Category Archives: Bagatelles

Frivolous amusements

Thank You Card Crisis Averted At Last Moment – Republic Saved

Last Minute

The Secret Threat Now Revealed

In a classic display of brinkmanship, the threat of a seemingly imminent catastrophic rift between the hitherto mutually adoring – and perhaps not incidentally, adorable – Very Very Good Girl (VVGG) and DrHGuy was thwarted just before the covert conflict was to surface as a post on the Heck of a Guy Blog, scandalizing the multitudes who have long viewed VVGG as an avatar of civility, grace, and refinement, a lodestar of all that is decent and, the redundancy notwithstanding, good about this otherwise burdensome mortal coil we call life.

As returning readers may recall from the Heck of a Guy post, It’s (Still) The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year, DrHGuy’s Christmas gifts were, in mid-February, en route to certain blest individuals, including Very Very Good Girl.

Now, as one would expect, Very Very, to use her familiar appellation, has historically been extraordinarily prompt in responding to gifts with Thank You notes, typically lauding the generosity of the giver as well as her appreciation of and need for a complete set of monogrammed lard rendering implements exactly like those she received.

Yet, in this instance, days, then weeks passed with no card, not even a Hallmark-published postal platitude-fest, bearing VVGG’s carefully inscribed signature. DrHGuy’s unease turned to despair when he received a note of gratitude for the same set of Christmas gifts from the father of Very Very Good Girl, the lion hearted Duke of Derm,1 who is, notwithstanding his metaphorically mixed leonine heart of gold and his genuine appreciation of the generosity of friends and family, notoriously dilatory in issuing written Thank You’s – with still no word from the erstwhile prodigy of politesse.

The Ultimate Penalty

Finally, DrHGuy had no choice but to begin the formal due process required to remove one or even both of the “Very’s” long ago earned by and rewarded to VVGG.

Spanish Inquisition Court

DrHGuy assuredly took no personal joy in this turn of events. To the contrary, no one has, through the years, been a more enthusiastic supporter and proponent of Very Very Good Girl. But, the integrity of the Heck of a Guy Very Very Good Girl Global Group Grading Gage & Guidelines demands it. If the populace of this inconstant world ravaged by invisible, nefarious forces cannot trust the HGVVVGGGGGGG, what would replace it as a spiritual and moral touchstone? Anomie would inevitably become universal; governments would be powerless to protect their citizens as chaos and anarchy spread, and families would be rent asunder as legal principles and social mores dissolved. Murder and mayhem would follow with the oppressive rule of fascist leaders backed by force of arms the only alternative.

No, DrHGuy’s own affection for Very Very Good Girl could not take precedence over the survival of mankind – although it turns out to be a surprisingly close call.

While “De-Verycation,” the original name for the process, was adjudged too connotative of condemnatory hopelessness and has subsequently been replaced by the linguistically neutral and politically acceptable term, “Normalization,” this step is clearly no small matter. Consider the consequences of a restaurant losing a star or two in the Michelin Guide described in Chefs fork out to keep their stars shining by Adam Sage in The Times (June 4, 2007):

When the guide demoted Le Violon d’Ingres, a Parisian restaurant, from two stars to one in 2001, its annual turnover fell by 40 per cent, according to Christian Constant, the chef. “In this job, a catastrophe can hit you very quickly,” he said. In 2003, chef Bernard Loiseau committed suicide when it was it was rumoured that his restaurant, La Côte d’Or, was going to lose its maximum three-star rating.

And that was just a couple of snail-serving eateries losing a gold star (which, by the way, DrHGuy earned by the gross in elementary school) awarded in a advertising brochure put out by a tire company.

Michelin Man

Imagine the embarrassment Very Very Good Girl would face were she downsized to merely Very Good Girl or the horrifying shame that would follow were she stripped of both “Very’s” to become no more than a mere Good Girl. How would she handle her upcoming nuptials, walking down an aisle knowing the audience on either side would be aware of her loss of status? Some of the rowdier, self-righteous sorts in attendance would, no doubt, hurl invectives or make rude jokes about her. Would the marriage even come off if she were damaged goods?

Astute readers may now well be thinking, “Hey, isn’t Very Very Good Girl getting married? No wonder she hasn’t sent that Thank You note. Give her a break.” DrHGuy’s response to that argument is to call ones attention to the point that the Thank-Youless gifts in question were Christmas gifts. Consequently, subjugating the completion of a Thank You card for these gifts to the planning of and preparing for her own wedding would, far from attenuating VVGG’s guilt, magnify and intensify it since she would be be, in effect, holding herself and her wedding more important than the birthday of Baby Jesus.

The Easter Miracle

There is, DrHGuy is glad to report, a happy ending. Just as the Heck of a Guy machinery was being put in motion to pronounce judgment on and penalize VVGG, the long awaited Thank You card arrived, belated but gracious as always.

DrHGuy is nothing if not forgiving and, indeed, rejoices that he can now, in good faith, dismantle the tribunal and return VVGG to her rightful place in the elite Double Very Good class.2

  1. To clarify, yes, the Duke of Derm’s full designation is properly “Duke of Derm at Duke” but that term is not only an awkward construct but also forms an unfortunate acronym, the Duke of Derm having little desire to be known as DoDaD. []
  2. In fact, DrHGuy is awarding a special Easter bonus pardon and will not let on that his feelings are hurt by the email received from Very Very last night, which included this declaration.

    Our moment of celebrity came this week when we checked our wedding photographers blog [in regard to their just-taken engagement pictures] and saw our own faces looking back at us!! Needless to say we had to share our famousness with our families.

    “Moment of celebrity?” How soon they forget. Very Very Good Girl and her beau, SportsBizPro, have, after all been featured in posts over the past nine months in another blog – this one, in fact – earning VVGG some small notoriety as THE #1 Very Very Good Girl listed in Google. If all that is forgotten in the excitement of being the focus of a posting on a photographer’s blog – a photographer who, by the bye, charges for her work (and what’s this about engagement pictures?) while DrHGuy offers his humble services as a freebie – well, DrHGuy understands; he understands exactly. Not that DrHGuy minds being taken for granted, of course. He’s used to it. Don’t worry about him. He’ll be just fine. []

Whispering Sweet Nothings In The Ears Of God

About once every 3 or 4 months, I email a friend, whom I haven’t seen in person in years. about a mundane point medical point; the following is an excerpt from the end of one such email exchange.

DrB: Hope all is well, and that this interminable winter will end soon.

DrHGuy: From your lips to God’s ears. Hmmm. That phrase, I just now realize, has significant sexual connotations. More to the point, those connotations never occurred to me before I applied the phrase to you and God. That must be significant, but … well, God knows.

DrB: You’re right!

Probably an esoteric Tantric ritual, or that Sons of God and the Daughters of Men thing. Or alien giant half breeds or half giant alien breeds or what’s next.

But, you never know if it is really G*d’s ear or that of a pretentious, possibly semi-fallen tricky seraphim, cherubim, throne, dominion, virtue, power, principality, or archangel. Or God forbid, Beelzebub, Belial, Mephistopheles, Moloch one of their ilk. Or worse Golem, and not the cool one in Lord of the Rings either, but THE REAL DEAL!

DrHGuy: Ya know, maybe this is one of those God helps those who help themselves – without whining – things, and maybe we can tolerate this weather a little longer after all.

DrB: Stay strong

The worrisome part is that neither of us found anything atypical about this exchange.

The Super Bowl Memoirs Of DrHGuy

As it turns out, DrHGuy is, at best, a fair weather football fan so ferreting out the top three Super Bowl memories is fairly easy.

Super Bowl Memory #3: The First Super Bowl

A high school buddy and I spent an hour or two of January 15 1967 in my 1957 Chevy, listening to the first Super Bowl1 – then known as “The NFL-AFL World Championship Game”2 – between the Green Bay Packers (NFL) and the Kansas City Chiefs (AFL). While the Chiefs had a geographical call on our cheering interests, the Kansas City Chiefs being the closest thing Diamond, Missouri had to a local team, we were both self-styled realists who knew the Chiefs didn’t have a prayer against the legendary Packers.

Super Bowl Memory #2: Maui Super Bowl

Because we habitually departed Chicago for Maui during the last days of January and the first part of February, the Super Bowl occasionally took place during our vacation. I recall watching, with 150 to 200 other guys, the 49ers win a Super Bowl (XVI? XIX?) on a large screen TV – located in a resort’s windowless sports bar. The Hawaiian start time was late morning. Julie opted to spend that time on Kaanapali Beach.

Super Bowl Memory #1: The Greatest Super Bowl Of All Time

The Greatest Super Bowl Of All Time is, of course, was Super Bowl XX when Ditka and Da Bears beat up the Patriots. Yep, anyone could tell that team was going nowhere.

On the other hand, The 1985 Bears performed The Super Bowl Shuffle – and you can’t take that away from me.

YouTube Preview Image

  1. Super Bowl I was televised on both CBS and NBC. I don’t recall why we chose to listen to it on the radio rather than watch it on TV []
  2. The NFL-AFL World Championship Game was officially renamed the Super Bowl in 1969. []

Eulogy For Chuckles Lauds Clown, Laughter, Trouser Effervescence

Mary reacts to eulogy for her WJM colleague, Chuckles The Clown

A little song,
A little dance,
A little seltzer down your pants

Chuckles The Clown
WJM TV Minneapolis, MN


Chuckles Bites The Dust Is The Heck of a Guy Heck of a Eulogy Award Winner In The Following Categories:

  • Best Eulogy For A Fictional Character
  • Most Delightful Eulogy
  • Best Eulogy Delivered Using The Phrase, “I hurt my foo-foo”

The Life and Death of Chuckles

The Wikipedia entry for Chuckles the Clown is admirable for its thoroughness in tracking that character’s appearances on the Mary Tyler Moore Show prior to the October 25, 1975 episode in which, as its title notes, “Chuckles Bites The Dust,”1 and its refusal to indulge in histrionics over the death of a TV entertainer.

Chuckles’ first on-camera appearance was in the episode “The Snow Must Go On,” originally broadcast Nov. 7, 1970. … Chuckles arrives at TV station WJM the morning after a city election to find the news staff – having lost contact with City Hall during a blizzard – still on the air. Chuckles has the election results in his newspaper, and announces the winner on the air in clown-character. Chuckles later had a brief non-speaking role in the third season episode “Who’s in Charge Here?” … Chuckles has a meeting with Lou Grant, who has been temporarily promoted to WJM’s program manager. Chuckles is seen arriving for the meeting in full clown make-up. … Chuckles’ real name was George Bowerchuck (although Lou Grant refers to him as “Chuck” in the episode “Who’s In Charge Here?”). He had a wife named Louise, and a daughter, Betty, who was briefly romantically involved with Ted.

In “Chuckles Bites the Dust” Chuckles is chosen as the grand marshal for a circus parade. During the parade, tragedy strikes. Lou Grant breaks the news to the folks at WJM.

Excerpt from script:

Lou enters, genuinely stricken.

Oh my! Oh, dear…!

Mr. Grant…?

(Really shaken)
Something terrible has happened.

What is it, Lou?

Someone we all know is dead.

What! Mr. Grant–who?

(Getting control)
No… I won’t tell you about it now… I don’t want to upset you…

Mr. Grant!!…

Where’s Ted? I gotta tell Ted…

He’s on the air, Lou. What happened? Who died? Tell us!

(Still dazed)
Chuckles. Chuckles the Clown is dead. It was a freak accident. He went to the parade dressed as Peter Peanut… and a rogue elephant tried to shell him.

They are both stunned.

Oh Mr. Grant…

(Moving to door)
I gotta get this on the air. You start working on the formal obituary, Murray. Chuckles’ real name was George… his wife’s name is Louise…

Lou starts out, then turns in the doorway, with an afterthought.

…The elephant’s name is Jocko…

The circumstances of Chuckles’s death occasions much joking and laughter, except for Mary, who remonstrates the others for behaving disrespectfully.

Excerpt from script:

I’m sorry, Lou, but I can’t stop. I’ve been doing it ever since you gave us the news yesterday afternoon.

Me, too. It was some shock.

(Very serious)
It sure was.

A real tragedy.

Terrible thing.

Lucky *more* people weren’t hurt. Lucky that elephant didn’t go after anybody else.

That’s right. After all, you know how hard it is to stop after just one peanut…

Murray goes to pieces. Can’t help it. Breaks up completely.

(Going fast)
That’s not funny, Murray…
(He breaks up too)

Chuckles worked at this station for twenty years. The least we can do is put together some kind of tribute to him.

I think I got a title for it. “Requiem For A Peanut.”

Murray immediately regrets having said it, and covers his face. Lou gives him a reproachful look.

That isn’t very respectful, Murray.

Then why are you laughing?

Mary, dear–don’t the circumstances strike you as being the least little bit… bizarre?

After all, the guy died wearing a peanut suit, killed by an elephant.

Yeah–born in a trunk, *died* in a trunk!

Okay. *Forget* what he was wearing! Suppose he *hadn’t* been dressed as a peanut–would it still be funny?

There is a pause while they all consider that. Then Murray, very somberly, says:

…It could have been worse… he could have gone as Billy Banana–and had a gorilla peel him to death.

Without a word, Mary tosses clipboard on desk and exits

The Funeral

At the funeral, however, everyone except Mary is overcome with grief while Mary cannot help but laugh during the service – until the minister observes that her laughter was congruent with Chuckles’s wishes, at which time she suddenly breaks into inconsolable sobbing.

The Eulogies

While references to the eulogy in Chuckles Bites The Dust invariably have to do with the minister’s oratory at the end of the episode, Ted Baxter serves up a dandy ad-lib offering at the end of his newscast after Lou Grant tells him about the traumatic death of Chuckles during a commercial break.

Ladies and gentlemen–sad news… one of our most beloved entertainers and a close personal friend of mine is dead. Chuckles the Clown died today of — (flounders, can’t think how to put it) …um, died today a broken man! Chuckles… um, leaves a wife. At least I assume he was married… he didn’t seem like the other kind… I don’t know his age, but I’d say he was probably in his early sixties … of course, it’s hard to judge by a guy’s face–especially when he’s wearing big lips and a lightbulb for a nose… Anyhow, he had his whole life in front of him–except the sixty years he’s already lived… I remember… Chuckles had a motto he used to recite at the end of his shows. It was called “The Credo of a Clown.” I’d like to offer it now, in his memory… (religiously) “A little song–A little dance–A little seltzer down your pants.” That’s what it’s all about, folks… that’s what he stood for–that’s what gave his life meaning… (Ted is winging now) Chuckles liked to make people laugh. And you know what I’d like to think? I’d like to think that somewhere up there tonight– (eye heavenward) behind those pearly gates… in the Great Beyond, where some day all must go… somewhere up there tonight, in honor of Chuckles, a celestial choir of angels… (his big finish) …is sitting on whoopie cushions. (Quickly) Ted Baxter, good night and good news!

The official funeral eulogy is even better, at least within the context of the funeral scene:

BURKE [The minister officiating at the funeral]
Chuckles the Clown gave pleasure to millions. The characters he created will be remembered by children and adults alike: Peter Peanut, Mr. Fee-Fi-Fo, Billy Banana, and my particular favorite, Aunt Yoo-Hoo.

Mary stifles a laugh.

And not just for the laughter they provided–there was always some deeper meaning to whatever Chuckles did. Remember Mr. Fee-Fi-Fo’s little catch phrase, remember how when his arch rival Senor Caboom would hit him with the giant cucumber and knock him down? Mr. Fee-Fi-Fo would always pick himself up, dust himself off and say, “I hurt my foo-foo.”

Mary again stifles a laugh. The others in the row glare at her.

Life’s a lot like that. From time to time we all fall down and hurt our foo-foo’s.

Mary again stifles a laugh. Other people turn to look at her.

If only we could all deal with it as simple and bravely and honestly as Mr. Fee-Fi-Fo. And what did Chuckles ask in return? Not much–in his own words–“A little song, a little dance, a little seltzer down your pants.”

Mary has great difficulty in stifling herself here. Many people turn to look at her.

(Looking right at Mary)
Excuse me, young lady… yes you… would you stand up please?

Mary, with no alternative, stands up.

You feel like laughing, don’t you? Don’t try to stop yourself. Go ahead, laugh out loud. Don’t you see? Nothing could have made Chuckles happier. He lived to make people laugh. He found tears offensive, deeply offensive. He hated to see people cry. Go ahead, my dear–laugh.

Mary bursts into tears

The Videos

While the entire Chuckles Bites The Dust episode and excerpts from that show have been on You Tube and other sites, these videos have repeatedly been withdrawn or removed. As of 21 May 2011, the scenes that include Lou’s announcement of the accident leading to the demise of Chuckles and the eulogy, with Mary’s reactions during the funeral, are available below.

Lou Grant Has Bad News About Chuckles the Clown

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Mary Tyler Moore at Chuckles the Clown’s Funeral

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Previous Heck of a Guy blog entries dealing with eulogies

  1. Chuckles Bites The Dust was ranked #1 on TV Guide’s “The 100 Best Episodes Of All Time.” It was directed by Joan Darling and written by David Lloyd, who received an Emmy for “Outstanding Writing in a Comedy Series.” []

The Opposite Of Eulogy Is – Eulogy

An Aside On The Meaning Of “Eulogy”

Two observations from my recent research on eulogies1 follow:

1. Every formal definition of eulogy revolves around its approbative quality – to eulogize an individual is to praise him or her.

Consider, for example, the accumulation of definitions and descriptions of “eulogy” found at

  • A laudatory speech or written tribute, especially one praising someone who has died. Or B. High praise or commendation.2
  • An expression of warm approval: acclaim, acclamation, applause, celebration, commendation, compliment, encomium, kudos, laudation, panegyric, plaudit, praise.3
  • Definition: praise, acclamation
    Antonyms: calumny, condemnation, criticism<
  • Words of praise, often for a dead person, but also a staple in introducing speakers, in nominating candidates, and on other such occasions.5
  • A eulogy is a speech or writing in praise of a person or thing. The word is derived from two Greek words – ευ (pronounced “you”) meaning good or well and λογος (pronounced “logos”) meaning word, phrase, speech, etc. The term “eulogy” may refer to a funeral oration given in tribute to a person or people who have recently died. … Eulogies can also praise a living person or people who are still alive, which normally takes place on special occasions like birthdays etc.6

2. In English-speaking regions other than dictionary-land, the meaning of “eulogy” extends to include any commentary about an individual triggered by that individual’s death.

Q: If a eulogy is characterized as positive and laudatory, what does one call a written or spoken exposition that censures and viciously criticizes the recently deceased?
A: A eulogy

Yes, in the vernacular, “eulogy” is routinely used to designate not only a tribute to the dead7 but also its counterpoint – the lambasting, the denouncement, the vehement accretion of insults that derides the recently departed as the most dastardly of scoundrels, the basest of criminals, and the most heinous of villains.

While a “contemptuous eulogy” is certainly an oxymoron under the rules and regulations set forth by Merriam-Webster adherents, it is just as certainly a phenomenon that occurs frequently in the rhetorical jungle of print and broadcast journalism, blogs, and web sites.

Moreover, these pronouncements are brandished in print without irony; there are no real or implicit quotation marks or linguistic equivalents of a sly wink to signal that the writer is consciously using the term, “eulogy,” to denote the opposite of its literal meaning, knowingly sharing the joke with the reader.

Who Cares If Eulogy Obviates Malogy

Somewhere in this favored land, a dictionary-loving prescriptive grammarian may have composed a scholarly rant predicting the downfall of civilization as we know it lest we repent of this sloppy wielding of “eulogy” to mean an entity and its opposite, but if so, I didn’t find it. Where is the outrage?

Or, if this extension of the original meaning is a fait accompli, why are the reference books silent on the point?

I dunno, but I do want to make it clear that

Eulogies offered in my behalf are to follow
the precepts and spirit of the original
concept – praise, admiration,
acclamation, … that sort of thing.

Three Exemplars of the Malevolent Eulogy

Munchkins, Glinda, & Dorothy Commemorate The Death Of The Wicked Witch8

Only occasionally is this ditty referenced as a eulogy (possibly because it lacks an explicit listing of the sins of the departed) but my personal fondness of the song compels its inclusion here.

Hunter S. Thompson Commemorates The Death Of Richard Nixon

Hunter S. Thompson’s essay on Richard Nixon following news of the ex-president’s death, published in Rolling Stone, June 16, 1994, is routinely labeled a eulogy despite the absence of approval or praise among its expressions of disgust and loathing.

by Hunter S. Thompson


“And he cried mightily with a strong voice, saying, Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and is become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird.”

—Revelation 18:2

Richard Nixon is gone now, and I am poorer for it. He was the real thing — a political monster straight out of Grendel and a very dangerous enemy. He could shake your hand and stab you in the back at the same time. He lied to his friends and betrayed the trust of his family. Not even Gerald Ford, the unhappy ex-president who pardoned Nixon and kept him out of prison, was immune to the evil fallout. Ford, who believes strongly in Heaven and Hell, has told more than one of his celebrity golf partners that “I know I will go to hell, because I pardoned Richard Nixon.”

I have had my own bloody relationship with Nixon for many years, but I am not worried about it landing me in hell with him. I have already been there with that bastard, and I am a better person for it. Nixon had the unique ability to make his enemies seem honorable, and we developed a keen sense of fraternity. Some of my best friends have hated Nixon all their lives. My mother hates Nixon, my son hates Nixon, I hate Nixon, and this hatred has brought us together.

Nixon laughed when I told him this. “Don’t worry,” he said, “I, too, am a family man, and we feel the same way about you.”

It was Richard Nixon who got me into politics, and now that he’s gone, I feel lonely. He was a giant in his way. As long as Nixon was politically alive — and he was, all the way to the end — we could always be sure of finding the enemy on the Low Road. There was no need to look anywhere else for the evil bastard. He had the fighting instincts of a badger trapped by hounds. The badger will roll over on its back and emit a smell of death, which confuses the dogs and lures them in for the traditional ripping and tearing action. But it is usually the badger who does the ripping and tearing. It is a beast that fights best on its back: rolling under the throat of the enemy and seizing it by the head with all four claws.

That was Nixon’s style — and if you forgot, he would kill you as a lesson to the others. Badgers don’t fight fair, bubba. That’s why God made dachshunds.

Nixon was a navy man, and he should have been buried at sea. Many of his friends were seagoing people: Bebe Rebozo, Robert Vesco, William F. Buckley Jr., and some of them wanted a full naval burial.

These come in at least two styles, however, and Nixon’s immediate family strongly opposed both of them. In the traditionalist style, the dead president’s body would be wrapped and sewn loosely in canvas sailcloth and dumped off the stern of a frigate at least 100 miles off the coast and at least 1,000 miles south of San Diego, so the corpse could never wash up on American soil in any recognizable form.

The family opted for cremation until they were advised of the potentially onerous implications of a strictly private, unwitnessed burning of the body of the man who was, after all, the President of the United States. Awkward questions might be raised, dark allusions to Hitler and Rasputin. People would be filing lawsuits to get their hands on the dental charts. Long court battles would be inevitable — some with liberal cranks bitching about corpus delicti and habeas corpus and others with giant insurance companies trying not to pay off on his death benefits. Either way, an orgy of greed and duplicity was sure to follow any public hint that Nixon might have somehow faked his own death or been cryogenically transferred to fascist Chinese interests on the Central Asian Mainland.

It would also play into the hands of those millions of self-stigmatized patriots like me who believe these things already.

If the right people had been in charge of Nixon’s funeral, his casket would have been launched into one of those open-sewage canals that empty into the ocean just south of Los Angeles. He was a swine of a man and a jabbering dupe of a president. Nixon was so crooked that he needed servants to help him screw his pants on every morning. Even his funeral was illegal. He was queer in the deepest way. His body should have been burned in a trash bin.

These are harsh words for a man only recently canonized by President Clinton and my old friend George McGovern — but I have written worse things about Nixon, many times, and the record will show that I kicked him repeatedly long before he went down. I beat him like a mad dog with mange every time I got a chance, and I am proud of it. He was scum.

Let there be no mistake in the history books about that. Richard Nixon was an evil man — evil in a way that only those who believe in the physical reality of the Devil can understand it. He was utterly without ethics or morals or any bedrock sense of decency. Nobody trusted him — except maybe the Stalinist Chinese, and honest historians will remember him mainly as a rat who kept scrambling to get back on the ship.

It is fitting that Richard Nixon’s final gesture to the American people was a clearly illegal series of 21 105-mm howitzer blasts that shattered the peace of a residential neighborhood and permanently disturbed many children. Neighbors also complained about another unsanctioned burial in the yard at the old Nixon place, which was brazenly illegal. “It makes the whole neighborhood like a graveyard,” said one. “And it fucks up my children’s sense of values.”

Many were incensed about the howitzers — but they knew there was nothing they could do about it — not with the current president sitting about 50 yards away and laughing at the roar of the cannons. It was Nixon’s last war, and he won.

The funeral was a dreary affair, finely staged for TV and shrewdly dominated by ambitious politicians and revisionist historians. The Rev. Billy Graham, still agile and eloquent at the age of 136, was billed as the main speaker, but he was quickly upstaged by two 1996 GOP presidential candidates: Sen. Bob Dole of Kansas and Gov. Pete Wilson of California, who formally hosted the event and saw his poll numbers crippled when he got blown off the stage by Dole, who somehow seized the No. 3 slot on the roster and uttered such a shameless, self-serving eulogy that even he burst into tears at the end of it.

Dole’s stock went up like a rocket and cast him as the early GOP front-runner for ’96. Wilson, speaking next, sounded like an Engelbert Humperdinck impersonator and probably won’t even be re-elected as governor of California in November.

The historians were strongly represented by the No. 2 speaker, Henry Kissinger, Nixon’s secretary of state and himself a zealous revisionist with many axes to grind. He set the tone for the day with a maudlin and spectacularly self-serving portrait of Nixon as even more saintly than his mother and as a president of many godlike accomplishments — most of them put together in secret by Kissinger, who came to California as part of a huge publicity tour for his new book on diplomacy, genius, Stalin, H. P. Lovecraft and other great minds of our time, including himself and Richard Nixon.

Kissinger was only one of the many historians who suddenly came to see Nixon as more than the sum of his many squalid parts. He seemed to be saying that History will not have to absolve Nixon, because he has already done it himself in a massive act of will and crazed arrogance that already ranks him supreme, along with other Nietzschean supermen like Hitler, Jesus, Bismarck and the Emperor Hirohito. These revisionists have catapulted Nixon to the status of an American Caesar, claiming that when the definitive history of the 20th century is written, no other president will come close to Nixon in stature. “He will dwarf FDR and Truman,” according to one scholar from Duke University.

It was all gibberish, of course. Nixon was no more a Saint than he was a Great President. He was more like Sammy Glick than Winston Churchill. He was a cheap crook and a merciless war criminal who bombed more people to death in Laos and Cambodia than the U.S. Army lost in all of World War II, and he denied it to the day of his death. When students at Kent State University, in Ohio, protested the bombing, he connived to have them attacked and slain by troops from the National Guard.

Some people will say that words like scum and rotten are wrong for Objective Journalism — which is true, but they miss the point. It was the built-in blind spots of the Objective rules and dogma that allowed Nixon to slither into the White House in the first place. He looked so good on paper that you could almost vote for him sight unseen. He seemed so all-American, so much like Horatio Alger, that he was able to slip through the cracks of Objective Journalism. You had to get Subjective to see Nixon clearly, and the shock of recognition was often painful.

Nixon’s meteoric rise from the unemployment line to the vice presidency in six quick years would never have happened if TV had come along 10 years earlier. He got away with his sleazy “my dog Checkers” speech in 1952 because most voters heard it on the radio or read about it in the headlines of their local, Republican newspapers. When Nixon finally had to face the TV cameras for real in the 1960 presidential campaign debates, he got whipped like a red-headed mule. Even die-hard Republican voters were shocked by his cruel and incompetent persona. Interestingly, most people who heard those debates on the radio thought Nixon had won. But the mushrooming TV audience saw him as a truthless used-car salesman, and they voted accordingly. It was the first time in 14 years that Nixon lost an election.

When he arrived in the White House as VP at the age of 40, he was a smart young man on the rise — a hubris-crazed monster from the bowels of the American dream with a heart full of hate and an overweening lust to be President. He had won every office he’d run for and stomped like a Nazi on all of his enemies and even some of his friends.

Nixon had no friends except George Will and J. Edgar Hoover (and they both deserted him). It was Hoover’s shameless death in 1972 that led directly to Nixon’s downfall. He felt helpless and alone with Hoover gone. He no longer had access to either the Director or the Director’s ghastly bank of Personal Files on almost everybody in Washington.

Hoover was Nixon’s right flank, and when he croaked, Nixon knew how Lee felt when Stonewall Jackson got killed at Chancellorsville. It permanently exposed Lee’s flank and led to the disaster at Gettysburg.

For Nixon, the loss of Hoover led inevitably to the disaster of Watergate. It meant hiring a New Director — who turned out to be an unfortunate toady named L. Patrick Gray, who squealed like a pig in hot oil the first time Nixon leaned on him. Gray panicked and fingered White House Counsel John Dean, who refused to take the rap and rolled over, instead, on Nixon, who was trapped like a rat by Dean’s relentless, vengeful testimony and went all to pieces right in front of our eyes on TV.

That is Watergate, in a nut, for people with seriously diminished attention spans. The real story is a lot longer and reads like a textbook on human treachery. They were all scum, but only Nixon walked free and lived to clear his name. Or at least that’s what Bill Clinton says — and he is, after all, the President of the United States.

Nixon liked to remind people of that. He believed it, and that was why he went down. He was not only a crook but a fool. Two years after he quit, he told a TV journalist that “if the president does it, it can’t be illegal.”

Shit. Not even Spiro Agnew was that dumb. He was a flat-out, knee-crawling thug with the morals of a weasel on speed. But he was Nixon’s vice president for five years, and he only resigned when he was caught red-handed taking cash bribes across his desk in the White House.

Unlike Nixon, Agnew didn’t argue. He quit his job and fled in the night to Baltimore, where he appeared the next morning in U.S. District Court, which allowed him to stay out of prison for bribery and extortion in exchange for a guilty (no contest) plea on income-tax evasion. After that he became a major celebrity and played golf and tried to get a Coors distributorship. He never spoke to Nixon again and was an unwelcome guest at the funeral. They called him Rude, but he went anyway. It was one of those Biological Imperatives, like salmon swimming up waterfalls to spawn before they die. He knew he was scum, but it didn’t bother him.

Agnew was the Joey Buttafuoco of the Nixon administration, and Hoover was its Caligula. They were brutal, brain-damaged degenerates worse than any hit man out of The Godfather, yet they were the men Richard Nixon trusted most. Together they defined his Presidency.

It would be easy to forget and forgive Henry Kissinger of his crimes, just as he forgave Nixon. Yes, we could do that — but it would be wrong. Kissinger is a slippery little devil, a world-class hustler with a thick German accent and a very keen eye for weak spots at the top of the power structure. Nixon was one of those, and Super K exploited him mercilessly, all the way to the end.

Kissinger made the Gang of Four complete: Agnew, Hoover, Kissinger and Nixon. A group photo of these perverts would say all we need to know about the Age of Nixon.

Nixon’s spirit will be with us for the rest of our lives — whether you’re me or Bill Clinton or you or Kurt Cobain or Bishop Tutu or Keith Richards or Amy Fisher or Boris Yeltsin’s daughter or your fiancee’s 16-year-old beer-drunk brother with his braided goatee and his whole life like a thundercloud out in front of him. This is not a generational thing. You don’t even have to know who Richard Nixon was to be a victim of his ugly, Nazi spirit.

He has poisoned our water forever. Nixon will be remembered as a classic case of a smart man shitting in his own nest. But he also shit in our nests, and that was the crime that history will burn on his memory like a brand. By disgracing and degrading the Presidency of the United States, by fleeing the White House like a diseased cur, Richard Nixon broke the heart of the American Dream.

Christopher Hitchens Commemorates The Death Of Jerry Falwell

The final example is also a classic, Christopher Hitchens expostulating on the death of Jerry Falwell, a performance that is typically classified as a eulogy.9

  1. See He Was One Heck Of A Guy – The Eulogy and Graham Chapman And The Parrot Are Dead – A Eulogy To Die For []
  2. From The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition []
  3. From Roget’s II: The New Thesaurus, Third Edition []
  4. From Antonyms []
  5. From The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition []
  6. From Wikipedia – Eulogy []
  7. Despite the conscientious efforts of dictionaries and other reference sources, those of us who populate the great unwashed almost invariably associate “eulogy” and its variants with death. Most folks offered, as in Wikipedia’s example, a eulogy on the occasion of an upcoming birthday would reflexly decline the honor with alacrity in the belief that a prerequisite for receiving such an accolade entails ones demise. But that discrepancy is an issue for another post. []
  8. These songs from Wizard Of Oz were composed by Harold Arlen, with the lyrics written by E.Y. Harburg. []
  9. Eulogy as attack is, it seems, a Hitchens’ specialty, as this excerpt from the The QandO Blog indicates:

    Eulogizing Bob Hope, Hitchens wrote… [Bob Hope] was a fool, and nearly a clown, but he was never even remotely a comedian.

    Eulogizing Ronald Reagan, Hitchens wrote… [Ronald Reagan] was as dumb as a stump. … He had no friends, only cronies. His children didn’t like him all that much. He met his second wife…because she needed to get off a Hollywood blacklist and he was the man to see. …I could not believe that … such a smart country would put up with such an obvious phony and loon.

    Christopher Hitchens came along too late to improperly eulogize the Last Lion, but he still managed to trample on the grave of Winston Churchill, calling Churchill “Incompetent, Boorish, Drunk, and Mostly Wrong”


Graham Chapman And The Parrot Are Dead – A Eulogy To Die For

Heck of a Guy Eulogy Research Lives On

As I noted in yesterday’s post, He Was One Heck Of A Guy – The Eulogy, my personal participation in the preparation of my eulogy appears necessary if the desired high-quality, fulsomely overblown, raucous yet cockle-warming send-off is to be assured.

Currently, that effort focuses on a search for emulation-worthy eulogies that could provide inspiration for my own effort – or, failing that, substantial chunks of prose that could be lifted directly into my personal panegyric.

Today’s post showcases an outstanding specimen of the genre, the brilliant tour de force given by John Cleese at the memorial service for his Monty Python colleague, Graham Chapman.

Left to Right: Graham Chapman, John Cleese With Dead Parrot

Graham Chapman’s Memorial Service

Graham Chapman, comedian, actor, writer, physician, and one of the six members of the Monty Python crew died October 4, 1989.1

His memorial service was held on the evening of December 6 1989 in the Great Hall at St Bartholomew’s Hospital. John Cleese delivered the eulogy. Afterward, Cleese joined Gilliam, Jones, and Palin along with Chapman’s other friends as Idle led them in a rendition of “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” from the film Monty Python’s Life of Brian.

Graham Chapman’s Memorial Service was filmed and produced by Mark Chapman for the BBC Omnibus presentation of Life of Python, 1989, and dedicated in his memory.

YouTube Preview Image

Graham Chapman’s Memorial Speech
Delivered by John Cleese

Graham Chapman, co-author of the ‘Parrot Sketch,’2 is no more.

He has ceased to be, bereft of life, he rests in peace, he has kicked the bucket, hopped the twig, bit the dust, snuffed it, breathed his last, and gone to meet the Great Head of Light Entertainment in the sky, and I guess that we’re all thinking how sad it is that a man of such talent, such capability and kindness, of such intelligence should now be so suddenly spirited away at the age of only forty-eight, before he’d achieved many of the things of which he was capable, and before he’d had enough fun.

Well, I feel that I should say, “Nonsense. Good riddance to him, the freeloading bastard! I hope he fries.”

And the reason I think I should say this is, he would never forgive me if I didn’t, if I threw away this opportunity to shock you all on his behalf. Anything for him but mindless good taste. I could hear him whispering in my ear last night as I was writing this:

“Alright, Cleese, you’re very proud of being the first person to ever say ‘shit’ on television. If this service is really for me, just for starters, I want you to be the first person ever at a British memorial service to say ‘fuck!'”

You see, the trouble is, I can’t. If he were here with me now I would probably have the courage, because he always emboldened me. But the truth is, I lack his balls, his splendid defiance. And so I’ll have to content myself instead with saying ‘Betty Mardsen…’3

But bolder and less inhibited spirits than me follow today. Jones and Idle, Gilliam and Palin. Heaven knows what the next hour will bring in Graham’s name. Trousers dropping, blasphemers on pogo sticks, spectacular displays of high-speed farting, synchronised incest. One of the four is planning to stuff a dead ocelot and a 1922 Remington typewriter up his own arse to the sound of the second movement of Elgar’s cello concerto. And that’s in the first half.

Because you see, Gray would have wanted it this way. Really. Anything for him but mindless good taste. And that’s what I’ll always remember about him—apart, of course, from his Olympian extravagance. He was the prince of bad taste. He loved to shock. In fact, Gray, more than anyone I knew, embodied and symbolised all that was most offensive and juvenile in Monty Python. And his delight in shocking people led him on to greater and greater feats. I like to think of him as the pioneering beacon that beat the path along which fainter spirits could follow.

Some memories. I remember writing the undertaker speech with him, and him suggesting the punch line, ‘All right, we’ll eat her, but if you feel bad about it afterwards, we’ll dig a grave and you can throw up into it.’ I remember discovering in 1969, when we wrote every day at the flat where Connie Booth and I lived, that he’d recently discovered the game of printing four-letter words on neat little squares of paper, and then quietly placing them at strategic points around our flat, forcing Connie and me into frantic last minute paper chases whenever we were expecting important guests.

I remember him at BBC parties crawling around on all fours, rubbing himself affectionately against the legs of gray-suited executives, and delicately nibbling the more appetizing female calves. Mrs. Eric Morecambe remembers that too.

I remember his being invited to speak at the Oxford union, and entering the chamber dressed as a carrot—a full length orange tapering costume with a large, bright green sprig as a hat—-and then, when his turn came to speak, refusing to do so. He just stood there, literally speechless, for twenty minutes, smiling beatifically. The only time in world history that a totally silent man has succeeded in inciting a riot.

I remember Graham receiving a Sun newspaper TV award from Reggie Maudling. Who else! And taking the trophy falling to the ground and crawling all the way back to his table, screaming loudly, as loudly as he could. And if you remember Gray, that was very loud indeed.

It is magnificent, isn’t it? You see, the thing about shock… is not that it upsets some people, I think; I think that it gives others a momentary joy of liberation, as we realised in that instant that the social rules that constrict our lives so terribly are not actually very important.

Well, Gray can’t do that for us anymore. He’s gone. He is an ex-Chapman. All we have of him now is our memories. But it will be some time before they fade.

Coming Attractions: Still more eulogies, including at least one for a fictional character.

  1. Chapman’s death occurred one day before the 20th anniversary of the first broadcast of Flying Circus; Terry Jones called it “the worst case of party-pooping in all history.” After Chapman’s death, speculation of a Python revival inevitably faded, with Idle saying, “we would only do a reunion if Chapman came back from the dead. So we’re negotiating with his agent.” (From Wikipedia) []
  2. Cleese and Chapman co-wrote many classic Python sketches, including the “Dead Parrot Sketch.” In the original version, written mostly by Cleese, the frustrated customer was trying to return a faulty toaster to a shop. Chapman came up with the idea that returning a dead parrot to a pet shop might make a more interesting subject than a toaster. (From Wikipedia) []
  3. During his ‘drinking days’, Chapman jokingly referred to himself as the British actress Betty Marsden, possibly because of Marsden’s oft-quoted desire to die with a glass of gin in her hand. (From Wikipedia) Chapman would sporadically shout odd words, exclamations, and noises with no apparent connection to any ongoing conversations or events; one favorite, frequently invoked phrase was “Betty Marsden.” (From Graham Chapman) []