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Burt Prelutsky / Apr. 11, 2020

The Upside of Lockdown

As in war, the battle against the virus has united Americans in a way rarely seen in peacetime.

As in war, the battle against the virus has united Americans in a way rarely seen in peacetime. One of the best things about the current state of affairs is that it has shined a spotlight on many people who often go, if not unnoticed, at least under-appreciated. Although I fear that if things go on this way much longer, it could destroy the U.S. economy, it is nice to see doctors, nurses and medical researchers, getting the plaudits generally reserved for actors, athletes and other basically unessential celebrities.

But there are others, too, who deserve our appreciation.

One of them sent me the following email, with the request that he not be identified: “Hi, Burt, I have a way to help our fellow citizens during the Coronavirus situation. My wife and I will each be receiving $1,200 under the two trillion dollar bill that was passed by Congress. Both of us have enough other funds coming in so we do not need the $2,400. We will be donating the money to the Salvation Army for them to use to help people who are out of work because of the virus. I am sure you have other readers who would be interested in doing the same.”

I promised to pass it along.

When I polled you folks about your favorite song, it turned out that I had never heard of about 10% of them. In one case, a reader sent along the lyrics to her choice, perhaps thinking it would trigger my memory. It didn’t.

What it did do was remind me that even though I’m a writer, it has always amazed me that the lyricist gets to split the money with the composer. While it’s true that singers need words to sing because, otherwise, every song would have to be hummed or whistled, most lyrics are just bad poetry. I think in a just universe, the composer would get 75% of the royalties.

Of course there have been the lucky, talented, few who did both and did them well: Irving Berlin, Cole Porter, Frank Loesser and Stephen Sondheim, leap to mind. The enormously gifted Johnny Mercer was perhaps the only one who not only wrote the lyrics to his own songs, but wrote them for everyone else, ranging from Hoagy Carmichael to Henry Mancini.

When I shared the fable about the man who was cursed with having to decide if his beloved wife would look beautiful when she went out in public but like a hag at home, or witch-like in public but gorgeous at home, it wasn’t one of my polls, but I did wonder if people would react. I invited women to respond to a reversed scenario because I had a hunch they would feel differently.

As it turned out, seven men said they didn’t care what the woman looked like when she was out in public, but definitely wanted her beautiful when it was just the two of them. One even seemed to wish such an option existed because he said, “If she was ugly in public, nobody would hit on her.” Another guy weaseled out and said he would leave the decision to the woman. And, no, it wasn’t Alan Alda or Justin Trudeau.

One woman did say that if the situation was reversed, she didn’t really care that much about looks, but would prefer he be better-looking at home than out in public.

I had a hunch that because women are so competitive with other women, it might be more important to them that their husbands and boyfriends be regarded as eye candy by their female friends and relatives.

I also took into account that women are generally less interested in sex than men are and wouldn’t mind living with a man who came up short in the looks department, just so long as he picked up after himself, didn’t make a mess in the kitchen, remembered her birthday and liked to cuddle.

One woman insisted it didn’t matter to her in the slightest what a man looked like. I challenged her statement by asking if there was a line she wouldn’t cross. “What if he was a hunchback like Quasimodo? What if he was a dwarf? What, for god’s sake, if he looked like Jerry Nadler?”

It served to remind me that years ago, when a young woman would let me know that she liked me, but not in that way, and suggested that we should just be friends, my usual response was that I already had a great many friends….and unless they all boarded Titanic II and it ran into an iceberg, I had enough to last me a lifetime. Ha! Who knew I would live this long and begin running low?

It occurs to me that CNN and MSNBC are flying under false flags by pretending to be news outlets. Inasmuch as their obvious mission is to devote their entire time and energy to slandering President Trump, justice would demand they be called CON and MSDNC.

Something else that I’ve been thinking about is how easily half the country has been persuaded that abortions are an inalienable right, every bit as much as speech, religion and the freedom to peacefully assemble. In many quarters, abortions are regarded as even more essential because abortions are real, whereas those others are often theoretical.

It does make me wonder if the day will ever arrive when women will be able to kill their husbands with the same impunity with which they presently murder their babies.

An American expatriate from New York let me know what’s rolling them in the aisles of his adopted country, Israel. He reports that due to the Chinese virus, the shipment of horseradish from Tel Aviv has been held up at the Madrid airport. “That’s right,” he insists, “the chrain in Spain stays mainly on the plane.”

Ralph Barnett and I were discussing the depths to which the FBI had fallen under James Comey’s direction.

That led to my suggesting that anyone who thinks that Christopher Wray is an improvement is delusional.

Mr. Barnett agreed, adding: “I wonder where they found him. I’m surprised that Trump keeps him on. Maybe he believes that, between him and Attorney General Barr, they can keep him in check.”

“Perhaps, but why should they shackle themselves that way? I’m sure there are a lot of people in this nation who could be trusted to run the FBI in an honest way. Maybe, if he ever completes his investigation, Trump could offer the job to John Durham. It certainly can’t be someone plucked from the ranks of the FBI. Although it was people like Comey, McCabe, Strzok, Page and Ohm, who received the lion’s share of the blame for the criminal activities committed by the Agency, I notice that not a single one of those other "36,000 dedicated agents” we kept hearing so much about, had the decency and integrity to blow a whistle.“

I knew when I referred to the actor James Dean as an insufferable ham, I would hear from some of his fans, and so I did.

I confess that I was very sorry when I was 15 and heard it announced on TV that he had died at the age of 24 in a car crash on the highway outside Cholame, California.

In a way it was his enormous success in "East of Eden” and “Rebel without a Cause” that brought about his death. It was the Hollywood money that allowed him to purchase a Porsche 550 Spyder.

It’s said that people have to acquire a taste for certain things, such as olives, mushrooms and alcohol. When it came to Dean’s acting, I found that over the course of a decade, I had unacquired a taste for his brand of histrionics. What seemed like great acting when I was a teenager struck me as embarrassing, self-indulgent and even infantile, ten years later.

A trivia note: Although shooting had been completed on “Giant” at the time of Dean’s death, there was still post-production to get through. With Dean gone, it fell on the shoulders or, perhaps the larynx, of Nick Adams, who had a minor role in the film, to dub Dean’s long, rambling drunk scene near the end of the movie.

I always thought that if Dean hadn’t gotten lucky as an actor, what with his pouty lips and his “please don’t hurt me” puppy dog demeanor, he would have wound up a street hustler, peddling his ass on Sunset Blvd. to any guy who had $20 burning a hole in his pocket.

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