To say that New Orleans is a football town is a grotesque understatement. Between the Saints and LSU Tigers, gridiron love runs deep in the Crescent City. But last Monday, local sports fans were talking about the NBA Pelicans. Our local hoopsters lost 2 players to free agency: Rajon Rondo and DeMarcus (Boogie) Cousins. The latter Boogied to the Warriors and the surly Rondo signed with the Lakers. I was one of the few local hoops fans to take this in stride. Rondo was a team leader last year after 12 years as a locker room cancer and occasional gay basher. Boogie Cousins had a torn ACL, which is an injury that usually diminishes big men when they return. I had a torn ACL myself. It ended my unpromising career as a little leaguer. So it goes.
In other local news, new Mayor LaToya Cantrell continues her incomprehensible PR campaign:
I still haven’t the foggiest notion as to what “being intentional” means. Of course, I may just be unintentionally dim. I had an intentionally amusing twitter exchange inspired by the Mayor’s tweet. Two of my twitter friends evoked the image of Matt Foley, Chris Farley’s failed motivational speaker, culminating in this tweet from my old pal Liprap:
This week’s theme song is a bona fide hippie anthem. Get Together was written by Dino Valenti who is best known as lead singer for Quicksilver Messenger Service. Valenti was a man of many names: he was born Chester Powers and also wrote songs as Jesse Orris Farrow.
We have three versions of Get Together for your listening pleasure. First, the Youngbloods, a band so hippie dippy that their keyboard player was nicknamed Banana, followed by the pre-Grace Slick Jefferson Airplane, and a recent live version by Dave Alvin and Jimmie Dale Gilmore.
In case you’re wondering, the featured image is by Rick Griffin who was one of the legendary Sixties rock poster artists. The image itself was originally on a poster for a Youngbloods show at the Avalon Ballroom in San Francisco.
Now that we’ve discussed the Flying Eyeball, let’s make like Evel Knievel and jump to the break.
We begin our second act with a piece that honors the return of The Shahs of Sunset. Just kidding. The first segment is not about trash teevee but about Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, the last Shah of Iran.
The French Filmmaker & The Shah: There’s an excellent piece at Slate about a latter-day Renaissance man who died in tragic and deeply weird circumstances.
Writing about him risks generating a one-man game of Trivial Pursuit: Whose film was the shortest ever to win a Best Screenplay Oscar? Who invented Helivision, a helicopter-mounted camera system used in Goldfinger? Who created what Francois Truffaut called the “most beautiful color film ever made”?
Who invented the board game Risk?
And whose death at 48 years old 48 years ago is memorialized by the rusting hulk of the same helicopter that killed him, which somehow still hangs in the air above a massive dam?
Oh, and who made one of the most beautiful and piercing children’s films ever made, The Red Balloon?
The answer, of course, is Albert Lamorisse.
It turns out that the Shah was a film buff and his people contacted Lamorisse’s people to retain him to do a film plugging Pahlavi’s reign. It was 1970 and the Shah was feeling insecure on the peacock throne, which was why he hired Lamorisse. The director was offered artistic control, which was inevitably snatched back by Team Shah. He wound up doing a very dangerous stunt. It cost him his life. Liam Callanan has the details.
Let’s move on to a piece that I saw on Chef Chris DeBarr’s Facebook feed. Btw, Chris is almost as good a writer as he is a chef, check out his Medium, but still well done, food blog.
Baseball Nativism: We live in a time of renewed nativism and xenophobia. This form of bigotry has always been with us, but the Insult Comedian keeps throwing racist shit at the fan, which spreads it far and wide. Splat.
Where the hell was I? Oh yeah, a swell piece about baseball bigotry by Adrian Burgos at La Vida Baseball. It tells the story of two early Cuban baseball players, Rafael Almeda and Armando Marsans who broke in with the Cincinnati Reds in 1911.
The color line was rigidly enforced in the major leagues until 1947. Since Americans have always been obsessed with race, there was much speculation as to the duo’s ethnicity:
“Two of the Purest Bars of Castilian Soap.” That is how one Cincinnati newspaper described the two Cuban players who made their major league debut for the Reds during an Independence Day doubleheader versus the Cubs in 1911.
Racist sportswriters were forever vigilant to attempts to sneak players past the color line. New York Giants manager/co-owner John McGraw spent decades bending the color line. One of his greatest regrets was that he was never able to break it. McGraw’s attempt to pass off African-American second baseman Charlie Grant as a Native American is the stuff of baseball legend. I guess you’re not surprised that I snuck something in about the Giants. I’m almost as sneaky as McGraw but I’ve never been called Muggsy or Banana for that matter.
Let’s move on to a brilliant teevee mini-series about one of the weirdest political scandals in British history. Make that world history.
A Very English Scandal: Jeremy Thorpe was the leader of the Liberal party from 1967 to 1976. The party had hit the skids from its Gladstone-Asquith-Lloyd George heyday. Thorpe presided over a Liberal mini-revival. At the first 1974 general election, the Liberals won only 14 seats in parliament BUT received 19.3% of the vote thanks to their charismatic leader.
Jeremy Thorpe had a secret life that proved to be his undoing. He was deeply in the closet and made the terrible mistake of having a relationship with a handsome misfit by the name of Norman Scott née Josliffe. There were good reasons for Thorpe to be closeted: gay sex was illegal in the UK until 1967. But Scott’s repeated demands on Thorpe eventually led to a hare brained scheme to have his ex murdered. The scheme came to naught but landed Thorpe in the dock at the Old Bailey.
The great British director Stephen Frears has brought Thorpe’s story to teevee in a brilliant 3-part BBC mini series, A Very English Scandal. It’s one of the most historically accurate films I’ve ever seen. It had to be: quite a few of the participants are still alive including the villain/victim of the piece, Norman Scott.
A Very English Scandal plays as both farce and tragedy. The conspirators were quite literally the gang who couldn’t shoot straight. Scott survived the half-assed attempt on his life. Thorpe wound up on trial but was acquitted of the charges in 1979. Thorpe’s political career was ended by the scandal and his defeat at the polls in the election that brought Thatcher to power. In fact, a continuance was granted in the trial so Thorpe could defend, and ultimately lose, his seat in the House of Commons.
The acting is brilliant. Hugh Grant gives a nuanced performance as the flamboyant Thorpe. He brings his Hugh Grant likeability to the role but not the floppy hairdo. Thorpe wore his hair slicked back in the style of the day and was known for a trilby hat, always worn at a jaunty angle.
Ben Wishaw nails Norman Scott who was one of those people who ruined everyone and everything he touched. Unlike his fellow destroyer Donald Trump, Wishaw’s Norman has nice hair and loves dogs.
The third great performance is by Alex Jennings as Peter Bessell, a Liberal MP and Thorpe’s closest friend. Bessell was foolish enough to handle the blackmail payments to Scott.
Here’s the BBC trailer:
As you may have gathered, I loved every moment of this black dramedy. It’s streaming at Amazon Prime. I give A Very English Scandal, 4 stars, an Adrastos grade of A- and a ripping thumbs up.
It’s time for our favorite stolen feature.
Separated At Birth: We were watching Queer Eye recently when I realized Pakistani-Scots fashion guy Tan France resembled Scots actor Alan Cumming.
I almost went the side-by-side snapshot route, but couldn’t resist this picture of the two together. It’s all in the way Tan cocks his head and smiles. Cumming’s hair in his new CBS show Instinct would also be Queer Eye approved. Btw, that’s a pretty darn good show for a network procedural.
Saturday GIF Horse: Speaking of Queer Eye, Dr. A and I resisted watching the Netflix reboot until recently. We were big fans of the original Fab Five and it felt like cheating on Carson, Ted, Tom, Kyann, and Jai. The feeling passed and we just started watching season two of the reboot.
That was a long-winded way of introducing two new Queer Eye GIFS.
Now that we’ve seen Tan in the closet and Jonathan sashay across the room, it’s time for some roots music. Holy Americana, Batman.
Saturday Classic: If you haven’t had enough Dave Alvin this week, here’s a swell album of traditional songs and other musical odd & sods. It *is* Saturday, after all.
That’s it for this week. I mentioned my love for the original Fab Five. They get the last word.