By Bruce Bellingham
Don’t blame me. The 21st century was not my idea. But, as we close this first decade of this 100-year cycle, it occurs to me that we started out with a lot of hope, high expectations, and perhaps a little well-invested anxiety.
All the same, things were looking a bit brighter 10 years ago than they look now. Life’s unfunny that way.
Don’t get me wrong. This story is not about gloom. For that, I could turn to any number of entities, including Fox News.
That’s the vehicle for the politics of blame.
I don’t blame them, either.
It’s so easy to pick on people we don’t live with. My mother used to tell me not “to eat like a Honyak.” Who, I wondered, were the Honyaks? It was a slur, of course. Not really against me. Yet I felt insulted. Naturally, it gave me a semblance of solidarity with the Honyaks, whoever they are. If I ever run into them, I’ll be sure to provide some nice silverware, tea cozies, doilies, and all that sort of thing. Power to the Honyaks! Right on!
Let’s face it: there are some people you would not allow to use the towels. There’s the line of demarcation. The Honyaks, as far as I am concerned, are cool.
I might have a more dyspeptic attitude toward Tea Party people. Then again, they’re not interested in coming to have tea with me anytime soon. That’s a mutual form of disregard. I’m sure some of them are nice people, and they may certainly use the towels anytime they like. As I said, this column is not about gloom or recrimination. Perhaps some sarcasm is allowed. Just a bit.
I only say they’re nice in the spirit of reconciliation. Yeah, in a pig’s bloody eye.
Don’t blame me if the world is going to hell all around us.
Ah, but let’s count on the better angels of our nature.
The better angels were hanging out at the water cooler the other day. You can imagine what they were talking about. Yes, you’re right! The chaps who were rescued from the mine in Chile after more than two months.
Of course, the media immediately began chatting about the mistresses who showed up at the scene of liberation only to encounter the wives. Some tense moments ensued. For the dazed miner, it must have been a rather quiet ride home after that.
I can hear the wife now.
“If you think you’re gonna use the good towels now, then forget it!”
My old friend Tom Constanten – he used to play the keyboards with the Grateful Dead – warned me: “Never cheat on your mistress.”
Here’s the latest: the miners want to go back to that hole in the ground. Just one glance at reality will cure anyone.
Welcome to the 21st century.
Now, a word about Liberace. He would always absorb the times as they change, I figure. The Liberace Museum in Las Vegas closed its doors last month. This saddens me. It was the Kingdom of Kitch. Lee would have loved these times. It was a tabernacle of what America loved in celebrity before America fell too much in love with celebrity. One thing about Lee Liberace was that he really had talent. But I guess his sense of ostentatiousness and over-the-top madness did contribute, in a sense, to today’s sensational lust for attention.
I wonder what’s going to happen to those wonderful artifacts in the Liberace Museum. For example, the lady who sent him a tableau of cake dough that replicated Liberace playing the piano, with all the sequins, satins and saturated fat? Where will that end up? In the desert with the rest of the casualties of the Las Vegas lounge acts?
One thing about Liberace that I admired, though I was very young, was that he connected with people in an intimate way without knowing them. They raced to his defense when the tabloids accused of him of being gay back in the fifties. Imagine that. Everybody loved him. Particularly women of a certain age. I’m not sure what that age is, but I think I am there.
When Liberace died in 1987, I wrote a piece for Al Hart on KCBS radio. I pulled some sound off the network. Al did, as usual, a terrific job. I closed the piece out with Liberace’s closing number, “I’ll Be Seeing You.”
Later, at the radio station, a woman called me to say she was stuck in traffic on the Golden Gate Bridge. She heard the Liberace piece on the radio. She said, “I wept, and then I laughed, and then when you played, ‘I’ll Be Seeing You,’ I cried all over again.”
Gosh, that’s why we are in business.
Much of that sweet, sad success in message sending is attributed to Al Hart’s artistry, and Liberace’s relentless savoir faire.
Ah, but don’t blame me.
Perhaps it’s a great century after all.
Bruce Bellingham writes, scribbles almost everywhere these days. Don’t let the authorities know. But you could give him a piece of your mind. Get him at firstname.lastname@example.org.