Saturday, October 2, 2010

Saturday Song Selection - Lydia the Tattooed Lady

“I have had a perfectly wonderful evening, but this wasn't it.”

“She got her looks from her father. He's a plastic surgeon.”

“The secret of life is honesty and fair dealing. If you can fake that, you've got it made.”

“Those are my principles, and if you don't like them... well, I have others.”

- Groucho Marx

When I first started posting songs I said that my intent was to share things that had some relevance to my life with the sincere hope that if the song meant something to me in some way, or was even just one that I found unique or entertaining, you would find some value in it as well. Similarly, with the weekly birthday greetings, the people I choose naturally tend to reflect my interests and background. Today’s entry demonstrates this to almost the ultimate degree. Now perhaps I’m a simple man, and I’m definitely an older man, but the fact that Groucho Marx, Bud Abbott and Spanky McFarland share the same birthday seems quite the amazing coincidence to me. They are each film comic icons. Their careers basically covered the same period. They are all recognized as being among the best, if not the best, in what they did. All three contributed much to not only movie comedy but also to popular culture. And personally, I grew up loving all of them.

Groucho Marx
"Groucho Marx was the best comedian this country ever produced… He is simply unique in the same way that Picasso or Stravinsky are." —Woody Allen

Born this day in 1890, Julius Henry “Groucho” Marx began his career on the vaudeville stage in 1905 and, razor wit still very much intact, continued entertaining audiences into the 1970’s. He made 26 films including 13 with his equally talented siblings, the Marx Brothers. I hope to never again hear another young person tell me that he’s never seen a Marx Brothers movie because he doesn’t watch black and white films. Rent “Duck Soup” this very moment and experience it. I don’t have the vocabulary to try to explain to you what you have been missing all this time. Groucho delayed is Groucho denied.

Bud Abbott

“For twenty years as a professional team, Lou and I were closer than man and wife.”

William Alexander "Bud" Abbott was born on October 2nd, 1895 in Asbury Park, New Jersey. He too began his career in vaudeville, where he met Lou Costello in the early 1930’s, formerly teaming up in 1936. Bud and Lou made 36 films together between 1940 and 1956 and they were among the most popular and highest-paid stars in the world. If you grew up in the New York area in the 1960’s and 70’s chances are that you found yourself tuning into Channel 11, WPIX-TV, every Sunday morning at 11, as my brothers and I did, for your weekly Abbott and Costello fix. Those movies never got old and we could never see them too many times. Films greatest straight man passed away on April 24th, 1974. For the black and white-phobic, give “Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein” a go.

Spanky McFarland
"I wouldn't take a million dollars for the experience...and I wouldn't take a penny to do it again. As a kid I had everything I wanted, we had a good life but when it was over....it was over."

Born in 1928, George “Spanky” McFarland made his first appearance in an Our Gang comedy in 1932 at the ripe old age of 4, and he stayed with the series all the way through 1942. He made a total of 95 shorts with the Gang and even one feature length comedy, “General Spanky.” I was fortunate enough to meet Spanky once in the late 1980’s and although he was no longer a winning and adorable toddler, he seemed a nice and gentle man. On an additional personal note, I have actually encountered two Spankys in my time - aforementioned Our Gang member Spanky McFarland, who has entertained me throughout my life with some regularity, and Spanky the cat, who has damaged my home and knocked down my Christmas tree with equal regularity.
Spanky the cat
From the 1939 Marx Brothers film, “At the Circus,” written by Yip Harburg and Harold Arlen - the same songwriters who brought you, “Over the Rainbow” - the one, the only - Groucho and “Lydia the Tattooed Lady.”

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