The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Thursday, September 17, 2009

A Henry Gibson

Regarding Jimmy Carter's comments:

"I think an overwhelming portion of the intensely demonstrated animosity toward President Barack Obama is based on the fact that he is a black man, that he's African-American," Carter told "NBC Nightly News."

"I live in the South, and I've seen the South come a long way, and I've seen the rest of the country that shares the South's attitude toward minority groups at that time, particularly African-Americans."

Here's what I think: what percentage of the "Intensely demonstrated animosity" toward Obama is racist? A lot. But what of animosity toward his policies? I'd say about 10%, assuming that 10% of people are racists across the board, right? And certainly, we're going to find a disproportionate percentage of racists opposing Obama as President, right? That's just common sense. But I do think you have to separate the ones opposing his policies from those who attack him as a person. This is unfortunate, but unfortunately, politics makes savagely strange bedfellows, and in this case, the opposition group is in the same tent. Ugh--that sucks, if your opposition has zero to do with it. But I do hear the radio demagogues come as close to using outright racial rhetoric as they can, then say "who me?" This kind of thing works. So does accusing people of being a Communist, Terrorist sympathizer, Socialist, etc.--with the difference that I don't think we come close to having 10% Commies or Al Queda sympathizers in America, or anything remotely close to it.


Patrick Swayze finally passed, after about two years of awful rumors. All I can say is that he must have put up one hell of a fight. He seemed a man of tremendous grace, and I'll miss him.


Henry Gibson ("Laugh-In", "Blues Brothers") died as well. A bit of a personal connection there. My junior high years were just dreadful, but life started turning around for me in High School. I hung with the leadership class, even though I wasn't an elected officer of any kind. They planned assemblies for various functions: trash pick-up, candy drives, and the like. One trash day, they asked me to participate in an assembly. At that time "Laugh In" was very popular, and a running gag on the show had a little guy named Henry Gibson recite funny poems with a perfectly straight face, while holding a flower. And he'd always begin: "A Henry Gibson." So that's what I did. I made a flower out of shredded newspaper, walked out on stage and said:

"A Henry Gibson" and then recited in a sing-song voice:

"I like to look at trash heaps tall and towering to the sky

They're beautiful for one and all, and made by you and I.

Perhaps one day these glorious things to which we've given birth

Will take to flight on orange peel wings, and conquer all the earth"

Then I said "thank you", bowed, and left the stage. The next day every kid in school recognized me and was slapping me on the back and congratulating me. It was a turning point in my life: I had discovered that if I entertained people, they liked me.

Thanks, Henry. You made a real difference in one lonely kid's life.


Steve Perry said...

Yeah, I can remember him on Laugh-in, and what a great oddball he played forever after.

Mary Travers went today, too.

Anonymous said...

When I was around 12, I saw a bit of live taping of Laugh-in. I was really too young to appreciate it though. Still, I remember the show's great popularity, and fun, goofy, energy.

I liked your high school story, Steve.



Anonymous said...

I liked both of those guys and I'll miss them both.

What really leaves me with an empty feeling is that Norman Borlaug passed away last weekend and no one seems to have really noticed.

I guess you can save the world, but if you don't do it on TV or in the movies, you're really not very important.

Oh well.

John M.

Steve Perry said...

Borlaug's death made the front page of the local paper and a special story on the PBS News Hour. People noticed ...

Steven Barnes said...


You're saying that fame is particularly important. I thought that results were important: for a scientist, those results are changing the world, moving the human race forward. As the father of the "Green Revolution" he certainly did that. Actors specifically trade in focused emotion, and those who succeed in triggering positive response in their audience become "stars" who specifically trade in fame. They don't change the world, but they are well known--and superficial. I think that Borlaug would, by 1000%, have preferred it thus.