Seventies Stories

We tell a lot of stories and we tell ourselves A LOT of stories.  Some of them are true but most of them are not entirely true.

Scratch that. 

None of them are entirely true because there is no absolute truth other than we will all die one day.

HAPPY JANUARY!

Resolutions be damned!

It’s better not to obsess about absolute truth or death because, really, what will that get us?  Instead, I’ve found over the years the better strategy is to accept that there are simply basic truths.

Like when you watch a group of many, many hundreds of weaponized people violently storm the Capitol building in Washington, D.C.  on, say, January 6, 2021, shouting they want to hang a US Vice President before he can, in an hour or two, ratify the results of a presidential election they didn’t like, this is, by definition, an insurrection.

That is because insurrection is defined as a violent uprising against an authority or government. 

You tell em, Lizzy!

It is also true because they built a gallows for the hanging, seriously injured and/or caused the death of many police officers AND destroyed many tens of thousands of dollars worth of government property in doing so.

On the other hand, there is no way to categorically proclaim Power of the Dog, a film I found beautiful to look at but vague and strangely homophobic in its vagueness, is the best movie of the year.

Now you might truthfully state it is the best REVIEWED film of the year and, by extension, a front-runner in the Oscar race for best picture and director.  But you can’t prove it is overall THE best by any rational standard.

Unless there is an Oscar for highest cheekbones, nothing is a sure bet!

No opinion of greatness is an absolute truth.  Just as no memory or memory piece is an absolute evocation of what literally happened.

The best we storytellers, which includes all of us (non-writers especially included), can do is capture a basic spirit of what happened and through character, plot and actions, show it to you.

This came to mind this week as I found myself debating the merits and debits of two films set in the decade I basically grew up in – the 1970s.  These would be Licorice Pizza and The Tender Bar.

Let me state at the outset that as a bit of an expert on the seventies, since I was at my most impressionable, observant and un-jaded at the time, both of these movies told the basic truth.

Double serving of 70s realness

This doesn’t mean they were brilliant or Oscar worthy or that YOU should love or like them.  Rather it’s that they were amazingly accurate on the essentials when so many stories about a particular place and time are not but pretend to be.

Most of the 1970s, particularly the first half, were really the tail end of what we now consider the cultural revolution of the 1960s. 

This was a time when everything felt adrift.  If you were coming-of-age at that moment your journey strangely coincided with the country’s journey.  No one knew what the new rules were in sex or sex roles; in politics and social settings; and to quote a 60s/70s expression, in love or war or the whole damned thing.

See: Peggy from Mad Men, Season 7

This made it a quite interesting but confusing time to grow up in.  To tell stories about it is like trying to hold a hyperactive puppy in your hands.  Just when you think you’ve tamed the impossible it wriggles out of your grasp and runs (or circles) in an entirely different direction.

I think this accounts for some of the disparate reaction to both films. 

The very reason I appreciate and enjoyed Licorice Pizza were the very reason four of the other five people watching the movie with me (Note:  Okay, yes, it was a screener and we watched it on Christmas Day at home!) lost interest.

The story of a weird, pseudo romantic relationship between a 15-year-old boy and a 25-year-old girl that unfolded in disjointed episodes where they sold waterbeds, met drug-fueled celebrities like producer Jon Peters and each grappled with their even stranger, ill-defined family lives, just wasn’t really compelling.

Even an unhinged Bradley Cooper cameo couldn’t do it for them

Yet for me, it was surrealistically accurate because that was what I saw as the story of the seventies.  Everything felt disjointed, and not merely because I was an adolescent.  It was a disjoined time and, in retrospect, a rather lovely one when you consider that the decade that would follow it were the Gordon Gekko-like greed is good eighties.

Sure, the seventies was also the era of Watergate but the eighties brought us Ronald Reagan. 

And let’s just let that sit there for a little while.

A chill just went down my spine

Okay, enough. 

The Tender Bar spends most of its time in the later 1970s and, as a memoir of a young boys’ coming-of-age, has a naturally gauzy quality to it.  But to its credit, it also doesn’t spare us the social reckoning that Licorice Pizza cleverly avoids. 

At this point, there was direct retribution and consequences for underage drinking, hitting women (note: particularly one’s wife) and the snobbism of economic class.  If it feels a little pat, well, at that time, on Long Island, if you were a teenager, it was a little pat.

I only know this because I grew up in Queens (Note: Not quite Long Island, but still….) and saw it play out in real time.  The years prior made it okay for kids to now call out adults in no uncertain terms.  In fact, it even got you support from that group of adults that had made the choice to evolve rather than stand their ground in insurrection to society’s changing norms.

AHEM

I loved The Tender Bar not because it was THE best of any film story but because it so entertainingly and boldly and emotionally told ITS story.  No one thought about being too sentimental because, let’s face it, it was something of an emotional time.

This was my truth of that moment and it happily coincided with what these filmmakers chose to show us.  Which is about the best you can hope to do as a storyteller of any kind.

Well done, Georgie.

Where we all get in trouble, especially society, is when we try to twist the basic truth into something patently and grotesquely untrue.

That’s not only unacceptable but it’s strangely un-American.  To this very American art form, that is.

Gordon Lightfoot – “If You Could Read My Mind”

Sorry, No, Not quite

My dear friend, whose parents were Holocaust survivors, and who is also a Jewish lesbian married to a blonde, native-born German woman both she and I and my husband adore, told me to write about this.

Not that I wouldn’t have.

The this is one of thousands of takeaways I had the day after watching the hours-long live stream of what now looks like approximately 5000 (mostly) White domestic terrorists storming the doors of Capitol Hill more than a week ago.

But first a Quick Recap of Their Mission:

To HANG MIKE PENCE!, kidnap and/or murder House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and stop the count of the Electoral College votes that were about to ratify Joe Biden as our new president.

All so they could ultimately… keep Donald J. Trump in the White House?

Still… trying… to… understand

Yeah, as crazy, unlikely and run-on-of-a-sentence-and-scheme all of the above would seem, especially to friends of mine who died in the eighties and nineties, every bit of it is true.  

What is also true is the cornucopia of crazy among the crowd.  A veritable live basket of the very same metaphorical deplorables that Hillary Clinton got castigated for calling out, say, some 1000 years ago at this point.

She won’t say “I told you so” but we know… we know.

You had the conspiracy theorists and the racists.  The amateur militia men and women playing dress-up, as well as the real-life former, present or retired men and women of the military and/or law enforcement who decided, well, enough is enough with the rule of law they’d spent most of their lives defending. There are some things that are simply worth dying and defacing for.

There were also the tourists there for a good time taking selfies, the scatological freaks who wanted to relieve themselves somewhere in the Capitol Rotunda so they’d have a story to tell their grandchildren (Note: What other reason COULD there be???), as well as any number of regular people that like to blow off steam at massive Trump rallies, especially ones where he says he’s going to fight along with them but fails to deliver on his promise (Note:  Are there any other kind?)

Easy to identify because they have a uniform

And then, somewhere in this very large and very motley group, because why wouldn’t they be, were the Jew haters.

Now I’m not saying there weren’t haters of many other stripes and colors worth noting.  But with so much hate boiling over so many in the US citizenry these days it’s surprising that I, Jew that I am, wouldn’t take this for granted. 

For when it comes to attempted executions and hate-filled rhetoric in a White nationalist revolution, we Jewish people have a permanent place on the menu.

No need… we know how this goes.

It’s like I know it, and yet, I sometimes forget, what with all my other offensive identities during the Trump years.  These include:

  1. A gay man from New York
  2. Who lives in Hollywood
  3. And alternately works as both a screenwriter AND as a college professor
  4. After being trained as a journalist and starting out as a reporter, nee member of the fake media
  5. A person who is and always will be a liberal Democrat, NEVER hesitates to share that with anyone and is ALWAYS up for an argument
My own version of a Golden Ticket!

Any one of these could probably get me trampled, pummeled, kidnapped or killed at any Trump event.  But add Jew to the mix at an insurrection and, well… it’s practically overkill.

So when I got a glimpse at the photo now seen round the world of the Jew-hating Trump supporter wearing a sweatshirt emblazoned with the words CAMP AUSCHWITZ (Note: the renowned Nazi concentration camp) along with the sub-heading, WORK BRINGS FREEDOM, the English translation of the expression tacked right above the gate of the camp that tens of thousands of Jews entered but never exited from, is it any wonder all I could think of to do was roll my eyes and sigh,

Really, is THAT the best you can do?????

Full Miranda moment

It’s not that the man and his outerwear are not disgusting and outrageous but the truth is that just felt soooooo 1950s, standing there in a sweatshirt that was just that plain dumb and that plain uninspired. 

Where did you buy that, at the Third Reich outlet store in Boise?  Or Alexandria?  Is it poly cotton or all polyester?  Like we don’t know what you’re trying to do.

Sure there’s an element (well more than an element) of danger about it, but there’s not as much safety to be had these days as there used to be.  The key is to speak out to the imminent threat but to do so in a way, and with the folks and at the time, it will be the most effective… and most worth it.

It made me think of the incident writer-humorist Fran Lebowitz recently recounted in the great seven-episode limited Netflix documentary series her friend Martin Scorsese just directed about her, Pretend It’s A City.

Maybe the only person they’d hate more than me

Sometime in the eighties or nineties there became renewed interest in Nazi propagandist filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl, whose fetishized images of the Third Reich and Hitler in such technically innovative films like Triumph of the Will and Olympia, began to be rediscovered and re-examined in light of her talents as a female filmmaking pioneer.

So much so that Ms. Riefenstahl had traveled to New York City, where a member of the artist crowd Fran knew invited her to a small dinner party he was planning to have with, um Leni, in attendance.

I have no interest in having dinner with her, Fran (LEBOWITZ) cuttingly replied.  And when he tried to get her to admit Leni was a great artist and how could she blah, blah, blah, she reiterated –

I. HAVE. NO. INTEREST. IN. HAVING. DINNER. WITH. HER.

It needed to be repeated #icant

It’s like arguing Hitler was a brilliant politician and for that reason alone he’d be worth a chat.

Or if Trump manages to avoid jail in his post-presidency and somewhere down-the-line he tries to get re-examined and re-invited back into mainstream acceptance, well maybe we can learn something from being in his presence again that we couldn’t discern on our own.

Can you even imagine?

Though one can’t help but wonder what would that inevitable dinner party look like?  Who would attend?  It certainly wouldn’t be any of the types just seen barnstorming Capitol Hill.  They are not how you rehabilitate an image.  They are simply an inconvenient truth.

Speaking of which, Trump’s alternative fact master, the very nimble though not a smidge more sincere Kellyanne Conway, proved this as a guest on Real Time with Bill Maher Friday night,the first stop on her mainstream rehabilitation tour.

Revealing it has been 8-9 months since she’s done a TV interview, to which Mr. Maher politely thanked her for choosing him because she had soooo many choices, the two paired for a cutesy old friends fest of polite jabs, fun times (Note: Remember that red, white and blue suit KCon wore to Trump’s inauguration – Bill loved it!) and gentle political banter.

Nope… no thank you… please go now.

Not only was it off-brand for the usually prickly Mr. Maher, it felt like the first step towards another type of revisionist history.  This would be a 21st century version of rehabilitation for yet another woman who, for reasons only truly known to herself, chose to employ her talent to promote a white male sociopathic political leader intent on bending the world to His Will and taking down anyone, and any country, including his own, in his way.

There should be no dinner parties, no Dancing with the Stars appearances and certainly no intellectual reexamination of anyone from those patently obvious end times we’ve just barely managed to live through.

Never forget this shanda

Instead we might consider justice through a series of trials for all those culpable like they did in Ms. Riefenstahl’s days, as well as the re-adoption of that age old, timeless slogan Never Again as we all attempt to pick up the pieces of our country and truly soldier on.

I know that’s this Jew’s plan.

The Chicks – “Not Ready to Make Nice”

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