Saturday, March 10, 2007

The Right Side Of The Law

On most Friday nights of my childhood, I watched "The Dukes of Hazzard" right after "The Lawrence Welk Show." This strange juxaposition might explain a fair amount about my life now, dare I ever venture into the pit of hell known as me in therapy, but alas, I can't see myself dwelling on the trauma of knowing not only Bo and Luke Duke, but their cousin replacements, Coy and Vance, and my joy at knowing this trivia turning to sorrow when I saw my friends look at me with pity for a life ill-spent. And don't get me started on Mr. Welk -- I was the youngest person to ever willingly (I use that word loosely -- I was not held at gunpoint) visit his birthplace on a date. Anyway, despite the overt racism of the General Lee (their car adorned with the stars and bars -- even at ten, I wasn't buying that "state's rights" bullshit rap about it), I loved the show and its championing of outlaw ways. The Dukes were never on the right side of the law -- they played fast and loose with it and always outsmarted the man. Since almost everyone on the show was white save for an occassional extra to fill in scenes at the Boar's Nest (the main hang-out and provider of employment for cousin Daisy), it was poor white man against rich white man (played with pathos and subtlety as Boss Hogg -- a short little dude prone to white leather suits and counting his money while laughing).
The great late Waylon Jennings narrated the show -- he let you know the finer points, filled in the gaps. Much of the philosophical point, if you will, was that you could get around damn near anything with some smarts, a fast car, and a pretty decoy (in this case, it was Daisy and as the boy's cousin, she was off limits sexually -- yes, even in the south!). So the show wasn't really about the boys hooking up with girls or running moonshine for Uncle Jesse, it was about defeating the system. When I catch glimpses of it on television now, I see why I was so drawn to it -- it had an optimism, not a bullshit kind of fairy-tale type, but a joyous celebration of speed, energy, and keeping one's wits in the face of pressure. Many shows about the struggles of poor whites would follow it, but none, dare I say, had its happy charm while retaining a certain kind of realism. I saw my world reflected in it, the world of the small town, the world of poverty and struggle, but it wasn't bleak. Unlike other reflections in culture, it wasn't being mocked. In thirty minute episodes, shit would happen, get fixed, and from the knowing smiles of the actors, you knew that next week, it'd be something else. Just like in your world.
Michelle's Spell of the Day
"Lord, it's the same old tune, fiddle and guitar/ Where do we take it from here?" Waylon Jennings
Cocktail Hour
Drinking music suggestion: A Man Called Hoss Waylon Jennings
Benedictions and Maledictions
Happy Saturday!
30 days until The Sopranos airs!


Leonard Malton said...

I've never seen The Dukes. I learned from watching the Tom Snyder Show, however, that Lawrence Welk referred to World War I as World War "Eye".

Ricardo Montalban said...

Fine Corinthian leather.

Rodney Dangerfield said...

I'd like to see you at Autorama, if you know what I mean. Without those Corinthian leather boots, if you know what I mean. Shoot me with your love gun, if you know what I mean.

Peter's Principles said...

Excellent lower back development, Michelle.

Mr. Peabody said...

We'll have to get into the Wayback Machine to visit Waylon in Luckenbach, Texas.

Charles Gramlich said...

I too watched both the Dukes and Lawrence Welk. I was never a huge fan of the Dukes but I did see many of the original group's episodes, probably more for Daisy than anything else. As for Welk, my mom never missed a show, so if you were watching TV at that time you were watching Welk. I fear I'm not a big fan.

JR's Thumbprints said...

Ever since I had an inmate show up in my classroom wearing Daisy-Duke shorts, I've never been the same. Give me "Happy Days" with its trivial day-in-the-life-of-Richie-Cunningham. Even the jumping-the-shark episode did it for me.

Borat said...

The Grouchie can not eat the pussy without the head on in the picture. Is very nice and funny.

Borat said...

So you eat the Grouchie, yes? Is funny, no?

Paul said...


Susan Miller said...

Right there with you, Michelle. Both Dukes, Welk and then, of course, Hee Haw. Later my grandmother was all into Dallas and I wanted some Who Shot JR? jeans but they were too expensive.

Anyway, back in the day I would practice jumping into the driver's seat of my Mom's station wagon like the boys and even got pretty good.

Your assessment of what it meant to me is right on.

the walking man said...

"Many shows about the struggles of poor whites would follow it, but none, dare I say, had its happy charm while retaining a certain kind of realism. I saw my world reflected in it, the world of the small town, the world of poverty and struggle, but it wasn't bleak."

You know I was born, raised and still live in Detroit so it is hard for me to imagine small town America and the lack and poverty that prevailed when it's main business shut down and threw everyone out of work to fend for themselves, law be damned.

Before my mom died though we talked incessantly about her memories and there was one tale she told of my Grandfather and Grandmother. Detroit hit about 20% unemployment in the depression but my Grandfather was fortunate enough to be picked at least three or four times a week from the thousands that would show up at the factory gate to try to get day work. As we know most were turned away but I guess he worked like the Scotsman that he was.

He gave my grandmother ten dollars and told her that if any of the neighbors who had come up short for the week needed a few coins or a couple of dollars to give it them out of that ten and if it got used up he'd give her ten more. He was supporting himself, his wife and my mom as well during the depression so ten bucks was a hefty stash.

Well people would come up short and they'd hit the "hood looking to see if they could borrow fifty cents or so to get food or milk or whatever need they had and granny always gave it to them telling them don't worry about it it's not a loan. But they always paid it back when they could.

My mom told me at the end of the story that when things started to get better and Detroit started to go back to work, granny still had ten to give back to HiBUb (his name we gave him.) Not because people never borrowed from the ten but because they always paid it back. she said that although their neighborhood was pretty hard hit by the depression everyone helped each other and that's how they made it through. As a community. I am so thankful I got her history memories before she died.

Danny Tagalog said...

It was shown in Britain in the 80s/90s too - went through a similar stage of not missing it. It struck a cord with my mates. Mentioning the General Lee has brought the memories back...