March 2008 Archives
Huzzahs to the New York Times–an American institution I adore despite the widespread Murdochian bloodlust for its demise–for breaking, first, the news of Eliot Spitzer’s link to the Emperor’s Club, and, second, the identity of “Kristen.” BUT: Was it really necessary to denigrate young Ashley Youmans’s sample song on her MySpace page as “an amateurish, hip-hop-inflected rhythm-and-blues tune” that uses “dated slang, calling someone her ‘boo’”? Such unwarranted Rock Snobbery! This is a news story, not an arts-section critique! (Evidently, someone at the Times must feel similarly: the latest version of the Ashley story has had the word “amateurish” excised from it.)
First, a word in defense of “dated slang”: It can be an effective lyrical tool, both evocative and funny. Witness Bruce Johnston’s use of the phrase “She’s really swell” in the sublime 1971 Beach Boys song “Disney Girls (1957),” or Beck’s couplet “Word up to the man thing/ She’s always cold-lamping” in the song “Mixed Bizness,” which came out in 1999–a solid decade after the phrases “Word up” and “cold-lamping” were in vogue.
Second, given the Times’s rough treatment of young Ashley, I couldn’t help but think of the scene in the Farrelly Brothers’s Me, Myself & Irene in which Jim Carrey’s character, in full schizo mode, unleashes a cruel monologue of what he presumes to be the Renee Zellweger character’s life arc: “Let me guess: Everybody in town told you you were easy on the eyes, so you decided to become a supermodel. When you got to the Big Apple, they treated you like the worm. So you packed on a few pounds and started calling yourself an actress... Unfortunately, you can’t get far without talent, and after a while the only bright lights you saw were the ones that hit you in the face when you opened the fridge. That’s when you got a boob job, started hanging around on the Upper East Side, looking for a rich old man with a bum ticker... and waved a white flag in the face of your own self-loathing.”
Godspeed, young Ashley: You’re only 22, and dated slang is not such a bad thing.
Sometimes the YouTube time-machine experience disappoints; the retrieved televisual artifact of one’s childhood isn’t as pleasing or outré as memory promised. But in the case of the infamous New York Rangers “Ooh, la la, Sasson” commercial of 1979 (featuring Phil Esposito, left, and the fabulous Ron Duguay), the experience is even better than what memory promised.
The YouTuber comments that appear below the video are the usual homophobic, subliterate vitriol, but I can only applaud Messrs. Esposito, Duguay, Hedberg, and Maloney for being so brazenly “up” for a swish, Fosse-on-ice number that finds them singing and jazz-handing in designer jeans. That’s precisely what was charming about New York City in the late ’70s, and about the late ’70s in general: that worlds collided under the disco ball, that cultural life wasn’t stifled by the imperatives of corporate caution, that brilliant mistakes like this one could be made.
So here’s to you, Phil Esposito, whose 1972 memoir, Hockey Is My Life, I read in the fourth grade. (Its scandalous [to me then] opening sentence: “I’m a high school drop-out.”) You were even braver off the ice, sir, than on.