Fosse And Welk!

My father was a Lawrence Welk fan.

No, this isn’t what you’re thinking.  My dad watched The Lawrence Welk Show because he found it comical.  He admitted the show was a slick production, though.  Costumes, technical work and the creative part of it were precise, and the formula was a pop success without any substance.

It was always my father’s idea to tune in the show, but my mother and I would wander in and out of the room and see some of it. Sometimes we’d laugh with my father, and other times one or both of us would say the silliness was being taken too far.

One thing I found particularly irritating about that show was the way one of the singers was introduced.  Mr. Welk called her “Our Little Mexican Girl.”  When Mr. Welk stopped calling her that, my father speculated that viewers or activists had contacted the production company and gently brought to their attention that labels are patronizing.  My father was probably right about that, and if so, the people who raised hell about the patronizing crap were also right.

One time when all three of us — my father, mother and me — laughed out loud at something on the show which seemed harmless enough, the unintended humor was an example of the polished turd genre of media wholesomeness.  The episode was devoted to Broadway shows, and the producers took a big chance.  A “number” from Damn Yankees was performed.

I don’t recall who introduced that segment, but it wasn’t Mr. Welk. The embarrassment was passed along to someone lower in the chain of command.  After naming the show, the man said, “Excuse me.”  He looked so humble.

That was when my family agreed unanimously that we’d heard something pretty funny.

It was also when I left the room, albeit giggling.  Actually, I felt kind of sad because it was a foregone conclusion we wouldn’t get to see anything from The Best Little Whorehouse In Texas.  Until that moment, I’d been optimistic.

Damn Yankees featured Bob Fosse’s choreography.  Ordinarily, I don’t care for musicals made before the 1970s (the exception is Gypsy), but I may take a look at the movie adaptation of Damn Yankees and a few others just because I’m partial to the choreographer.

Bob Fosse didn’t keep his skeletons safely in the closet.  I don’t know whether that was due to a lack of shame or an unusual gift for honesty.  I just know his autobiographical film, All That Jazz, went completely over the top without appearing self-indulgent.  Say what you want about Mr. Fosse’s admitted behavior, but I’m not sure if anyone else could have made that film as well-balanced as he did.

At least two clips from a stage production of Damn Yankees are included in the video at the end of this post.  It’s a series of excerpts from Bob Fosse musicals, set to Michael Jackson’s Smooth Criminal.  Michael Jackson regarded Bob Fosse as a role model for his own dancing, and this video is an excellent tribute to both artists. It was uploaded to YouTube a few years ago and it’s still there, which I hope means the people who own the rights to the material are okay with it.

Michael Jackson projected a wholesome media image which might have been real in the beginning.  One of the tragedies — one of many — was he really seemed to believe he was motivated by good intentions later, when obviously he was acting on emotional neediness.  Whether or not there was a sexual element to his behavior with kids, those children were given the impression they were responsible for him.

Michael Jackson became a celebrity when he was a child.  Maybe he never saw a healthy adult-child relationship.  We don’t know.  

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