must dissent on other grounds.

Girlfriends see my childhood pictures and love the clothes I was dressed in, my haircut (or, rather, my lack thereof), the period ephemera in the background. It wasn't always this way. There was great shame in the 80s and early 90s of 70s fashion, though I never shared it. It's true, though, that it comes across much better re-interpreted in the oughts.

But 70s pop culture, despite its many flaws, deserves some respect and, as well, some study other than of the kitchy/nostalgic variety. It was a deeply cynical post-Watergate culture, it did have its moments of pure hedonism, and though perhaps reacted against by Nixon's "Silent Majority", it inspired no reaction, no counter-revolution, quite like what what we saw in the 80s which continues to this day. The cultural commissars and anti-Hollywood anti-modernist cretins of the right had yet to really set up shop, and so the 70s deserves a special place in the hearts of the Left if only for that.

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