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Havin’ a Gay Old Time


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Jonah Goldberg

HAVIN’ A GAY OLD TIME
I am having an awful morning. Brain don’t work. Things aren’t breaking my way on all fronts. Even the blade on my razor is too dull to shave my tongue effectively. So I gotta do today’s file on auto-pilot. There’ll be no interesting digressions about the pernicious role of the Gnostics on modernity’s moral levelling. There will be no intense scrutiny of the President’s pants or the maelstroms that pour from them. There will be nothing that you usually expect (or disdain) from the Goldberg File weltanschaungsalat (loose trans.: “ideological kettle of fish” or “the silly stuff in my head.”)

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Instead this will be pure pop culture flapdoodle. So if you don’t like it. Stop reading now. I said, Stop reading!

So, the other day I ran a teensy contest asking “What is the most relevant specific episode” of a certain television series to the themes of the column. In short, if you’re too lazy to link or remember, the theme was the effort of gay rights activist Larry Kramer to “out” Abraham Lincoln. Because the A Nation at Risk report published in the early 1980s came not a moment too soon, many of you guessed correctly what it was.

Of course I was referring to “The Savage Curtain” episode (number 77) of the original Star Trek series. In this episode (one of the very last), Abraham Lincoln appears on the bridge of the Enterprise and enlists Captain Kirk in a fight of good against evil. (No, it wasn’t the real Abraham Lincoln, but that’s irrelevant.) While on the bridge President Lincoln is introduced to Lieutenant Uhura (who despite the fact that racism and sexism were erased from society was still given the job of receptionist). Lincoln’s first reaction upon meeting her, “My, what a charming Negress.”

She wasn’t offended by the remark and explained to Lincoln that race was no longer associated with ones’ identity (although I am still at a loss why Doctor McCoy would start every temper tantrum against Spock by saying something like, “You green blooded, inhuman monster.” Where’s Star Fleet’s Bill Lann Lee?)

But I just threw the bait for this column out there so I could actually type the words, “My, what a charming Negress.” I didn’t really think much further than that.

Many of you did. The biggest response from readers was the episode of The Simpsons entitled “Lisa the Iconoclast” (episode 3F13). Jebediah Springfield — whose motto is “A noble spirit embiggens the smallest man” — is exposed as a scoundrel and a pirate by little Lisa Simpson. She writes a school essay in commemoration of the town’s bicentennial titled “Jebediah Springfield: Superfraud.” Lisa complains about the F she got on the paper saying, “But it’s all true!”

Her teacher, Ms. Hoover, responds, “This is nothing but dead white male bashing from a P.C. thug. It’s women like you who keep the rest of us from landing a good husband.”

I’d like to say “My, what a charming Negress” could hold a candle to that. But it can’t.

Still, there were other nominees. A few thought I might be referring to other episodes of The Simpsons which touched on homosexuality, like the show in which John Waters guest stars. Homer angrily asks Bart, “He didn’t give you gay, did he? Did he?”

But respondents didn’t confine themselves to Star Trek or the The Simpsons. Others thought I might be referring to the short-lived, but not short enough, UPN series The Secret Diaries of Desmond Pfifer. This was a “comedy” about Lincoln’s house slave. It combined all of the nuance of Three’s Company, the biting satire of Benson and the taste of a frat party at David Duke’s house.

One guy took a stab at an old episode of Bewitched in which Abe Lincoln was brought from the 1860s to the 1960s. He couldn’t remember any overt gay leitmotifs but, c’mon Darrin, witchcraft, shag carpeting. Do I need to go any further?

Okay maybe I do, but I won’t. Many people thought that my reference to “the He-Man Woman Hater’s Club” was the clue. Obviously they thought I was looking for the Little Rascals or the Madison, WI chapter of NOW which also has the same motto. Some suggested I was looking for a Seinfeldian “Not that there’s anything wrong with that.” The history of the phrase “slap my wrist and call me Sally” was bandied about a bit. A few thought I got it from Southpark (A show I’ve never seen a whole episode of. I know, I know.). Others thought I got the phrase wrong. And a few people actually wanted to slap my wrist and call me Sally. My couch is petitioning the court for a restraining order as we speak.

A few people thought I was sticking strictly to the whole gay outing thing and offered Ellen. This is a good guess except for the fact that the show wasn’t funny and the lesbian scenes weren’t even close to meeting my exacting standards. One intrepid reader just sent me an email reading, “Jim J. Bulloch as Monroe on Too Close for Comfort.” I guess he thought I was just looking for “gay” without any text or subtext getting in the way.

There were some other entries, but the column is running long and I don’t know how to end it and I still need to get a fresh tongue razor. So, I’m leaving. In this the world of self-esteem building and no wrong answers, everyone is a winner.

COMING TOMORROW
Stuff that requires reading, like “Why is Al Gore hosting Larry King tomorrow?”, “Why did the State Department baldly lie about Richard Holbrooke?”, “Why do we drive on parkways and park on driveways?”

MOVIE QUOTE BONUS:
The Apache helicopters are about to go into Kosovo. In tribute to these brave men, I offer Tommy Lee Jones’s morale booster to Nick Cage in Firebirds.

It goes something like this:

“Listen kid, when I was your age I was just like you. I had my head and my heart wired together for some full tilt boogie for freedom and justice.”



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