When The S#@t Hits The Fan, It’s The Man With The Tan Who’s Always The First To Go!
November 10, 2006
When I was a kid, if you saw a black guy in a horror movie you knew the monster was gonna’ get him before the last reel. If you saw a war movie or a gangster flick, you knew that the lovable, philosophic negro had something to worry about when the bullets started flying. No wonder black audiences started yelling at characters on the screen at the local movie house…somebody’s gotta’ warn a brother!
As (half) African-American, I grew up in this time honored tradition…and expanded it to include not only warnings, but giving advice and information to all races, colors and creeds on the screen by the 60s. I remember going to see “The FBI Story”with Jimmy Stewart. In a quiet, reflective moment in which Stewart holds a framed photograph of his late, geeky son and says,’ I wonder what killed him?” As they show a close-up of the picture I yell out, “His collar was too tight!”
The audience explodes with laughter…and I have my first taste of being in the spotlight! Actually, it’s more like in the “flashlight” of an usher who shines a light in my face as he warns me to shut up or he’ll throw me out!
I was quiet during the second feature of the triple bill, and waited until the third, before I made my next move. The film was “The Pride and the Passion”, with two of the best I’d ever seen…Sophia Loren…and Frank Sinatra…who was in it also! They were part of a group transporting a giant cannon to the battlefront, during the Napoleonic wars. In the last scene, Sophia is shot in battle and as she draws her last breath…I yell out,” Now that’s what I call knocking off a piece!” As expected, the crowd roars with laughter…then boos, as I’m promptly ejected!
I’m happy to say much has changed over the years, and just like Rap and Hip-Hop, this unique cultural phenomenon crossed over into the mainstream. I remember seeing “Poltergeist”, a few years back at a cineplex with a mixed audience. When JoBeth Williams’ character goes back into the house she Knows is possesed to take a shower, almost the entire audiences screams, “DON”T GO BACK…DON’T GO BACK ” punctuated by a shrill “YOU STUPID BITCH!” from a nine or ten year old little blonde girl, sitting with her stoner parents.
A few years later, when I hosted Genghis Cohen, a Hollywood restaurant ( which I also named ) JoBeth Williams was a regular customer. After I get to know her a bit I ask her a personal question
“WHY DID YOU GO BACK INTO THE HOUSE?”
“Because it said so in the script.”, she replied matter of factly.
Since that day I’ve used that line, whenever anyone asks me, “Why did you do something so stupid?” or “How could you act so ridiculous?”
“Because it said so in the script!”
No one ever laughs…but I don’t expect them to.
If you’re wondering, over the years, I have learned to restrain my genetic urge to talk to the screen, and now only mutter random witty asides to my cat Streaker as we watch TV. So far she hasn’t turned on me or turned me in, but I know, “When the s#@t hits the fan, it’s the man with the tan who’s always the first to go!”
From my forthcoming book, “I Did It For A Song” Copyright 2010 by Artie Wayne https://artiewayne.wordpress.com/about-artie-wayne/
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