We begin with the solution to the mystery of the Huey Long poster above. I found it while doing some research on the Kingfish for this post. Initially, I thought it might be a movie poster but it turned out to have something to do with a circa 2002 game. Huey P. Long as action hero? Why the hell not. It’s certainly a more heroic name than Nigel Pennybone. Thanks to Glenn Louis Devillier and James Wm Ball III for their help with this Huey quest.
We had our annual September cool weather tease last weekend in New Orleans. Summer’s cauldron receded for a few days but the heat is back. Summer heat is a relentless motherfucker in these parts. The tease is a sign, however, that the worst of summer is over and we can start planning for next year’s stupidly early Mardi Gras. Krewe du Vieux rolls on January 23rd. After several temperate years, we may have to layer up like we did from 2006-2010. I’m already sitting shiver contemplating it…
I wrote about the big local news on Thursday, the latest bloodletting by the Newhousian malakas at the Sometimes-Picayune. There is no good way to fire people but mass firings are the worst way imaginable. The purge of 2012 was a PR disaster from which the TP has never recovered and they’re doing it again. Their arrogance and stupidity is staggering. There is, however, enough stupidity to go around; some of the social media chatter involves locals speculating that the Newhouse chain bought the Picayune to destroy it. Wrong. They bought it way back in 1962. Holy slow motion suicide, Batman.
I’m taking this personally. There are human beings involved and I know quite a few of them. Their lives have been turned upside down and the survivors know that their employers don’t give a shit about any of them. That may be the way of corporate America but that doesn’t make it right or even effective. The next time I see Advance Media honcho Ricky Mathews cry copious crocodile tears, I’m going to sic Della and her death ray stare on him:
Saturday Odds & Sods is my version of a comedic variety show, but I’m not feeling as funny ha ha as usual right now. I’m going to muddle through but the post will have fewer entries than usual and may be a bit disjointed since I wrote bits of it before the abattoir on Canal Street was open for business. I guess you’re used to disjointedness at dis joint…
Onward to this week’s theme song. I’ve been listening to a lot of Southern Culture On The Skids (SCOTS to the kids) as an antidote to the bullshit of the week and life in general. If you’re unfamiliar with their music, they’re a punkabilly, alt-country outfit out of North Carolina. Band leader Rick Miller writes some of the wittiest lyrics in rock and roll but he’s NOT the same Rick Miller who played for the Bosox and Angels in the 1970’s and ’80’s.
It’s theme song time:
I may sprinkle a few more SCOTS tunes throughout the post like demented redneck pixie dust. No, make that glitter. You cannot get rid of glitter. More preaching and go-go dancing after the break
I may have lied about that preaching and go-go dancing thing but I *can* post a SCOTS song that has one of the greatest lyrics EVER, “She’s liquored up, lacquered down. She’s got the biggest hair in town.”
Speaking of someone who surely appreciated liquored up, big haired women, let’s turn our attention back to the Kingfish:
Who Really Shot Huey Long? September 10th was the 80th Anniversary of the assassination of the Kingfish. I’ve never bought the official story that Baton Rouge physician Karl Weiss was the killer. My friend and fellow horrid punster James Karst wrote an excellent piece about the shooting for the paper whose name shall not be spoken:
On Christmas in 1935, a letter from Weiss’ father was hand-delivered to Gov. O.K. Allen, who had been the highest-ranking state official in Long’s political machine, and who had been at Long’s bedside as he lay dying.
Allen did not respond, so in early January the doctor shared the letter with the press.
“You no doubt well know, and all fair-minded persons believe, as indicated by the facts so far as they have been permitted to be disclosed,” he wrote, “that Huey Long was shot as a result of a personal difficulty, and that, in all probability, he was not shot by my son but by one of his own bodyguards.
“There is no doubt of the fact, however, that my son was ruthlessly assassinated by hirelings of the bureau of criminal identification after being overpowered and disarmed by them.”
Asked by reporters for his response, Allen said: “I am not going to reply to statements that everyone who reads the newspapers knows to be lies.
“Everybody knows that Huey Long was assassinated. Every newspaper in the country published pictures of Huey Long with the assassin by his side. Everybody knows that the assassination was the result of a plot. Any attempt to obscure those facts is purely for political effect.”
My theory of what happened is simultaneously simple and complex. I believe that Dr. Weiss was a patsy and that Huey’s bodyguards killed both the Kingfish and the fall guy. I believe that it was deliberate and that some of Long’s allies were behind the hit. Make that erstwhile allies.
Why would Long’s henchmen turn on him? His flirtation with challenging FDR was bad for business and the Long Machine was all about money. Before the New Deal, Federal patronage was not a big deal but by 1935 it was a huge deal. (Way too many deals in that sentence. I should apologize but I won’t, it’s no big deal.) It was also steered away from the Long Machine as long as Huey openly discussed being the next Oval One:
The first question to ask when looking into something like the Long assassination is WHO BENEFITS? It’s not always the answer because life can be random and irrational but I think it is in this case. There were ambitious, greedy pols with their hands out and the former Golden Goose from Winn Parish was getting in the way. In the immortal words of Deep Throat in the film version of All The President’s Men: “Follow the money.” Mark Felt never said it but Hal Holbrook did and he played Sam Clemens so I trust him. Mark Twain was a helluva lot funnier than any G-Man, after all…
I’m not entirely sure who in the Long camp ordered a hit but speculation has centered on two future residents of the Federal prison system: Dick Leche (Gret Stet Gov from 1936-39) and New Orleans hotelier and Longite bagman, Seymour Weiss. Leche famously said that he didn’t “take a vow of poverty” when he became Governor. He also mended fences with the Roosevelt administration as well as being the subject of this sign I made for the 2007 Krewe du Vieux parade:
All I have is a theory. There was no genuine attempt to investigate the Long murder, which leads me to point the finger of blame at his cronies. We’ll never know for certain but one thing I’m sure of is that Huey Long is a fascinating historical figure. Everything about him was outsize: from his virtues to his vices. He set the template for Gret Stet politics, which can be boiled down to a conflict between populists with a zest for life who are sometimes on the take and sanctimonious po-faced conservative reformers. We currently have a surfeit of the latter and not enough of the former. So it goes.
Let’s get back to hair, big and otherwise:
Hair-Raising Tales: There’s a swell piece in the Talk of the Town section of the New Yorker by Charles Bethea than has me talking hair.
A Baltimore hairdresser named Janet Stephens has taken the national preoccupation farther—certainly farther back—than anyone. Stephens is fifty-seven and has red-violet hair with a metallic sheen (“I was born dishwater blond”) that she wears shoulder length, with short bangs. “I’ve pretty much invented the field of ancient Roman hair-style re-creation,” she said last week, before heading over to Studio 921 Salon & Day Spa, where she is a stylist. “I’m a hairdressing archeologist.”
Lately, she has been getting inquiries about the provenance of Donald Trump’s hair style. “The comb-over goes back to ancient Rome, at least,” she said. “Roman comb-overs were not based on the side part, as they are today. To part the hair was an exclusively feminine practice avoided by ‘manly’ Roman men. If a Roman man’s hair was thinning, but still present, he allowed the hair at the crown to grow longer and combed it forward. This type of comb-over is visible on portrait statues of Emperor Hadrian. If a man was hippocratically bald”—hairless on top, like Hippocrates—“he would grow any remaining side hair longer and comb each side up over the top to meet in the middle. These comb-overs were unstable, because of gravity and wind. They were likely held in place with pomade or primitive hair gels made from acacia gum—ancient versions of the hairspray, in other words, that keeps Donald Trump’s signature comb-over in place.
There you have it, ladies and germs, the comb-over is as old as the planet itself. But don’t forget that “American is not a planet“ according to Marco Rubio. We’ll deal with that hair-raising statement another time… or never. Let’s move on to someone who lived in an era when hair was obscured by powdered wigs:
Jill Lepore On Benjamin Franklin: One of the most heartening developments of recent years is seeing Franklin’s rescue from the hagiographers. Franklin was an American original: printer, statesman, inventor, epic flirt, as well as a writer with more pen names than Lawrence Block or Steven King. And that’s saying something, y’all.
Ms. Lepore’s essay is an introduction to a new edition of The Autobiography and Other Writings of Benjamin Franklin. She does the old rascal proud. Speaking of inventors:
Ahmed Mohamed and the American Myth of the Individual White Inventor: Decent people were appalled by the treatment of young Ahmed Mohamed at the hands of Texas officialdom. Make that officialdum. All the post 9/11 cliches about “erring on the side of caution” were trotted out but, in the end, it was a nerdy-n-geeky 14 year old boy who brought a clock to school. Shame on you. Schmucks.
Ben Railton wrote yet another fine piece at TPM Cafe taking a look at how inventors of color have been underrated and shafted by THE MAN over the years. Anyone surprised? I thought not.
Repeat after me: Edison and Bell had help even if Don Ameche only had Henry Fonda in the bio-pic. One of their key assistants was the son of two former slaves, Lewis Latimer:
Latimer worked with Alexander Graham Bell in 1876 on the drawings that led to the telephone patent, then went to work for the U.S. Electric Lighting Company, a rival of Edison’s. While there, he received an 1882 patent for a new process for manufacturing carbon filaments for lightbulbs; when Edison hired Latimer away in 1884, it was to continue to hone this process, which became a vital component of Edison’s improved and ultimately enduring electric light bulbs.
That thread (filament?) caused a light bulb to appear above my head. It made me feel like Bugs Bunny. I like feeling like Bugs. Our next section will not involve preachin’ daddies but may well involve go-go girls:
Documentary Of The Week: The Wrecking Crew is the story of the brilliant studio musicians who played on most of the great pop-rock records that were cut in Los Angeles in the 1960’s. It’s also a tribute by director Denny Tedesco to his father, ace guitarist Terry Tedesco, a mainstay of the Wrecking Crew. The story of how the documentary came to be made is *almost* as good as the movie itself but we’ll leave that for another day. Hint: the movie was first shown in 2008 but was not released until 2015.
The documentary is available on Netflix. Put on your go-go boots and watch the trailer:
I give The Wrecking Crew 3 1/2 stars, an Adrastos grade of B+ and an Ebertian thumbs up.
Here’s a sample of their work. The Monkees did their own singing but the Wrecking Crew played all the instruments:
Saturday Standards: Ella at Duke’s Place is a 1965 collaboration between two giants of American Jazz. It also swings like crazy:
Now that we’re taken the A Train uptown to see Ella and Duke, let’s go to the wrong side of the tracks for some Banana Puddin’:
That concludes this edition of Odds & Sods on the skids. Y’all come back next week.