Photo: A stereo picture of the hearse carrying the body of President McKinley has been listed on EBay at $18.95.
Queen of the Dead – dateline June 4, 2012
Just back from Paris, my dears, and what you’ve heard is right, 50 Million Frenchmen Can’t Be Wrong. I am sad to report, however, that all the girls in France do not do the hoochie-coochie dance. Maybe, oh, 27 or 28 of them at the most. Now, back to work.
• I have never been much into bluegrass or country music, but my father loved it, and I’m sure he must have been a fan of Doc Watson, 89, who died on May 29 in his native North Carolina. The singer and musician (guitar—acoustic and electric—harmonica, fiddle, among others) was blinded by an infection as an infant. Though famous for his hill-country music, Watson was eclectic: “I can’t be put in a box,” he said. “I play traditional music and whatever else I’m drawn to.” The New York Times adds the alarming information that he first learned to play on a banjo “made from the skin of a family cat that had just died.”
• You have probably never seen Dick Beals (who died at 85 on May 29)—I know I never have, but you have heard him. The voice actor played such characters as Gumby, Davey (of “and Goliath”), Speedy Alka-Seltzer, Bob’s Big Boy, the Campbell Soup Kids, Richie Rich’s cousin Reggie Van Dough (really, they lucked out at Ellis Island), and numerous characters on The Flintstones, The Jetsons, etc., etc. Beals excelled, in his own words, as “the voice of little babies to 15-year-olds. In cartoons, I have also been the voice of all kinds of animals — parrots, chipmunks, birds, rabbits, you name it . . . Once directors found there was a college graduate who could do children’s voices, they didn’t have to call those nutty mothers anymore and ask them to get Junior to do the part.”
• Another New York landmark is closing, though a rather recent, space-agey one: the Prime Burger luncheonette on 51st Street, just east of Fifth Avenue. I have been going there, off and on, since I was a perky young Office Girl in the early 1980s. It opened in 1938, but was prized for its ca. 1960 décor: one-person U-shaped booths, Jetsons-like ceiling lamps, white-jacketed waiters (many of whom had worked there for decades). “It’s the Four Seasons of the everyman,” said architectural historian Theodore Grunewald, “and we have few examples of that intact.” Forbes’ Bill Barol laments, “We came to New York young, started jobs, made friends, fell in love, moved away, came back to visit. Prime Burger was a place that stayed the same . . .When places like Prime Burger are gone they’re gone, and they never come back, and strand by strand the city loses a little of its DNA.”
• Fat, lazy bastards everywhere—myself included—owe much to Eugene Polley, who died at 96 on May 20. Polley—along with fellow scientist Robert Adler, who died in 2007—invented the first cordless TV remote control. Or, specifically, Zenith’s Flash-Matic, which used a beam of light directed at the set to turn it on and off, change channels, and even raise or lower the volume. Adler’s innovations got the back pats from Zenith, and Polley later griped that “Not only did I not get credit for doing anything, I got a kick in the rear end.” Polley’s Flash-Matic was cleverly shaped like a gun, as, really, who among us does not regularly want to shoot our TV? Especially when a promo for Long Island Medium or any Kardashian-related show comes on?