R.I.P.: Robert Guillaume

Sure he played a butler, but the best part was that we all knew this was a ruse. 

He was there to ladle on a particular brand of dry resentment about race and power and class convolutions. After I visited the place, he seemed very St. Louis to me. (I missed out on all his TV work after “Benson”.) And you have to say he elevated a mystic baboon from a potential nothing-shtick into an essential part of a major Disney franchise. (I argued that was not least because Rafiki seemed like the only character who was remotely from Africa.)

Michael Jackson: On the Cross or Off the Hook?

In the process of retiring summer wear, now-skinnier me was able to wear the T-shirt I picked up when I covered the first performance of Michael Jackson and the Jacksons’s Victory Tour. Like so much associated with these performers, the shirt itself was a contradiction: beautifully designed and printed, but made of oddly thin, fragile fabric.

MJ

(Mine has red sleeves.)

MJ really was the king of pop then. Ten times more alive than even excellent performers on stage, he turned into an enigma the second he walked off. Now I thought how far he had rumbled down and never quite climbed out of the rubble. How it was impossible to have settled feelings about him.

This is a good examination of the whole story, which, to coin a cliche, should be in the dictionary next to “sordid.”

What saddened me most this time, however, is that Michael Jackson has become a King Donald-type symbol.

OF COURSE he was a wicked, guilty monster who bribed his way out of it.

OF COURSE he was an emotionally stunted superstar who showed disgraceful bad judgement and was attacked by evil extortionists because of it.

But either way, on the cross or off the hook, he ain’t gonna be resurrected into the Victory-era life he knew anytime soon.

Charles M. Blow Has No More F*cks To Give

So he’s laying it right out there, since too many missed it the first four thousand times.

Bill Clinton had a number of cowardly moments, but one that really stuck in my craw was the whole “didn’t inhale” garbage. The first POTUS to admit he was going to let the powerless rot in jail for ages because of a harmless “crime” he had committed himself. That’s a new level of hypocrisy and indifference to the weak.

Not as evil as the original establishment of the “War on Drugs” of course, which I brought up in my second point back here.

I fell short when I forgot that there was a confessed tyrannical agenda behind these irrational “wars.” And I see how it worked. Operating in total ignorance, my parents thought maryjuana was Satan incarnated in a plant.

The Fundamental of Racism

This Michael Eric Dyson essay is essential reading. I remember coming across the LBJ quote when it was recent and thinking “So THAT explains it.” Why in the hell was I not hearing that in my classroom rather than “Mumble, mumble, slavery was wrong and evil but it was a long time ago and if we aren’t having race riots in town here you don’t have to worry about it.” Unfortunate traces of that “lesson” explains why I was so shocked at the blatant bigotry I encountered in Boston: the metropolitans were supposed to be more sophisticated, not more bestial.

Plug for Chester Himes

So there’s a new biography out there. And I certainly agree with the basic conclusion of it. I discovered Himes by accident because, strangely enough, he apparently had a huge fan in Missoula, MT who sold all his ’60s paperbacks to a local used store. I started out in the summer after I graduated from college with For Love of Immabelle and had to pick the shards of my brain off the ceiling. I resolved to read everything I could find by Himes and I have. My only mild disappointment was his autobio, The Third Generation, which seemed too careful and cleaned-up to me. (Well, Pinktoes has long porno-mechanical stretches mixed in with wonders.)