The Degenerate Generation
If someone had told me at the turn of the century that by this time, over a decade later, it would still take the same amount of blondes to screw in a light bulb, I would have taken offense at the very statement. They never come that small, anyway. And of what use are predictions?
In 1970, a network television special about the nation’s changing political/social climate was being produced with location shooting taking place primarily in Washington D.C. and Berkeley. Along with the usual stock footage and footage that would become stock over time, the larger measure comprised talking-heads stuff of well-known politicos and lawmakers of the era. And to spice up the stew to award-winning perfection, little slices of man-on-the-street interviews were to be added.
It just so happened that (I promised myself to use that cliche once in my life) I was taming Georgia Avenue in Georgetown with its burgeoning “head shops” when I was spotted and selected for a few moments of national exposure — rare, early Hose-on-the-Street stuff that I believe says more about me today than you can or ever will, so bite me.
Harry Reasoner must have spotted Marsha and me at the Little Tavern because I resembled a young fellow whose face was posted all over the area on a “Reward/$5,000” flyer, which had been engendering much amusement among my circle of friends for several weeks. Or perhaps the draw was Marsha who, a mere 12 days before her sudden death, was at the apex of her beauty — striking, incredibly photogenic, and wearing a light green, see-through blouse that I’d bought her because I told her it brought out her eyes. Or, maybe it was the simple fact that Harry was hungry and Masha and I were the only other people around craving a bag of burgers. But in any case, we were shortly being interviewed on camera; we were on a roll toward our 15 minutes of fame a month later when, for approximately 45 seconds, we insolently invaded living rooms from coast to coast. We were representing the younger generation or the “groovy set,” as Mr. Reasoner unimpeachably defined us.
(I had had a similar, even briefer national exposure eight years earlier on Disney’s The Wonderful World of Color in a two-shot with my Mom as we reacted to a live “Injun” show at Disneyland, but that one had rather embarrassed me since I had not yet become groovy.)
In all, we were interviewed outside the Little Tavern for 15 or 20 minutes, with only the grooviest portions making the final cut. Marsha was asked about her personal fashion sense and whether it had the endorsement of her parents. She was seen mostly in head shots, but a brief waist-up shot of the both of us contained a trick accessory neither she nor anyone else we knew would be caught dead wearing: an ugly black bar superimposed on her chest. Another of God’s masterpieces ruined by corporate greed…
The networks are still altering fashions over 40 years later, but that black bar has become a blur, and when I see that corporate eye I want to scream to the world that it’s not only blind, it’s unquestionably insane and sadistic. This is our America, folks, where that network’s highly rated dramas regulary feature closeups of bullet holes as beauty marks upon ravaged, bleeding flesh. The sticky sounds of internal organs being probed and pushed around and pulled out and peeled apart. Slow-motion shots of a bullet gliding through the air until it lands on the top of some lady’s head, which explodes, setting up a morgue scene after a commercial break wherein her brains are leaking out from behind her eyes onto a stainless steel slab.
Guns,torture, guns, knives, guns, blood, guns. And such transparent sadism that was entirely inconceivable back in 1970, yet now grows more intense every week. While I do not believe that this steady diet of violence actually causes antisocial behavior, I have no idea why America’s need for this “torture porn” continues to grow, unless it’s the simple fact that in our nation of hypocrites, we truly are as remarkably sadistic as those Jihadists we fear and abhor.
Oh, where was I? Sorry about that.
It’s telling; beautiful Marsha back in 1970 testifies for the coming decades and proves the frightening longevity of network television’s greatest surviving taboo. While violence and bloodshed continue to increase along with the public’s hunger, network television still refuses to show the one thing that it is certain will have a deleterious effect on its viewers if not society in its entirety: the female nipple. Once a source of nourishment and often creator of pleasant feelings, she is now as shielded as the face of the Prophet of Islam. As a culture, we are clearly insane.
Oh, yes, I’ll include myself in the looney category. My 1970 television interview in that special clearly proves it, even way back then. Both Harry Reasoner and my dear Marsha are gone, and the me who has miraculously survived left a testament to his own idiocy in that TV special. When I’m asked if I see pot being legal by the year 2000, I look directly at the camera and with as much self-assurance as I’ve ever witnessed, declaim, “Oh, it’ll be legal well before the century’s done; are you kidding me, man? Maybe in five, ten years.” Here Marsha leans in to the shot and, smiling, kisses my cheek as I dig deeper into my invisible hole, adding, “I’m absolutely sure about that. We both are. We’d bet our lives on it, Mr. Reasoner.”
And I’m still here. Go figure.
I’m probably as pathetic at rationalizing the present as I was predicting a rational future in 1970. The century turned (even packed on an extra 12 years!) and pot has yet to even receive its green card. Sex in all its permutations can only apply for conditional licenses under severe scrutiny. The nation’s recreational requirement for violence increases every season, and women are still barred from the chauvinistic Network Nipple Club — while the ideal of Freedom continually expands its grotesque collection of asterisks.
Don’t get me wrong, I beg you. Today I’m very grateful to be here. After God, my greatest thanks go to my Dad, whom I love and admire more than anyone alive, and who has continued to love me far beyond the call of duty and far, far beyond what a borderline miscreant deserves. Happy birthday, Diddy!
And may rich blessings land upon all y’all.