Photo: A 1972 Cadillac hearse has been listed on EBay at Buy It Now for $4,200. (Note: it has a 472 engine in case you are in a hurry).
Queen of the Dead – dateline August 27, 2012
• Phyllis Diller (who died at 95 on August 20) and Phyllis Thaxter in one week—Phyllises Coates and Newman must be looking nervously over their shoulders. Gosh, I loved Phyllis Diller—she was not the first female comic (Fanny Brice, Sophie Tucker, Belle Barth, Rusty Warren, Jean Carroll, Moms Mabley—even Gypsy Rose Lee, in her way, preceded her). But I adored her wonderful braying laugh (there are birds in Australia that sound just like her), her drag-queen persona, and her genuinely funny material (“I was in a beauty contest once. I not only came in last, I was hit in the mouth by Miss Congeniality.”) And I dare you to YouTube the intro to The Pruitts of Southampton. I have had that damn song stuck in my head since 1966. Watch it just once, and in 10,000 years when the archeologists dig up your remains, your skull will still be singing “How’dya do, how’dya do, how’dya do, my dear!”
• The death of Scott McKenzie (on August 18, at 63) brought back such 1960s memories. McKenzie sang (though John Phillips wrote) the wonderful evocative flower-child anthem “San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair),” one of my favorites of the period. True story: on spring vacation 1967 I visited my great-aunt Syl and great-uncle Jack (who wrote a series of dirty joke books called Over-Sexteen, so I am not the first literary light in my family!) in New York. Turns out that was the week of the big Be-In, so Syl (who everyone called Gert, I have no idea why) and I hobnobbed with flower children and hippies. I even bought a string of actual love beads (big purple-dyed seeds, not plastic) from a real hippie on St. Mark’s Place—I was the grooviest kid at Belmont Hills Elementary School, at least till Ted Rifkin showed up later that year in paisley bellbottoms. McKenzie also wrote The Beach Boys’ late hit “Kokomo,” which also has some fond memories for me (specifically, a 1986 vacation to Barbados, and no, you are not getting any more details of that story).
• William Windom (who died at 88 on August 16) was one of the great character actors, as well as having a wonderfully snooty heritage (his great-grandfather was Secretary of the Treasury under Garfield and Arthur). I never watched Murder, She Wrote, and My World and Welcome To It was a bit too twee for me, but I loved The Farmer’s Daughter (“Ja, Congressman Morley”). He appeared in every goddam TV show ever made, from The Philco-Goodyear Television Playhouse in 1949 through Star Trek New Voyages: Phase II (Electric Boogaloo) in 2004. He also starred in my least-favorite Twilight Zone, “Five Characters in Search of an Exit” (yes, we get it, you’re toys, it’s all very Pinter).