I first told this story as a Saturday Odds & Sods segment. Recently, I linked to that post when making a Peter Falk-inspired joke. Several readers told me if was hard to find so I decided to expand upon the story for this Sunday afternoon. Consider this my version of Tommy T’s Random Ruminations.
It’s Mother’s Day so I suppose I should tell a story about my mom but she disliked what she always called “Hallmark holidays.” As far as she was concerned, every day should be Mother’s Day. She deserved it given how many arguments between my father and me that she had to referee. She should have received combat pay.
Memory is a funny thing. Old stories can be conjured up by the oddest stimuli. This one was inspired by re-watching The Dirty Dozen of all things. Another reason to post it on the day of the Sunday Dozen. Adding to the irony is that the theme song for the Odds & Sods post in question was the Talking Heads tune, Life During Wartime.
I noted, not for the first time, that two Greek American actors, Maybe Cousin Telly Savalas and John Cassavetes, played the dirtiest of The Dirty Dozen. I once asked Telly how he dealt with playing that psychotic racist character. His response: “That’s why it’s called acting, kid.”
That’s not the story. It involves my late father Lou’s stubbornness, John Cassavetes, and Peter Falk.
Lou considered himself an expert on all things Greek and he did not like being contradicted. This is my reconstruction of a conversation we had about Cassavetes and Falk.
Using his stock phrase about successful Greek Americans Lou said: “I love Peter Falk as Columbo. He’s Greek. He’s doing very well, you know.”
Me: “He’s not Greek. Falk is Jewish. His close friend and artistic collaborator John Cassavetes *is* Greek. You may have seen him in The Dirty Dozen or Rosemary’s Baby.”
I knew there was no way Lou had ever seen one of Cassavetes’ art films.
Lou: “Never heard of that other guy. Falk is Greek.”
I threw out the name of one of Cassavetes’ and Falk’s frequent collaborators, Ben Gazzara.
Me: “Everyone’s Greek, right? The next thing you know, you’ll claim Ben Gazzara as Greek.”
Lou: “I remember him in Run For Your Life on television. Everyone knows that Ben Gazzara is Italian but Peter Falk is Greek.”
Me: “You’re just confused. Nothing wrong with that, Cassavetes and Falk are tight.”
Lou: “You’re the one who’s confused, son. Peter Falk is Greek. He’s doing very well, you know.”
Lou was sometimes wrong but never in doubt when it came to someone’s Greekness. I should have mentioned something he and John Cassavetes had in common. They both married beautiful blond women from Wisconsin.
My mom was never nominated for an Oscar like Gena Rowlands but she too was a knock out:
That concludes this Mother’s Day interlude.
Back to our story.
I’m almost as stubborn as my father so the next time we saw Maybe Cousin Telly together, I tried again. Telly agreed with me. Even though Telly knew Peter and John personally, he could not convince Lou either. It was time to admit defeat and say this:
Longtime readers will note that this story is similar to our Kazan colloquy, which I posted as The Dumbest Argument I Ever Had.
This was the second dumbest.
The last word goes to The Beatles: