Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Day I Realized I Was Dumb

Years ago I would gather with my roommate Todd and our friend Pat to watch the human chessmatch that is professional wrestling. From the blatant rule-breaking of Ric "Nature Boy" Flair, to the high-flying acrobatics of Rey Mysterio, Jr., to the mush-mouthed commentary of Dusty Rhodes, to the terminally uptight antics of Lord Steven Regal with his hatred of American commoners, we would watch every weekend.

Lord Steven Regal. How could you not love this guy? Look at that sneer! And that monocle!
There was also The Laughing Man. He wore a leotard with question marks and would break out into insane laughter after he'd defeat someone. He might have thrown joker cards around his unconscious opponent, or I could be remembering that completely wrong.

The Laughing Man's "real" name was Hugh Morrus, so he'd be referred to as "Hugh Morrus, The Laughing Man." Todd and I thought he was some sort of Joker-like character, an insane man so warped that everything is funny to him - his opponent's pain, the booing audience; everything was one big cosmic joke to The Laughing Man.

One day as we heard him introduced as "Hugh Morrus, The Laughing Man," for about the thousandth time it finally hit both of us simultaneously. Hugh Morrus. HughMorrus. Humorous! It all made sense now!

I can't remember which one of us actually voiced our revelation to Pat, but I do remember him just sort of staring at us for a couple of seconds, as if we had actually short circuited his brain with our shared stupidity.

"You guys really didn't get that until now? Hugh Morrus?"

He seemed to ask the question more in astonishment than anything else.

I seem to remember him just walking out of our house in quiet disgust over his two friends' shared stupidity, but again, I could be remembering that completely wrong.

We both ripped up our Mensa applications right after that.

Monday, September 24, 2012

September Gurls

Before September, I had never been to a drive-in, even though many of my favorite movies were designed for the place*. I had also never seen Devo, both of which sort of seem wrong. I mean, that stuff is sort of embedded in my DNA, you know?

I've since rectified both of these mistakes, and in the words of Larry David, fall is shaping up to be "pretty good. Pritty, pritty good." I went to both with my girlfriend (yeah, seriously. Says so right on the Facebook and everything.), and I've been feeling a strange ...happiness lately, which is an odd sensation, especially if you compare back to entries from a year ago, when I wasn't sleeping and would regularly torture myself with feelings of failure and disappointment. Even work is shaping up to be OK.

There's a slight coolness in the air. Fall is coming. October's annual binging on old horror movies and Misfits, Roky Erickson, Cramps and Halloween novelty songs is just a week away. And yes, I realize many of you are asking, "How is that different from the rest of the year." Shut up. That's how.

You also might be thinking, "You being happy is all well and good, but I come here for the stories of embarrassment and awkwardness. Are you gonna be like those comedians who start families and then turn all lame and unfunny?"

Well, even though that's the second somewhat crappy question you've asked, not to worry, I've got 40 plus years of that shit stockpiled. That well ain't running dry anytime soon, trust me.

In the meantime, if Devo plays anywhere near you, go see them. Seriously. I paid double what I would have if I had jumped on the tickets earlier, but it was totally worth it. I mean, check out this kid. Look how much fun this little guy's having. That could be you:

* Been trying to figure out how to write up the drive-in story for a while now. Suffice to say it involves embarrassment, lowering property values, and a comparison between the comfort of sleeping in a Honda Civic versus a Nissan Cube.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Elvis has Left the Building; or Stories I Like, Yet Am Not Entirely Convinced They Are True, Part Three

I was watching Elvis on Tour a couple of weeks ago, thanks to TCM, one of the channels that justifies my sending about half my paycheck to Comcast Cable each month.

The movie documents Elvis on a 1972 US tour, a few years before he blew up and got all rambling on stage due to his 'medications.' I've always had a soft spot for '70s Elvis, mainly because his voice sounds more melancholy and ... lived in or something, and songs like "American Trilogy" will instantly transport me to falling asleep in the back of my parent's car as we drove through Mississippi. Plus, he looked all awesome:

King of Rock and Roll, King of his Castle.

At one point there's a shot of the Jacksonville official seal, which reminded me of a story I heard years ago that I've been telling ever since.

Florida Theatre is this cool old downtown Jacksonville theater that has been around since 1927. All sorts of people have played there through the years, including Elvis back in 1956, when the mayor had to be on hand to ensure Elvis' pelvis didn't inflame the Jacksonville youth to unheard of heights of juvenile delinquency and public sexiness.

The upper level of the Florida Theatre is now office space, but it used to house a radio station in the old days, according to the story. Since this was back in the days when bands had to give interviews all the time before rocking, everyone who played the Florida Theatre would go upstairs, give an interview and play a song or two in an effort to get people to come out to the show. Then I presume they ate a fried chicken dinner provided by the theater owner's wife and drank some whiskey before going on stage.

These performances were recorded onto acetate records, which were then just sort of stored away in boxes or used to prop up uneven tables or used in primitive Frisbee games.*

Years later when the theater was renovated, crews went through all the stuff in the top floors and threw it all out. Decades of posters, old props and clothing, and hundreds of unmarked records all ended up in the dumpster.

So somewhere in a North Florida landfill lie hundreds of interviews and performances from the '20s til about the late '60s. Who knows what lies unheard and broken? Elvis is definitely in there, as well as countless other irreplaceable recordings.

This is the part where I would make a dramatic pause when retelling the story and say something profound like, "If only they would have known," while gazing wistfully off in the distance.

So is the story true? I asked Raymond, a senior librarian in the Florida department via email. This is his reply:

"Sounds entirely plausible. I can't find anything on a radio station there by randomly searching city directories, but I do know there was a fully-functional small theatre upstairs in that office building portion on the side of the theatre - like a screening room. Here's a pic of it **with a mic from WJAX, the radio station the city used to own:

I guess WJAX could've set something up to record there, but I think their studio was always elsewhere.

And yes, they probably threw everything away. That's Jacksonville SOP."

The verdict? "Entirely Plausible" is close enough to give it an Unverified But True which might be the highest level of truth we're ever gonna get here.

So feel free to use this story as your own, and remember the dramatic pause and wistful gaze at the end. People really like that.

Oh, and Raymond, I guess I should have asked before using your email like that, but I think Florida's Sunshine Laws should protect me if you try to sue.

*OK, so I made up the Frisbee and table leveling part.

 **You should check out the library's Sandgren Collection. Not all of it has been digitized, but it consists of thousands of photos of old Jacksonville buildings, old school wrestlers and entertainers and general olde tyme awesomeness.

Friday, September 7, 2012

I've ...Seen Things You People Wouldn't Believe

Went on yet another Atlanta trip last weekend. If I go one more time I will have to start paying rent to the family who keeps putting me up (and putting up with me).

I saw and experienced quite a few things, so much so that it has taken this long to process everything. For whatever reason, I took almost no pictures, so like the quote that inspired the title goes on to state, they'll all be lost in time, like tears in rain.

Wow. After that dramaticalness, it'll be kinda hard to come back to talking about my weekend.

This was the weekend of Dragon*Con, a nerdfest like none other. I was with 3 or 4 friends. We saw many of your favorite movie and comic characters, many in fun plus sizes. Sad Godzilla was probably my favorite. He was sitting on the floor by the elevators half out of his homemade (and quite badass) costume, looking all red and sad. I wanted to get a photo, but he looked too depressed and heat stroked, so I decided to leave the King of the Monsters in peace.

I ended up buying a lobby card for Dracula's Dog, because that is absolutely something I need to have.

So yes, if you're keeping score, I went to a comic convention and a Star Wars convention within two weeks. I am racking up some serious nerd points.

We ended up drinking pina coladas at Trader Vics, like the werewolf hero of the the kick-ass song "Werewolves of London."

So that's a pretty fun (but nerdy) weekend, right? I could stop there and you'd think, "Man, that guy really knows how to have some fun. He bought a poster for Dracula's Dog! He reenacted "Werewolves of London"!"

But there's more. There was a jerk festival the next day where vendors were selling delicious treats from the islands. My friend Sherri and I bought some somewhat overpriced (but delicious) strawberry smoothies, mostly because they were served in a pineapple. How could you turn down a chance to strut around like you were in Gilligan's Island with a big ol' pineapple drink?

From there, we went to this huge drive-in extravaganza, all full of bands and fireworks and movies. They played Big Trouble in Little China, Blade Runner, Blacula, and H.O.T.S., which didn't really fit in with the B title theme, but whatever.

It is strange that I had never been to a drive-in before, especially considering that many of my favorite movies were made for the drive-in. I think I'm ruined now, because I can't imagine I could have a better drive-in experience ever. So I might just stop while I'm ahead.

I also got to uncomfortably sleep in two cars over the course of the weekend and saw a pony, a tiki car and a little bitty Grave Digger monster truck that would speed through the drive-in with a person's head and torso sticking out of the top like a Big Daddy Roth cartoon come to life.

I don't know what you did on Labor Day, but I can almost guarantee you that you didn't have as much fun as I did.