Starving and miles from anywhere decent we gamble upon a Ponderosa. We lose big. It’s by far the worst food we have on tour, apart from a “salad” late one night in Pittsburgh which comes smothered in fries and “cheese”. Our two culinary lows.
Ponderosa turns out to be a really bad buzz too. A guy comes in after us, as we’re ordering, and broadcasts Michael Jackson’s death. Nobody believes him. Eventually a chef emerges from the kitchen and confirms the story, as he’s just heard it on a radio bulletin. It’s a strange time. At least Jackson gets a decent tribute initially… Although the press scrum that is still going on is sickening. Respecting the dead is not something that modern media does well. “This is the room in which he died, and this is the television he was watching just before his death…”, goes one report. Do we really need to know this? Seriously, we’re only a step away from live celebrity deaths. It’s not right.
The other shocker came in the form of Karl Malden’s passing. Malden played in The Streets of San Francisco, a legendary 70s cop show complete with deep voice overs, flashy graphics (of the time), flared trousers, etc, that introduced Michael Douglas to the world. Malden was a fantastic actor, and won an Oscar for A Streetcar named Desire (and was also nominated for On the Waterfront, both alongside Brando).
He was remembered with the lines : “He was an actor. And he won an Oscar – I did NOT know THAT! … and we have a link for you. He starred in the Streets of San Francisco, alongside Michael J Douglas, who you might recognise from our own news bulletin…” [and they play a clip of the introductory voiceover for their evening news voiced by Michael Douglas]. It was the weirdest remembrance I’ve ever come across. It’s not even classy enough to be tasteless!
Since we’ve been here, Karl Malden, Michael Jackson, Farrah Fawcett & Walter Kronkite. (Admittedly we’ve been here for two months, so it’s not beyond the bounds of possibility that some people would die in our time here…) It started me thinking that a lot of pop references in songs like The Kinks’ “Waterloo Sunset” and Heron’s “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised”, for example, are beginning to mean very little to the current generation. They become barely understood historical references, or half-remembered stories. They’re like old national anthems – when the battles and protagonists have become grey hazy ideas in our minds. The time has come when, in the words of Gil Scott Heron…
Green Acres, The Beverly Hillbillies, and Hooterville
Junction will no longer be so damned relevant, and
women will not care if Dick finally gets down with
Jane on Search for Tomorrow because Black people
will be in the street looking for a brighter day.
The revolution will not be televised.
Heron may have misjudged television. TV is not that discerning. If they’re willing to show 8 people confined to a room for 10 weeks, they’d definitely be up for a revolution.