Monday, June 23, 2008

No More "Howdy Dody"

All right, I'm starting to get seriously annoyed. Losing George Carlin was bad enough, and in fact, it was beyond bad, because George, through his art and his courage, made Freedom of Speech more of a reality. We've never had true Freedom of Speech in this country, only the Freedom to say what doesn't piss too many people off. Lenny Bruce pushed the boundaries towards Freedom of Speech, and George took up the push when Lenny fell off the toilet with a needle in his arm, and pushed them still farther. They ain't there yet, but we're still pushing. So anyway, George was irreplaceable.

So here I sit, still reeling from the loss of George, and what do I see on my TV? Delightful, daffy Dody Goodman has died today also! No! Unacceptable! We can not lose so much laughter within 24 hours! The least The Universe could do is balance it out by taking away someone horrible as well, like say Dick Cheney. No one would miss him. (All right. There are people who would miss Dick Cheney, but those people are Evil also. And Dick wouldn't miss them. That's the whole point of a shotgun. It's hard to miss your friends's faces.)

Dody Goodman should never have died. Not ever. She was a woman who was just zany, sweet, and full of irrepressible high spirits. She was gentle and fun, and never hurt anyone. All she brought into the world was joy and laughter. It was impossible to be other than gleeful when you were with her. I never spent a second in her vicinity that wasn't utterly happy. She was like walking, talking Vodka. You could get high on Dody. The only bad thing she ever did was leave.

All right, she was 91. But that's no excuse for her death. I'm 20 years her senior, and you don't see me dying do you? When is science going to do something about Natural Causes anyway? Did you know that Natural Causes is the number one killer of old people? Stop the slaughter!

Dody's show business career began on Broadway (Start at the top; it saves time. And people thought she was a scatterbrain.), getting noticed in musical shows like Call Me Madam (I mean it. Call me! I haven't had a call from Madam since Wayland Flowers died. I guess she just misses his fist too much. I know just how she feels.), Wonderful Town (Any town with Dody in it was a wonderful town!), and High Button Shoes.

But it was Jack Paar who introduced her to America, by making her a regular guest on the old, post-Steve Allen, pre-Johnny Carson Tonight Show. Jack Paar said of her: "She was, it soon became apparent, indeed real, and the more she talked the more obvious it became that no one could have made up Dody Goodman. She came on the show my second night, and soon millions of TV viewers were asking each other whether this seemingly dumb blond was actually real. Her hesitant delivery gave the impression that her picture tube was on but her sound wasn't. Dody never seemed to try to be funny; she just stumbled into it." Speaking as someone world famous for her stumbling (Actually, I stagger.), I know a genius stumbler when I see one.

Eventually Jack noticed that people were noticing that she was funnier than he was, and in a long-honored show business tradition, he fired her. Well, he didn't last much longer either, did he?

Around this time Dody met and became friends with Edward Everett Tanner III, who was better known to the world at large as Patrick Dennis, the first novelist ever to have three books on the New York Times Best Seller List at the same time, the author of Auntie Mame, and a hero of Little Dougie's. He cast Dody as fictional movie star Helen Highwater in his great comic photo-novel Little Me, a book often (too often) inexplicably compared with my own humble and always abject autobiography, My Lush Life. (Really, I don't understand it. Little Me is a novel. It's fiction! My book is non-fiction. It's my life! I mean honestly; if I weren't real, how could I be dictating this to Little Dougie? I rest my case. That said, Little Me, is one of the funniest books ever written. If you've never read it, do so.)

Pat Dennis decided to illustrate his book with faked photos, using his enormous circle of friends in New York Theater to play his huge cast of characters. Look how gorgeous Dody was back then.

The talented actor/photographer Cris Alexander took all the pictures. In the movie of Dennis's Auntie Mame, Cris played the Macy's toy department manager who fires Mame on Christmas Eve. Cris is still alive. Universe, we want to keep him that way!

Here's a very funny picture from Little Me, with the versatile Dody playing both Helen Highwater and her stand-in, and Jeri Archer playing Belle Poitrine ("Belle Poitrine" basically translates as "Nice tits."), at the christening of Belle's baby. In this picture Dody must have been excited, because she is beside herself!

And what does this picture of Kurt Bieber as Letch Feely playing Adam in the Garden of Eden, also from Little Me, have to do with Dody Goodman? Well, nothing, but I love the picture, and couldn't resist including it. Kurt is also still alive, but I imagine his poitrine isn't quite so spectacularly belle now as it was back then.

The best selling Little Me prompted a follow-up, First Lady, which, though hilarious, wasn't as successful. However, Dody had a larger role this time, as Countess Clytie Dinwiddie, the First Sister-in-Law. Here she is with the book's star, Peggy Cass, admiring a large work of art in Italy in First Lady.

In First Lady, Clytie marries a shady count, and dies on the Titanic. Here's another of Cris Alexander's hilarious illustrations.

Of course, most of the people who used to enjoy Dody on The Jack Paar Tonight Show are dead. Folks who remember Dody vividly now do so from the 1970s Norman Lear parody soap opera Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman, in which Dody played Martha Shumway, Mary Hartman's lovable, scatterbrained mother, who, in the show's revised version, Forever Fernwood, was married to Tab Hunter! Lucky Dody, and lucky Tab too, even if he'd have preferred marrying Kurt Bieber. (Who knows? Maybe Tab's had Kurt. Kurt is quite openly gay. And if you'd like a glimpse under Kurt's fig leaf, there are some photos from Colt of some nude gay porn work Kurt did that are well worth tracking down online. I'd show you them myself, but this is a Famly Flog, as anyone who read my George Carlin memorial piece just below, Gorgeous George, knows. My motto is "The family who flogs together, snogs together.")

And who was one of the world's biggest Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman fans? You got it. Little Dougie. He was fascinated by, and devoted to it. He even visited the set. (The show was shot on the same stage where Little Dougie's very first-ever produced TV script, for Seymour Presents, was shot.) Here is Little Dougie in the Shumway kitchen set, the same set in the cast picture above, and in the shot of Dody-as-Martha that ends this column.

Yikes! Ever seen anything uglier and tackier than the blue, polyester leisure suit Dougie is wearing in that picture? The 1970s were humanity's fashion low point.

Little Dougie spent some time in the early 1980s working in a bank in Hollywood, a sort of pre-purgatory, time served for his sins while still alive, so that when he dies, he can tell St. Peter, "I worked in banks for two years." and St. Peter will reply, "You've done purgatory. You get to go right to Heaven, which in your case, is sort of an eternal gay porn movie with comedy interludes." (The fact that Dougie played Peter in a ghastly children's religious TV special called Magic Boy's Easter for the Lutheran Church won't hurt - he hopes.)

Anyway, Dody was a regular customer at his branch, and Little Dougie got to know her a bit then. He says she was a breath of zany delight whenever she'd come in. No one could be less bankish than Dody, who was just plain wacky. Most of the people working at the bank had no idea who she was. Bankers. All they know is money and numbers and greed, but Dougie worshipped Dody and always welcomed the crazy subversion of order that floated about her like an aura of nuttiness, and made otherwise dreary banking days a delight.

Dody never stopped working. Even at 90, she was still recording voices for cartoons. I'm told a lot of children knew her later from some John Travolta move she was in about Greece. I've never seen it, as I try to avoid anything with Mr. Revolta in it. I love Dody, and Ray Walston too for that matter, and even Greece, or at least Greek-style sex, but not enough to suffer through that scientologist's preening, or Olivia Newton-John.

Speaking of nutball religions, Dody, like me, was a Christian Scientist, which makes her living to be 91 a miracle! (Devout Christian Scientists are known for many things, but longevity isn't one of them.) Unlike me however, Dody took Mary Baker Eddy's inanities seriously. I was never foolish enough to actually pay attention to anything that mad woman wrote or said, or ever attend services, or ever practice her brand of insanity. I mean honestly, the stupid woman told her followers not to drink alcohol! What a ratbag!

Well Dody was always kind of nuts too, but in a good way - no, in a great way. And so Little Dougie finds himself, as he did when his mother died (another of Mary Baker Eddy's thought-slaves), again mourning the departure of a Christian Scientist. Dody was one of a kind. One of a great kind. Mrs. Eddy always told her followers to "Know the Truth." (although she didn't mean it. She meant "Believe my rambling irrationality.") Well I do know the Truth, and the Truth is, Dody Goodman was fabulous! Goodbye Goodman.

Cheers darlings.

1 comment:

Jodi B. said...
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