"History is always happening" at Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site
Did you notice in Miss Jane Krutz's recent novella obituary that one of her proudest accomplishments had been to serve as the longtime international president of the Don Ameche fan club?
You might not remember Don Ameche, now 20 years gone — or you might remember him only as one of the old-timers in the three-hankie grown-up-Opie epic "Cocoon" of 1985 — but he seems to have been a gentleman (and a gentle man) of the old school, a genuinely nice guy, one of not many of them from Hollywood's golden era, and worthier of fan-club admiration than most of the names higher up on the marquee.
It certainly didn't diminish my respect for Miss Jane for having picked him to celebritize — a Henry Luce coinage — having once myself been the only card-carrying member in my immediate bailiwick of the fan club of an even more obscure character, namely Al Rosen, the Cleveland Indians third sacker and 1953 American League MVP who was my Little League idol when I was 10.
I remember someone in this period asking me if Al Rosen might be a Jew, and my uncertain reply, "No, he plays third." Faith and baseball are pretty much mutually exclusive pursuits, I've found, but I didn't know that then. Sandy Koufax skipping a World Series start in observance of Yom Kippur might've roused some vague curiosity if he'd played for a different team. It was easier being a Mickey Mantle fan. Or a salaamer of the Splendid Splinter, of whom no one could've known that some day his heirs would be fighting for custody of his frozen head. Best eyes in the business once; now you wouldn't want them to chill your whiskey. Funny how things work out.
Incidentally, my late brother-in-law Lee Webb, whom you probably didn't know but whose head was buried along with the rest of him after he died, bore a striking physical resemblance to Ted Williams. I thought he did. At least when he was younger, before illness and disability, creeping age and too many cigs, distorted his features; and decades before Hub fans bade the Kid adieu. I don't know how much the final two countenances favored, the frozen one and the one that our own Mr. Joyboy, the great afterlife artist Ed Carey, sent to glory, inasmuch as I lost most of my earlier interest in the topic somewhere along the way.
Little Martha G., whom I would later marry and hang with for 49 years and counting, belonged in that lost epoch to at least three fan clubs — those of Lassie ("Wait! She's trying to tell us something! About a kid trapped in an old well!"), and Roy Rogers, the yodeling cowboy, and Tony Curtis, who had yet to grow beyond his "yonder lies me fodder's castle" phase into the comic genius of "Some Like It Hot." Little M. thought Tony was beautiful, and I had no answer for that. Hell, I even thought he was beautiful as Josephine, on the lam from the mob.
She might also have been a Mickey Mouse Club member, an honorary Mouseketeer, but I knew that membership in such an exalted organization was far above my station and breeding. The theme song didn't differentiate between peasants and gentry — the Mouseketeers sang of "the club that's made for you and me," taking the egalitarian aspect for granted — but this fellowship and these people were simply out of my league. Bobby and Lonnie and Cubby and Darlene and Doreen and Annette sang and danced in spangled venues and took Adventureland safaris and made Tomorrowland space flights, and I took it all in and then made my afternoon trot to the homeplace two-holer to sit and think it over.
We were both Little Rascals in Betty Fowler's clubhouse, both fans of Alfalfa Switzer — me because the same cow licked our hair the same way — who would come to a bad end, shot in the groin and bled to death during a drunken home-invasion trying to collect a disputed $50 debt. Who would've thought? And we were both Cactus Vick Square Shooters, an odd bunkhouse where nothing ever happened and nobody did anything. Cactus himself seemed rather sheepish in his role, eager to get through the thing and get back to being ol' Volmer, a regular guy with his dignity intact and sans the carousel.
Yore fan clubbery was not so risky a proposition. Sometimes bad pub leaked on your celebrity of choice — the Lindberghs chumming it up with Hitler; beloved Scarlett O'Hara portrayer a veritable skank; Izzy Stone in the pocket of the KGB — but not often. Skeletons in the closet ("Mary" Hoover's, Izzy Stone's) usually stayed in the closet and who's to say that wasn't the better way?
Too much information now, and t's been so at least since they spent nigh on three years in hot pursuit of one Willard Clinton, fighting Heisenberg to chart his curvature, enumerating his every spelunk.
I was mulling all this — no longer from the privy board, mind you — even as Coach's hog was munching Crosses farkleberry after having dumped him and amigo onto the hard and set all the viper's eggs to hatching. Me here ribs intact and no fans discomfited, thinking with Roberto Duran, No mas, no mas.
Bob Lancaster, one of the Arkansas Times longest and most valued contributors, retired from writing his column last week. We’ll miss his his contributions mightily. Look out, in the weeks to come, for a look back at some of his greatest hits. In the meantime, here's a good place to start.
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