Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Before the next teardrop falls

Pray for Freddy Fender.
Reporting live

Did I ever show you the picture of me and the roller derby girls in our underwear? I love journalism.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Good word

"Feet can give a lot away: they are the transvestite's Kryptonite."

-- Lauren Collins

Monday, July 31, 2006

Good word

"If you don't have a subscription to Salon Premium (and, really, why would you?), you've probably had the experience of being forced to sit through a boring ad before finally read a piece that, when you think about it, wasn't worth the time you lost in the first place."

-- Gawker

The "Hee Haw" marathon proved captivating. But would you believe I did not like the show much when I was a kid? The performances by musical guests I found dull, and I did not understand the comedy routines about poor, white Southerners. Although I am only a few generations removed from East Tennessee subsistence farmers, my childhood in suburban Nashville was comfortable, and my childish taste in pop culture ran more to "Happy Days" than Skillet Lickers. I had to get a little older before I could appreciate that there is no richer mine of comic material than the class system.

But I evidently was a faithful "Hee Haw" viewer anyway, because I learned this weekend that those performers and routines were etched permanently into my being. In particular I remember the songs cast members sang every week, like the "gloom, despair" number sung by a quartet of forlorn hillbillies. I had forgotten about one of the regular tunes, but it came rushing back to me in an instant: the one sung by four Hee Haw Honeys that begins, "Well, we're not ones to go around spreadin' rumors."

What's appealing about the show's comedy is its relaxed amiability. Even as they tell the jokes, the comedians regularly acknowledge to the camera that their material is hopelessly corny. And still they laugh and laugh.

The best musical performance I saw this weekend was a 1974 turn by George Jones, who sported a massive hair helmet and did a stunning rendition of the tearjerker "The Door." What struck me about this, as well as some very somber performances by Tammy Wynette and Hank Williams, Jr., is how disconcertingly the music of "Hee Haw" sometimes contrasted with its hokum. Country is grown-up music -- perhaps more so in 1974 than now -- and the best sad country songs are sophisticated, artfully crafted mini-operas of distress. As performed by masterful interpreters like Jones, they're devastating.

Under other circumstances, George Jones singing "The Door" would send people to bed for a week. Yet the "Hee Haw" cast merrily rolls on with more cornfield shtick. The effect is jarring, and delicious.