Saturday Odds & Sods: Into The Great Wide Open

The Millinery Shop by Edgar Degas.

It’s the first weekend of Jazz Fest. Absent free tickets, we’re not attending this year. We will, however, be going to our top secret location just outside the Fairgrounds to hear Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. I’d be heartbroken if we didn’t do that. I hope that the weather will co-operate. There’s a chance of severe thunderstorms tomorrow. So it goes.

Hats are popular at Jazz Fest. That’s one reason I posted the Degas painting as the featured image. Another is that Degas spent time in the Crescent City visiting his Creole family; some of whom identified as black and others as white, much like the Herriman-Chasse clan I recently discussed in this space. It’s why gumbo is used so often as a metaphor to describe the natives. I’m equally inclined to compare New Orleans to a crazy quilt. The creator of Krazy Kat was born here, after all.

In other local news, the Saints have signed 32-year-old running back Adrian Peterson. His age is not my problem with the signing: it’s his status as a child beater. I wrote about it 3 years ago: Adrian Peterson Did Not Spank His Son, He Beat Him. So much for all of Sean Payton’s blather about bringing in players with “character.” This one has or had a “whooping room” in his Houston area house full of belts, switches, and the like.

This week’s theme song comes from the Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers album of the same name. Into The Great Wide Open is best known for its swell video and “rebel without a clue” chorus. The latter surely applies to the current occupant of the White House. The deplorables among his supporters are a rabble without a clue.

While we’re on the subject of Tom Petty, here’s a sleeper track from that very album:

I’m fond of that song because it reminds me of one of the main drags of my native Peninsula: El Camino Real. That’s the king’s highway in Spanish.  It spans several Bay Area counties and was where teenage me used to cruise. We didn’t have the internet to occupy us so we drove about aimlessly. One of my cronies always called it the Elk. That’s a bit too gamey or clubby for my taste. It must be time for the break.

The Heartbreakers rarely perform either of the preceding tunes, so here’s a scorching version of a song that’s usually their set closer.

We begin by running down a dreamy artist who’s still going strong at an advanced age. He makes me feel like a spring chicken: plucky, not plucked.

Poster Boy: Venerable artist Robert McGinnis has done it all from pulpy book covers to posters for classic films such as Breakfast At Tiffany’s. In fact this segment is yet another reason I chose the Degas painting as this week’s featured image. It’s easy to imagine Audrey Hepburn wearing one of those chapeaux.

McGinnis is still alive at 91 and was recently hired by writer Neil Gaiman to do cover art for some reissued books. Gaiman is a devoted McGinnis fan. I think you will be too after reading Michael Callahan’s Vanity Fair piece about the artist.

Let’s travel to South Carolina and get a taste of:

The Politics Of BBQ: There’s a fabulous piece in this week’s New Yorker by Lauren Collins about the Bessinger family of BBQ fame. The most successful restaurateur in the family, Maurice, was also an ardent white supremacist. Many people stopped patronizing his eatery because of his racist views:

“I was getting ready to get up and talk,” Purvis said. “I was sitting there very quietly in a corner, and a woman came up to me and said, ‘So, is it O.K. to go back to the Piggie Park?’ ”

The woman was referring to Maurice’s Piggie Park, a small chain of barbecue restaurants, established in West Columbia, South Carolina, in 1953. The original restaurant occupies a barnlike building on a busy intersection and is presided over by a regionally famous electric marquee that features the boast “world’s best bar-b-q,” along with a grinning piglet named Little Joe. The Piggie Park is important in the history of barbecue, which is more or less the history of America. One reason is that its founder, Maurice Bessinger, popularized the yellow, mustard-based sauce that typifies the barbecue of South Carolina’s Midlands area. Another is that Bessinger was a white supremacist who, in 1968, went to the Supreme Court in an unsuccessful fight against desegregation, and, in 1974, ran a losing gubernatorial campaign, wearing a white suit and riding a white horse.

Maurice died in 2014 and his heirs are trying to move past his poisonous legacy and focus on the food. It’s unclear how successful they’ve been in that regard. The Piggie Park still bugs many folks in the Palmetto state.

Let’s travel south to Miami and catch-up with a basketball legend.

The Hoops Lion In Winter: Yeah, I know, Miami isn’t my idea of a winter wonderland either but I like the image. Sue me.  

Pat Riley is one of the most interesting people in professional sports. He’s won championships in L.A, and Miami and made the OJ Bronco chase finals with the New York Knicks in 1994. One of the best sportswriters in the country, Wright Thompson, paid Riley a visit last season, which was one of the most difficult years in his career. This is his story.

One detail I learned from the piece is that this is one of Riley’s favorite songs:

It’s time to mark the passing of someone who worked with Springsteen.

Jonathan Demme, RIP: I’ve had a lot of fun mocking Jared Kushner by calling him a renaissance man when he’s shallower than a child’s wading pool. Jonathan Demme, on the other hand, was a cinematic renaissance man who dabbled in every genre imaginable and mastered them all. Demme died earlier this week at the age of 73.

Everyone knows that he won an Academy Award for Silence of the Lambs in 1991. I would hope that everyone knows about the great music films he made with Talking Heads, Robyn Hitchcock, and Neil Young. He also directed several videos for the Boss including this one:

The best writing I’ve seen about Demme’s passing was in the Guardian. First, film critic Peter Bradshaw’s incisive look at his career. Second, a remembrance of the director by David Byrne:

Jonathan was a huge music fan – that’s obvious in his films, many of which are jam-packed with songs by the often obscure artists he loved. He’d find ways to slip a reggae artist’s song or a Haitian recording into a narrative film in ways that were often joyous and unexpected.”


His fiction films, the music films and the docs are all filled with so much passion and love. He often turned what would be a genre film into a very personal expression. His view of the world was open, warm, animated and energetic. He was directing TV episodes even this year, when he was in remission. Jonathan, we’ll miss you.”

Here’s my Demme top ten list in no particular order:

  1. Silence of the Lambs
  2. Married to the Mob 
  3. Something Wild 
  4. Melvin and Howard
  5. Swing Shift
  6. Rachel Getting Married
  7. Crazy Mama
  8. Swimming to Cambodia
  9. Ricki and the Flash
  10. Stop Making Sense

I posted Stop Making Sense last so I could post the BIG SUIT:

Speaking of physical comedy, let’s dial the wayback machine to the Roaring Twenties.

The Saturday GIF: It’s silent comedy genius Harold Lloyd with a kitty down his sweater. Beats the hell out of a ferret down the trousers or a turtle down the turtleneck.

Now that I have you feeling all squirmy, let’s close it out with some music.

Saturday Classic: The Traveling Wilburys were the ultimate super-group. ELO’s Jeff Lynne is largely responsible for bringing together George Harrison, Roy Orbison, Bob Dylan, and Tom Petty. Thanks, Jeff.

That’s it for this week. I’ve had Casablanca on my mind since writing the Vichy On The Potomac post last Monday. That’s why I’m giving Claude Rains as Capt. Louis Renault the last word or is that last meme?

One thought on “Saturday Odds & Sods: Into The Great Wide Open

  1. Looks like the rain will push through before Tom Petty starts…and if you’re in a secret location outside the track, you might not even have to deal with the mud. Hope it’s a good show.

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