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Handicapping The Nomination/s


Nash cartoon 3rd term panic

Thomas Nast’s classic cartoon
created the symbol of both parties

Caveat #1: This post has nothing to do with policy; it is entirely about the strategies and tactics, individual strengths and weaknesses of the various candidates for the two parties’ presidential nomination. It is a purely intellectual exercise, not an ideological one.

Caveat #2: We are 13 months out from the election; the political landscape can cartwheel three or four times between now and then. This post reflects conditions as they presently exist.

Among the GOP:
Historically, the only non-politicians elected president by Americans are generals who just won major wars that either protected the U.S. or expanded its holdings. Trump, Carson, and Fiorina will not make the cut.

If you are not a fresh face to national presidential politics this year, you are yesterday’s news. Quite specifically, if you didn’t soundly defeat the rest of the ’08 and ’12 fields, why should anyone believe you can beat the Democrats’ 2016 candidate?

Bush fatigue is a real thing, and nobody thinks he did a good job anymore (at best they will claim he was sincere in his efforts). Jeb Bush has been campaigning in a way that makes one suspect a passive-aggressive agenda: He is bowing to family and old boy network pressure to run, but he’s saying things that — while the old boy network can’t fault him — drives more and more potential voters away.

That leaves us with Rubio and Kasich.

On paper, Kasich is the least problematic: Solid conservative principles, pragmatism to cross the aisle and get things done. He’s dropped the fewest potential verbal land mines.

The problem is he a middle American white boy at a time when a significant number of American voters have expressed a willingness to listen to what non-middle American non-white non-boys have to say. Ironically, race and gender may be two of his biggest handicaps.

Rubio is a little more of a firebrand, but his public utterances haven’t been as extreme as other GOP candidates and he would be able to plausibly appeal to Latin American voters as having earned the nomination on his own, not as a GOP ploy to win minority votes.

As of today: A Rubio-Kasich ticket looks like the GOP’s most viable team. Carson has an outside chance as the bottom half of the ticket, especially if Bush can’t convince enough of the GOP base not to vote for him.

Among the Democrats:
Clinton fatigue is real, too. Hilary Clinton has the chops to do the job, but after 8 years of Bill and 8 years as Obama’s secretary of state, a lot of voters — Democrat and independent — have had enough of her.

Bill C. has done her no favors, either; and by Bill C. I mean Bill Cosby. In an astonishingly short time, Cosby plummeted from one of the most admired and respected figures in America to a pariah. The generation of female voters who came of age after 9/11 look at Bill Clinton’s shenanigans in light of Cosby’s disgrace and curl their lips in disdain. Hilary’s relationship with Bill is not a strong selling point with this crowd.

Bernie Sanders is old, he’s white, he’s Jewish, and he’s a socialist, but oddly enough those characteristics tend to cancel themselves out, making him the most ideologically pure candidate in either field (“ideologically pure” in the sense that identity politics have been nullified).

As an old white guy, he’s reassuring to old white voters; while his age and whiteness have no appeal to younger and/or non-white voters, his other characteristics do.

He’s Jewish, which appeals to people sick of evangelical Christian influence in politics. Conversely, he has successfully reached out to evangelicals and told them what while they’ll never get what the GOP promised them, there are things President Bernie can deliver.

The evangelicals are listening to this.

He is a socialist, but he’s a socialist from one of the most contrarian conservative states in the union. The fact he has served them and served them well tells voters that even though he’s the most extreme left candidate, he’s still comfortably within mainstream American politics.

(As of this posting, neither Joe Biden nor any other viable potential candidates have officially announced for the Democratic slot. Biden is not the goofy uncle the public perceives him to be, but nonetheless they perceive him as the goofy uncle and it’s too late in the narrative to change that. Of the others, only Elizabeth Warren today offers an outside shot of securing the nomination but she seems willing to wait 2016 out. It’s not impossible she could end up on the bottom half of either a Clinton or Sanders ticket.)

Clinton faces a unique situation among candidates in both fields: She has started the campaign with the most support she can possibly get and must now keep voters from defecting to Sanders or later to the GOP candidate. She will lose supporters but if she can keep it down to a trickle and not a stream or more disastrously, a torrent, she can win handily. To do so she has to defeat Sanders in the early caucuses and primaries, defeat him decisively yet diplomatically so as not to alienate his supporters.

As of this posting:  The nomination — and quite probably the election — is hers to lose.

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“Screenwriter’s Blues” by Soul Coughing


Exits to freeways twisted like knots on the fingers
Jewels cleaving skin between

Your Cadillac breathes four hundred horses over blue lines

You are going to Reseda
to make love to a model from Ohio
Whose real name you don’t know

You spin
like the Cadillac was overturning down a cliff
on television
And the radio is on
and the radioman is speaking
And the radioman says women were a curse
So men built Paramount
And men built Columbia
and men built Los Angeles

It is 5 a.m.

and you are listening

to Los Angeles

It is 5 a.m.

and you are listening

to Los Angeles


And the radioman says it is a beautiful night out there
And the radioman says rock and roll lives
And the radioman says it is a beautiful night out there in Los Angeles

You live in Los Angeles
and you are going to Reseda

We are all in some way or another going to Reseda someday
to die

 Reseda May 29 2015


And the radioman laughs because
the radioman fucks a model too
Gone savage
for teenagers with automatic weapons and boundless love
Gone savage for teenagers who are aesthetically pleasing
In other words fly, 

Los Angeles beckons
The teenagers to come to her on buses,
Los Angeles loves

It is 5 a.m.

and you are liste

to Los Angeles

It is 5 a.m.

and you are liste

to Los Angeles

I am going to Los Angeles
to build a screenplay about lovers who murder each other
I am going to Los Angeles to see my own name on a screen
Five feet long and luminous

As the radioman says
it is 5 a.m. and the sun has charred
The other side of the world and comeback to us
And painted the smoke over our heads an imperial violet

It is 5 a.m.

and you are liste

to Los Angeles

It is 5 a.m.

and you are liste

to Los Angeles

It is 5 a.m.

and you are liste

to Los Angeles

And you are liste

to Los Angeles


You are liste

You are liste

You are liste

You are liste

You are liste

You are liste

You are liste

You are liste

You are liste

You are liste

To Los Angeles




Michael Doughty / Mark Degliantoni / Yuval Gabay / Sebastian Steinberg

Lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc.

photo © Buzz Dixon

thanx to Richard Becker for the suggestion


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Heading Down Route 66: Adios, Martin Milner



I’ll take the opportunity of Martin Milner’s passing to comment on Route 66, and Route 66 to comment on Martin Milner.

Mr. Milner passed away this weekend at the respectable age of 83.

He had a long and worthy career as an actor behind him. Never a huge star (though he starred in two of the best remembered shows on TV, one of which is a bonafide classic), he was a competent journeyman actor.

Do not read that as a put down:
Quite the contrary, it’s a tribute to his ability to show up, take an ordinary character / scene, and imbue it with life. He worked and worked a lot because of that ability. While his TV career overshadowed his film career, he had significant roles in several major motion pictures, four of them quite good.

He was the jazz musician fiancé of Burt Lancaster’s sister in The Sweet Smell Of Success, a much too laid back shore patrol officer from Alabama in Mr. Roberts, James Earp in The Gunfight At O.K. Corral, and Natalie Wood’s friend-zoned playwright suitor in Marjorie Morningstar.

What he is most famous for, depending on your age, is as the driver of two of the most iconic TV cars after the Batmobile and the Beverly Hillbillies’ truck.

The obituaries all mention Adam-12, which was a good show and used the easy rappaport between Milner and co-star Kent McCord to present a more personable view of police work than displayed in its companion series, Dragnet.

But the great shining jewel in Milner’s career crown was Route 66, arguably one of the most important TV series in American cultural history and one of the few that everyone should track down and watch, even if only for a few episodes.

Route 66 was created by producer Herbert B. Leonard and writer Stirling Silliphant in answer to the Chevrolet Motor Company’s musical question: “If we lend you a brand new Corvette, can you build a TV show around it?”

Leonard & Silliphant could & did, and the result was the incredible Route 66, a semi-anthology[1] that offers rare slice of life Americana, with stories taking place in less traveled parts of the country, involving occupations and true-to-life situations typically not explored in drama, much less network television.

Milner was convincing as Tod Stiles, son of a bankrupt industrialist who inherited nothing from his father except the Corvette he and his traveling companions drove. They were the consistent, friendly, appealing touchstones that enabled audiences to get into the surprisingly complex and insight stories that made the series a justifiable hit.[2]

One may argue that Maharis (who had to leave the show due to health reasons) and Corbett were more dynamic actors, but Milner made it possible to welcome the show into your home every week. He may not have been a dramatic showboat, but he got people to tune in.

Milner had a shockingly normal personal life:
The child of a family on the fringe of show biz, he married actress / singer Judy Jones in 1957 and stayed married to her for the rest of his life, producing four children.

We’ll let him have the last word in his own memorial:

“I have no complaints on any level.
I’m pretty happy about the way
everything turned out.” — Martin Milner

We are, too,
Mr. Milner.
10-4 & RIP




[1]  Milner and his co-drivers George Maharis and later Glenn Corbett typically bookended every episode by arriving in a new town looking for work and thus getting involved with the characters & story of the week. Their contributions to the actual stories were often slight: Knights errant arriving in the nick of time to serve justice at the end of an episode, then hopping in their car to drive off to their next adventure.

[2]  Jack Kerouac felt Route 66 had ripped off his novel On The Road. While the basic idea of two young men drifting around the country, taking odd jobs where they could find them, is similar, the focus of the TV show was vastly different from the novel’s. Noetheless, credit where credit is due, and without On The Road there may never have been a Route 66.

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Only Guaranteeing The Problem Remains Unchanged


Someone did not like my previous Duggar post:

“like them or not you are commanded by Christ to love them – your words do not exemplify that – no matter how loathsome you may find their words or deeds you are called to love them – you do not have to accept them or approve of them – but you do have to love them – call them to task for what you see as their faults or failures but you have to do it in a spirit of love – not in a snarky sarcastic way – THAT is how others will know you are a disciple of Christ”

As my late aunt was wont to say, I am bumfuzzled.

First off, I don’t see any snark in what I posted previously.

Josh Duggar is a sexual predator.

The Duggar clan are sexual deviants.

The Independent Fundamentalist Baptist churches, the Bill Gothard led faction of same, and the whole Purity Movement have perverted the gospel of Christ.

These are inarguable facts.

Pretending these facts are not true by refusing to call them what they are is not going to help anybody.

Josh Duggar has checked in to “rehab” for treatment of his “sexual addiction.”

I use quotes because addicts can’t self-diagnose themselves; they may indeed have that particular problem, but it takes trained professionals to recognize all the symptoms and help locate the root of the problem.

I use quotes because the “rehab” facility is is attending has no medically or legitimately trained personnel; it is yet another extension of the same basic mind-warping / soul-killing / child-abusing IFB cult that both directly and indirectly made Josh Duggar what he is today!

Sending him to that facility
is like trying to conduct an
AA meeting at a bar
during happy hour.

They will do nothing to fix his problem, because they are the problem: Their grossly distorted, domineering, sexually deviant, soul crippling theology that attracts the spiritually and intellectually fearful.

It would be bad enough if their toxic nonsense was just confined to their own group, but that’s not the case: They crowd themselves in front of microphones and cameras, determined to shout down all attempts to try and present the genuine gospel of Christ at work.

They are modern day Pharisees, concocting an ever widening network of laws and rules and regulations and rituals and practices that are guaranteed to make worse the lives of anyone who tries to follow them.

They are precisely what Christ champion against in his brief ministry on earth.

And it’s not just the IFB;
they’re merely the particular flavor
of the Duggar clan sickness.

People are leaving Christianity, and they’re leaving it because we are letting the moral imbeciles and the con men and the slickee boiz get away with their crimes and perversions.

The Duggars, at least Jim-Bob and Michelle, are not victims but perpetrators. He’s a hack politician who couldn’t even please the undemanding electorate of Arkansas. She’s his enabler. Together they milk the system to enrich themselves without regard to any havoc they wreak.

Wanna see the Duggar true colors?

After their “we’re a wonderful family and you’re not” show was canceled (because they hid the fact their son had molested his kid sisters while they were away pressing political flesh), they tried to crawl back on TV by pitching a show where they would “counsel” victims of sexual abuse.

animated little-girl-crouch-stomp

This after Jim-Bob blithely asserted child molesting by older teen sons goes on all the time in fundamentalist families.

Good lord — these people have no shame!*

Do not try to protect these people. They cannot be forgiven and loved until they stop harming others, and by that I mean shutting the fnck up and getting out of the public conscious and acknowledging the system they embrace causes far more problems than it purportedly solves.

You wanna love and forgive ‘em, fine; just don’t let them keep spewing their nonsense out to the world at large.




* I don’t, either, but then I’m quick to point that out to people. They don’t; in fact, they hide behind a false mask of pious humility.



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Video Podcasts From TFExpo 2015


animated bender seeks applause

Not one but two video podcasts I recorded at TFExpo in Wichita.

First, a half hour interview with Duron Land for TransFormers For Your Listening Pleasure (also available on iTunes).

Then a lengthy interview with co-guest Matt Frank conducted by Chris Ho of Vengelus Central.

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Calling A Digging Implement A Digging Implement


I had a post all set to go on the latest Josh Duggar fiasco called The 21st Century Badger Game but then I received a couple of messages accusing me of being unfair and unforgiving to Josh in particular and the Duggars in general.

As the incestuous orthopedist once said:
Give me a mother-fucking break.[1]

First off, let us start with the cold hard brutal facts:
Josh Duggar is a sexual predator.

He molested his sisters as a teen, confessed, then went back and molested them again.[2]

He then had his offense covered up by local authorities, his church, and his parents.

He received a fat cushy job as a professional scold at the Family Research Council thanks to his parents “reality” show fame.[3]

He then paid nearly a thousand dollars to “guarantee” an affair from the infamous Ashley Madison website, signed up for an online dating service using another man’s photo, and friended several strippers and exotic dancers on Facebook.

All while telling us how we are supposed to live.

I’m counting a minimum of three strikes here:
This is a man who has forever lost any expectation of ever being taken seriously in matters of ethics / morality / family / fidelity / love.

But he is not to be hated,
he is to be pitied.

He is the product of a deviant sex cult, and just because the cult’s focus is on “purity” doesn’t mean they aren’t any more sexually obsessed than those they have delighted in attacking over the years.

Indeed, I think a very strong case can be made that they are more sexually obsessed than any other group.[4]

Just because they focus their obsession on sexual purity doesn’t mean they aren’t deviant.

There is nothing that human beings can’t turn into either a weapon or a sexual fetish, if not both.

Let’s rack back the focus and look at the roots of the cult the Duggars belong to:
The Independent Fundamentalist Baptist church movement and its close association with Bill Gothard’s Institute in Basic Life Principles and Advanced Training Institute home schooling efforts that have proved to be the backbone of the Quiverful movement.

For simplicity’s sake,
we shall refer to this as
The Purity Movement.

I know a little bit about human desire and sexuality from having worked both sides of the pornographer’s desk; I make no bones about my employment as an editor for Penthouse back in the mid-1990s.

I encountered a lot of kink in my job, and saw things that would make a Mormon’s head explode. I learned a few absolute truths along the way, the first and foremost being that there is nothing — repeat, NOTHING – that doesn’t get somebody’s motor running, and the second being that those most critical of other people’s sexuality are those with the greatest anxiety about their own.

To paraphrase The Joker:

“I know a
sexual deviant
when I see one, and…”

animated Joker I know the squealers c

animated duggar interview 1

Now, before delving further into that topic, I need to ratchet things back a bit further still by comparing American Protestantism with European Catholicism.

American Protestants like to believe all moral and ethical choices are simple black and white decisions: Always either one thing or the other.

Catholics are more comfortable with what computer programmers refer to as “fuzzy logic”:  Any given issue does not have a single yea or nay question but in reality contains dozens if not scores if not hundreds of smaller questions in them, and in the end a big picture decision invariably involves making what seems like some bad decisions at the micro level in order to secure a more optimum outcome at the macro level.

Back to The Purity Movement.
As stated, they have sexually fetishized “purity”, a perversion of Christian doctrine that places virginity worship at its apex.

They possess an all too typical American Protestant viewpoint that the only possible alternative to absolute rigid unyielding sexual morality in the form of draconian enforced chastity is an equally absolute libertine lifestyle of mandatory free sex between / among all genders.

Oh, do I ever call shenanigans on that!

Look, sexual ethics start with one key irrefutable point:
No person is ever required to engage in any intimacy unless they are doing so of their own fully informed consent.

Full stop.

That’s a far, far cry from the ultra-permissive parody that exists in the minds of most followers of The Purity Movement. One can still advocate moral restraint in sexual matters without requiring the destruction of the human psyche in the process.

In The Purity Movement, all sexual thoughts / interests / ideas / desires prior to or outside of marriage are verboten.

Not something to be controlled,
not something to be dealt with,
but verboten.

Even healthy natural curiosity is squelched and slut-shamed to make people feel more worthless and more depraved.

Look, I get it; I’ve had ample exposure to various kinks that derive their sexual gratification through masochism and humiliation. You wanna get your rocks off by dwelling on what a worthless sac of human excrement you are because you acknowledge another human being’s attractiveness, hey, go right ahead.

Fly your freak flag high.

But don’t drag little kids into it.

I’ve been tracking The Purity Movement for several years now, and eventually want to do a more fully researched in-depth piece on them, but suffice it to say, they are no different from any other sexual fetish group out there: They have perverted not just natural and normal human desire but also the gospel of Christ, turning it from a life of love and compassion and forgiveness into a horrendous mash-up of KJV and 1984, designed and engineered by a leadership that uses their teachings not to introduce followers to the life of joy and fellowship that Christ has in store for them but to weaken them and control them and make them more compliant victims.

It is a movement with a long documented — and one might add, wholly expected — history of horrific child & spousal abuse, sexual / psychological / emotional / spiritual.

It espouses a series of character values that at first glance seem admirable, but on closer examination prove to be full of paradoxical self-contradicting pronouncements of the Arbeit Macht Frei / Ignorance Is Strength / Shit Is Shinola variety.

It’s part of their long standing effort to crush every hint of “rebellion” and “original sin” in a child by destroying their unique individual personalities and stamping them out in cookie cutter molds of their parents, who in turn are cookie cutter molds of the movement’s founders and leaders.

I don’t have the time / space / inclination to go into great detail on The Purity Movement here & now, but here’s a quote from the Duggars themselves on how they deal with sexual temptation whenever they encounter a female in public who isn’t dressed as modestly as a Duggar girl:

“’Nike’ [is] a signal to the boys, and even to Dad, that they should nonchalantly drop their eyes and look down at their shoes as we walk past her… It’s meant to help keep the guys’ eyes from seeing things they shouldn’t be seeing. By using the single-word signal, the warning can be given quietly and discreetly.” — from Growing Up Duggar



Yeah, Christ taught one should cut off one’s hand or gouge out one’s eye rather than let it lead one into sin, but y’know, he was probably using hyperbole when he said that[5] and didn’t literally intend for people to go around maiming themselves in order to better serve God.[6]

Instead of recognizing human sexuality is a part of human nature, and that almost all people — young kids especially — are curious about matters sexual and / or find other people physically attractive, The Purity Movement seeks to terrorize them into blind mindless fearful obedience — which of course makes it sooooo much easier to take advantage of and victimize people who have no coping mechanisms, no ability to independently report a wrong done to them, no assurance whatsoever that their family and friends won’t turn against them and expel them from the community if they should ever dare report their abuse to anyone.

So, back to those who posted messages to me about Josh Duggar:
No, I don’t hate him.

I think it’s a great academic question to ask if he would have been this messed up had he not been raised as part of The Purity Movement, but that point’s moot now:
They made it possible for him to climb and fall and climb higher and fall deeper and then deeper still.

But they will never hold him accountable, much less themselves.

Yeah, blame the wife — that joke always works!

If people wonder why the Christian church is imploding in America, why people raised in it since childhood are leaving it in record numbers, the answer is that we have failed our duties and we have let perverts and deviants and ravenous wolves loose among the flock, and when they lay waste to the brethren, at best we tsk-tsk it and at worse we make excuses and apologies for it.

This shit has gotta stop.

We cannot afford to let self-centered intellectual and moral imbeciles be the face of Christ in this world.

We need to call bullshit on bullshit when it happens, and we need to see that wrong doers who cloak themselves in the robes of the church are held accountable for the havoc they wreak.

That’s not hatred.

That’s not contempt.

That’s not vengeance.

That’s justice.




[1]  Normally I play it coy on my blog and Facebook pages, substituting grawlixes or crucial letters in the spelling of my profanities, but not today, folks. Today we are going to be discussing human morality, human ethics, human sexuality, human desire, and human corruption, so if you can’t stand the fucking heat, I suggest you get out of the fucking bedroom.

[2]  As well as a teen baby sitter who was spending the night at the Duggar house while Jim-Bob and Michelle were off pressing the flesh at some political function.

[3]  Which at no time mentioned his predatory sexual behavior as a teen. Look, this wasn’t two toddlers playing doctor, it wasn’t a mutually agreed upon make-out session between two junior high students, it was an adolescent boy sneaking into the rooms of his sleeping sisters and a non-family member and by his own admission fondling them over and under their clothes. That’s as creepy as hell and needs to be corrected immediately. If the Duggars had been upfront about this from day 1 of their TV show, if they had included this information into their presentation, then maybe they could cling to a shred of dignity and integrity. But they didn’t; they hid it fearing it would undermine their perfect family image and negatively impact their ratings. Which it did.

[4]  David Gerrold has observed the anti-gay crowd spends far more time obsessing over gay sex than gay men ever do. This may explain why so many of them get arrested in airport men’s rooms.

[5]  Like he did with his remarks about beams of wood being in people’s eyes or camels crawling through the eye of a needle, etc.

[6]  ‘Cuz we sure haven’t had waves of Purity Movement followers gouging out their eyes or whacking off their weinnies to make Him happy…


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The 21st Century Badger Game


Ashley Madison new Christian mingle

Rule #1 of the 21st Century:
If it exists in digital form, it has already been shared and is beyond your control.

Corollaries to Rule #1:
Live your life with the expectation anything and everything about you will eventually be made public and either –

  • (A) live to the highest moral and ethical standards
  • (B) possess neither shame nor pride
  • (C) all of the above.

Common sense — which admittedly is in short supply where guys’ peckers are involved — should have tipped everyone that the Ashley Madison site was not for arranging affairs but extracting money from ot-nay oo-tay ight-bray horney guys with low moral and ethical standards. They were being strung along and data mined for marketing and possibly extortion purposes. What is happening to the site’s members is what was always intended to happen to the site’s members, just at an accelerated pace and possibly not by those who originally intended to do it.

I have no sympathy for a person who pays money to betray a spouse or significant other in a committed relationship having that knowledge made public. That’s plain old crappy behavior (the betrayal, that is, not the actual physical intimacy). A single person playing the field, or a swinger couple who engage in outside activities with mutual consent and knowledge are foolish to expect such knowledge will never come to light, but they cannot be accused of betraying a partner by sneaking around behind their backs.

My guess is Josh Duggar is being doxxed because he is the perfect bad example, a lot of guys who can’t afford a lifetime of extortion payments are being doxxed in order to prove it can be done, but the choicest stooges, maybe a couple of hundred, maybe a couple of thousand guys who can afford paying appreciable extortion fees will be doing so until they die or their wives’ wise up and divorce them.

Indeed, I wouldn’t be surprised if many wives who value their husbands’ status haven’t been approached and told hubby either pays up or they pull him down…

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On The Convention Trail – TFExpo 2015


on conv trail 1950_04 ed_cartier_gnomepresscalendar

Transformer and other Sunbow / animation fans in the Witchita, Kansas area are invited to come to TFExpo, a fan-created convention celebrating Hasbro Inc’s “Transformers” toy brand, as well as many other related transforming toylines.​

I’ll be there along with voice actor Dan “Bumblebee” Galvezan and comics artist Matt Frank for a weekend of Transformer related fun!

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I Luvz Me Some T.H.E. CAT


THE Cat title color

This is the greatest TV series you’ve never seen.

A one season wonder, a critical hit that never made an appreciable dent in the ratings, and as such was soon lost and forgotten.

“Out of the night comes a man who saves lives at the risk of his own. Once a circus performer – an aerialist who refused the net. Once a cat burglar – a master among jewel thieves. Now a professional bodyguard: Primitive – savage – in love with danger – T.H.E. Cat!”

THE Cat Robert Loggia

At age 12 ½, T.H.E. Cat was exactly what the doctor ordered for young Buzz Dixon. While I’d absorbed a certain amount of knowledge on cool jazz and the beat generation through sheer osmosis, T.H.E. Cat was my first prolonged exposure to those intertwining currents of American pop culture.

My immediate response was
(a) how long has this been going on? and
(b) where can I find more?

Half-hour standalone dramas are extremely rare to come by on TV nowadays (home grown DIY YouTube webseries not withstanding) but back in the day they were common and popular.

Their advantage over hour long episodes was that they tended to be streamlined bits of efficiency, little wasted time and effort, characterization boiled down to sharp, vivid dialog, and scripts that crammed a lot into that thirty minute slot.

Thomas Hewitt Edward Cat (Robert Loggia) was different from most of the other TV show heroes of the era. They were creatures of light, even when their occupations as policemen and private eyes took them into darker corners of human nature.

T.H.E. Cat was a creature of the night; indeed, with only one memorable exception, I can’t recall an episode that didn’t take place almost entirely at night and almost entirely in the narrow streets / tiny alleys / dizzying architecture of The City.[1]

He was not a “good” man,
not in the moral sense,

but he was ethical and dependable,
 always faithful to his own code.

That code did not automatically include always informing the authorities of what he knew or had witnessed, or to adhering to the strict letter of the law depending on the circumstances (my first introduction to the concept of situational ethics).

One episode had him waiting patiently across the street with a sniper’s rifle, waiting for the one moment when somebody would open a window and he’d get one clean shot at the hostage taking killer.

Combat! and a few other military oriented shows might do a story about a sniper, but I can’t recall one pre-S.W.A.T. show where the police ever laid in ambush, much less deliberately killed their target instead of at least offering the chance to surrender first.

TV censors of the day wouldn’t permit it and only T.H.E. Cat’s spotty personal background enable him to be the only non-military character who could do it.

And that may explain why the show, despite being a critical success and a long time cult favorite, never picked up much of an audience when it was on.

Running at 9:30 on Friday nights, the audience that would be most likely to be entertained by it (i.e., older teens and young adults) were more likely out of the house and socializing with friends than at home watching TV.

At 12 ½ I was at the perfect age to appreciate the show while still being too young to go out alone on evenings.[2]

The ambiguous morality of T.H.E. Cat resonated with my own coming of age questioning and introspection, and the questionable (albeit always heroic) ethics of the hero (or rather, the anti-hero) fit in easily with a lot of wondering I was doing about the world around me.

It proved to be a rather sharp and decisive break from the glorious Technicolor yet still morally black and white cop and PI shows found elsewhere.

The jazz ambiance was infectious, and seeing the musicians in their after dark shades and sharp suits — playing music that evoked emotions and feelings impossible to articulate otherwise — pretty much nailed the coffin shut in ever enjoying Lawrence Welk or Dean Martin without irony again.

I didn’t know what it was that the jazz musicians were doing,
but I did know whatever it was I wanted to be part of it,
and whatever it was that Welk and Martin were doing,
that wasn’t it.

T.H.E. Cat was created by Harry Julian Fink (who went on to create another epically morally ambiguous character: Dirty Harry) and produced by the grossly under appreciated Boris Sagal; Fink also wrote and Sagal directed several episodes.

Sagal provides a link to an earlier show that served as a template to this and to John Cassavettes’ Johnny Staccato series: Blake Edwards’ Peter Gunn (Sagal directed several episodes).

It helps to understand the relationship of the three shows,
comparing and contrasting their specific points.

THE Cat title

T.H.E. Cat opening

THE Cat peter_gunn_slate

Peter Gunn opening

THE Cat Staccato 3

Johnny Staccato opening

All three were about lone wolf (or in Loggia’s case, lone cat) operatives who had an uneasy alliance with the authorities and a base of operations in an after hours jazz club (“Mother’s” in Peter Gunn’s case, “Waldo’s” in Johnny Staccato, and “Casa Del Gato” in T.H.E. Cat[3]).

Past that, they were pretty different. Peter Gunn was essentially an old school private eye, just with snazzier threads and better music. His episodes, particularly in the second and third seasons which were filmed at MGM and had full access to their prop / set / wardrobe / stock footage departments, look lush and opulent compared to the other two.

Despite this, even as a kid I always found Peter Gunn bland and talky, with the action beats delivered pretty perfunctorily and not as a truly organic part of the story (Johnny Staccato and T.H.E. Cat, on the other hand, could have violence suddenly flare up yet still seem logical and motivated).

Johnny Staccato seemed poverty row in comparison, and that worked to its advantage. Though filmed in Hollywood, Johnny Staccato took place in NYC, and the production company sent Cassavetes there to film various connecting shots of him going into / out of various buildings / cabs / subway stations / etc. As a result this gave Cassavetes’ more of a lonely, isolated feel than either Peter Gunn or T.H.E. Cat.

And as the character name implies, Johnny Staccato has a jagged, driving edge to him. Though described as a jazz musician who supplemented his income by serving as a sleuth or a bodyguard or a bag man, seen in modern light Staccato is clearly a drug user if not a full fledged junkie. His nervous, anxious energy simply cannot be contained, and I’m sure more than a few viewers of the era wondered what was wrong with him.

In the end, it’s probably just as well that Cassavetes enjoyed only a single season on TV and didn’t become a TV star; it would have probably ruined his unique talent as an actor and film maker in later years.

Still, the lineage is quite clear, and while Peter Gunn only imperfectly broke away from the old PI mode and Johnny Staccato was just too twitchy for its own good, T.H.E. Cat found that perfect sweet spot and became the epitome of cool.

The episodes still bear up to this day, though unlike Peter Gunn and Johnny Staccato, you can only find them on YouTube.[4]




[1]  The exception was an episode that involved a car vs helicopter chase across the desert.

[2]  The lead ins were Tarzan and The Man From U.N.C.L.E. at 7:30 and 8:30, followed by Laredo, a well made but by-the-numbers standard grade Western. There was a large audience segment that could enjoy those three shows but would find T.H.E. Cat to be a big bitter pill hidden in their bag of popcorn.

[3]  Yes, Fink and Sagal had their hero operating out of a cat house. Apparently nobody at NBC Standards & Practices spoke Spanish.

[4]  The image quality is only so-so, with blurry soundtrack and multi-generation VHS tape video, far too often in black and white instead of the original color, but ya know what?  It actually works and enhances the raw, desperate feel of the original. 

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Compare & Contrast #1


IAMx4W vs TGR1

Back in 1963 Stanley Kramer unleashed It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (hence IAMx4W ‘cuz I’m not typing that out every single time) on an unsuspecting movie going public and we haven’t been the same since.

A knockout success at the box office, IAMx4W inspired four direct imitations and a host of smaller “race for the prize” movies, not to mention cartoons such as Hanna-Barbera’s Wacky Races.

Europe turned out Those Magnificent Men In Their Flying Machines, its indirect semi-sequel Those Daring Young Men In Their Jaunty Jalopies a.k.a Monte Carlo Or Bust, and Those Fantastic Flying Fools a.k.a. Jules Verne’s Rocket To The Moon a.k.a. Blast-Off!

The US offered The Great Race.

All five films are large scale vehicular mayhem comedies with lavishly depicted chases and crashes, employing large overlapping casts.

While all have their merits, I’m focusing on the top two of this epic road race movie sub-genre: IAMx4W and The Great Race.

Mi amigo Mark Evanier will disagree with me, but I prefer The Great Race over IAMx4W for a variety of reasons.

IAMx4W is hilarious but it is a one note comedy. Greed corrupts all who encounter it so thoroughly that there is no point in trying to differentiate the characters by any but the most stereotypical tropes. The chase is the thing, and all the carnage (pun intended) it creates.

But while the title race is its centerpiece, The Great Race is actually about something else entirely. The prize is one of honor in completing a ridiculously impossible feat, and the movie quickly eliminates all competition except for the impossibly virtuous Great Leslie (played with sly self parody by Tony Curtis) and the equally impossibly diabolic Professor Fate (Jack Lemmon chewing the scenery with manic handlebar-twirling intensity).

The grit in the gears of this story is Maggie Dubois (the impossibly effervescent Natalie Wood), whose goal is less about the race itself than in proving herself the equal of any man.

Oh, yes, it’s a feminist comedy, written and directed by Blake Edwards back before most of the key texts of the feminist movement were written. Edwards drew less inspiration from Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique and more from Helen Gurley Brown’s Sex And The Single Girl.[1]

The Great Race is broad farce, arguably the broadest of the five race comedies, but farce does not mean simplistic nor stupid.

As has been noted else where[2] IAMx4W is a perfect distillation of the Calvinist doctrine of total depravity. “There is none righteous, no, not one” could be the log line for this movie. There are no redeeming characters whatsoever: Those who are not consumed with greed are otherwise weak of character and intellect and suitable only for victimization, and even Mike Mazurki’s mission of mercy miner[3] is more than willing to threaten violence to get what he wants.[4]

Even the police are all corrupt in their own little (or not so little) ways, and the police force as a whole supports the larger corruption of the city fathers above them.

It is a very cynical world view and its morality is strictly black and white. Any of the principle characters could bring the story to a screeching halt with a single phone call to the authorities, but that would take an act of selfless moral integrity that none of them are willing to make.

The Great Race does not project so bleak a world. Despite the cartoonish dichotomy between the Great Leslie and Professor Fate, they do not inhabit a world of moral absolutes.

Leslie is generous and forgiving, and while he is skeptical of Maggie Dubois at first, he is nonetheless capable of changing his mind and first accepting her as an equal and then falling in love with her.[5]

And the world they encounter on the road from New York to Paris is morally much richer and more complex than the one in IAMx4W.

All of the subplots in The Great Race reflect some sort of moral choice or ambiguity. Vivian Vance organizes a sit-in strike at her husband’s own office, but at the same time she and her fellow protestors are blocking his door she’s also reminding him of a dinner obligation. Ross Martin and George MacReady may be scheming warmongers, but they sure have the number of drunken Prince Frederick Hoepnick’s (Jack Lemmon again in a double role) and realize he’s woefully incapable of running his kingdom. The Great Leslie is stalled in a Texas town by cowboys determined to show him a good time, and when conditions force cooperation, even Professor Fate and his minion Max (Peter Falk) are capable of at least temporarily burying the hatchet and helping their rivals, a far cry from the naked selfish greed of IAMx4W.

Another key difference is how they use their huge casts. [6] IAMx4W frequently wastes great talent in a trivial manner: I’m sure Edward Everett Horton and his agent didn’t object to prominent billing and a pay check for a role that could literally have been played just as easily by anybody picked at random from Central Casting. Jerry Lewis, Jack Benny, and the Three Stooges all get fleeting but funny cameos that depend on audience knowledge of their onscreen personas, while Carl Reiner and Jesse White get barely anything to do and Stan Freberg’s role consists solely of just sitting in the background and listening to Andy Devine talk.

But in The Great Race, oh my! What wonderful scenes and bits of business and dialog do they get! The Great Race was cast to fill roles, not add star power to the marque, and as a result the supporting cast shines as unique and funny characters.

I know it sounds funny to describe a screwball comedy this way, but The Great Race is actually quite a subtle and complex film, passing judgment on no one and holding out hope for the decency of human beings.

This is not to say IAMx4W isn’t an excellent film; it most certainly is and it delivers the gags steadily and with great skill and gusto. Nothing like it on that scale had ever been seen before[7] and it deserves major props for being first out of the gate and setting the bar so high.

But The Great Race is even better.




[1] Which the year before The Great Race was gutted and desexualized as a movie, ironically starring Natalie Wood and Tony Curtis as well as featuring Larry Storch (Texas Jack in The Great Race) in a supporting role.

[2] By me, if nobody else.

[3] Boy, that was fun to write!

[4] Delivery of much needed medicine for his sick wife. And he’s threatening Phil Silvers, so it’s kind of a disappointment he doesn’t clobber him. Silver’s character lacks even the flimsiest shreds of characterization afforded the other actors and is nothing but naked greed and selfishness personified. If he was any more perfect an embodiment of the id, he would be coming out of a Krell machine and trying to kill Leslie Nielsen.

[5] The argument could be made that he falls in love with her because she is his equal; none before her have been worthy.

[6] It’s especially telling when one compares the characters played by three performers who were in both films. Dorothy Provine is a wishy-washy milquetoast in IAMx4W but a vivacious fireball in The Great Race, Peter Falk is reduced to a stereotypical Brooklyn cabbie (in Southern California!) but serves as one of the key comedic lynchpins in Blake Edward’s film, and even Marvin Kaplan, playing his patented put upon poor soul, has much more to do as Arthur Kennedy’s copy editor than Jonathan Winter’s punching bag.

[7] Chaplin and Keaton made physically large scale comedies (The Gold Rush and The General being two examples among many) built around smaller, more personal stories. W.C. Fields and Alison Skipworth took great delight in leading a battalion of kamikaze model-Ts on a mission of vengeance against road hogs in 1932’s If I Had A Million, but they were only one segment in a series of filmed vignettes which typically focused on much smaller stories. Around The World In 80 Days is often pointed to as the precursor of IAMx4W and other prize race comedies using large numbers of cameo stars, but it lacks the insane / intense direct competition of the later films and comes nowhere close to the same level on onscreen motor mayhem.

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