Friday, July 28, 2006

Doris Day: Que será será

What ever happened to those wholesome, romantic movies that Hollywood used to make? The ones where the leading man was an eligible bachelor with a short haircut and the leading woman was a pure-hearted damsel who never smooched on the first date? The hero of the modern romantic comedy is a bumbling buffoon who’s terrified of making an ass of himself, while the object of his affection is typically a flirtatious tomboy who uses his semen as hair gel. Is it any wonder that the women of today complain that men don’t know how to woo them?

Doris Day was mockingly referred to as “America’s favourite virgin”, but where’s the shame in that? It’s surely far better than being “America’s haughtiest hussy” or “America’s fattest fishwife”, titles which would be difficult to award because of the fierce competition for them. In any case, there was a lot more to Miss Day’s career than playing the homespun maiden waiting for Mr Right. Let’s not forget all those wonderful songs, delivered in that soothing maternal voice, most of which were recorded before she was a virgin.

Miss Day will rightly be remembered for co-starring with Rock Hudson in those brilliant Hollywood farces. They were called “sex comedies” in their time, although there was precious little sex in them – indeed, the plots were full of ingenious complications to frustrate fulfilment of the carnal urge. Their enduring appeal lies in amusing dialogue rather than bedroom antics, with Doris playing the “straight man” in those sparkling comic exchanges. This was not something that Rock Hudson could do, of course. It was said that he got through the love scenes with Doris by fantasizing about Johnny Weissmuller.

Although married and a mother at the age of 17, Doris did not have a happy personal life. She divorced her first husband when still a teenager and later married a manipulative weasel who mismanaged her career, abused her son and squandered her fortune. On finding herself penniless on her husband’s death, she courageously embarked upon a TV career at the age of 44, starring in her own situation comedy. The show was a great success, no doubt helped by the fact that Doris was still a fine-looking woman in her forties, although perhaps a little sturdy around the neck and shoulders.

She later hosted her own chat show in which one of her first guests was an emaciated and terminally-ill Rock Hudson, whose sexual escapades were now public knowledge. Fearing an AIDS-related illness, Hudson’s doctor had asked him who his last sexual partner was. “I don’t have eyes in the back of my head,” replied Rock. It tells you a lot about Doris that she refused to believe he was sick with AIDS – or indeed was even gay – until after Hudson’s catamite had sued for a share of his estate. A lady never gossips about a man she has kissed on the lips – even if that man was holding his breath at the time.

As with a number of ageing actresses, Doris developed an affection for animals in her later years, setting up a foundation for their welfare. When her final marriage was dissolved in 1981, her ex-husband complained that she seemed to care more for her animal friends than him. I don’t see what point he was trying to make. Some of my best friends are animals, and I should imagine that all of them are a good deal more lovable than the sort of chap who marries a wealthy woman in her 50s. People should think before they make stupid and self-incriminatory remarks like that.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Respect the horny woman

Disturbing news from Oregon: a 45-year-old woman dials 9-1-1 and demands that the local deputy-sheriff is dispatched to her residence with all due haste. When asked to elaborate on her predicament, she informs the operator that the said deputy is a “cutie” who might assist her with certain gynaecological problems. The deputy duly arrives, briefly interrogates the woman and slaps a pair of handcuffs on her. Before she can explain that she’s not into bondage, he arrests her for frivolous misuse of the 9-1-1 number and bundles her into his patrol car. She is later made to atone for her actions in front of a judge.

It seems to me that the policing methods of this so-called deputy were a gross betrayal of the “protect and serve” motto – “harass and control” would be a better description of his antics. This woman was plainly in desperate need of assistance, and only a narrow-minded blockhead would have treated her as a hoax caller. A female gorilla in oestrus would not hesitate to dial 9-1-1 if the alpha male had a headache, and no one would think of blaming her for it. Needs must when the devil drives, and the urges of nature cannot be subverted by petty bureaucracy or a misguided obsession with the letter of the law. At the very least, the deputy should have listened sympathetically to her request and considered it on its merits. There is always a polite way of saying ‘No’.

The other worrying aspect of this incident is that the deputy showed not the slightest interest in obliging the woman, who had paid him the highest compliment that the female of the species can offer. Indeed, his behaviour suggests that he was offended at being treated like a gigolo rather than flattered by her proposition. This sort of priggish posturing strikes me as both appallingly ungallant and worryingly lacking in masculinity. Could the deputy have been one of those
girly men that the Governor of California once spoke about? Conan the Barbarian certainly never arrested a woman for trying to seduce him, and even The Terminator didn’t hold grudges against females who made a pass at him. There are times when a man should count his blessings rather than behaving like a boy scout who finds an issue of Penthouse magazine in his teacher’s briefcase.

Governor Schwarzenegger, of course, would have known exactly what to do with this woman. In his body-building days, he fondled many a shapely breast without waiting for an invitation. Inevitably, not all of the groped women were honoured to have had their melons squeezed by Arnie, and a few of these malcontents came back to haunt him during his election campaign. He responded to their allegations by denying them and apologizing at the same time. “There’s no fire without smoke!” he declared mysteriously.

It is always a fatal mistake for a man with large muscles to assume that he’s irresistible to women. Physical strength may indeed be desirable, but a woman is entitled to be suspicious of a fellow who oils his body and spends hours gazing at his reflection in a mirror. No male gorilla would ever try to impress a female by flexing his muscles in the silly, affected manner of the Mr Universe contestant. Those who live in the jungle know that it’s not what you’ve got that counts, but how you use it.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

The vet, the boil and the gorilla

I’ve done some pretty unpleasant chores in the circus, but there’s one I’m especially keen to avoid thinking about before breakfast. It all began when Smacker Ramrod, the circus vet, burst into my trailer a few days before the opening show of the season.

“I say, GB!” he exclaimed. “The ringmaster’s got a boil on his arse. It’s an absolute snorter!”

“Send him my condolences,” I replied, not bothering to look up from the newspaper I was reading.

“Don’t you want to see it?” inquired Smacker.

“Not unless it’s a spectacle that rivals the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica,” I answered. “I don’t suppose the ringmaster wants everyone gazing at his bottom in any case.”

“That’s where you’re wrong!” corrected Smacker. “He’s been lying on his belly with his trousers down to his ankles, begging for someone to put him out of his misery. The trapeze team are visiting him in the mobile clinic as we speak. The lion tamer and his assistant have already had a viewing. That boil is on the verge of becoming a major tourist attraction.”

I looked up from my newspaper and shook my head in disapproval. Why do fat men, of all humans, have the least inhibitions about exposing their bodies? They’re always the first to bare their paunchy bellies on a warm sunny day and never imagine that others might find the sight of their flesh distasteful. Needless to say, I had no interest in participating in this vile festival of voyeurism.

“I do not wish to inspect the excrescence on the ringmaster’s posterior, irrespective of whether the man has put it on public display,” I declared. “Let the geeks and ghouls sate their sordid curiosity by leering at this unwholesome abomination. I shall not give their unnatural desires a semblance of propriety by joining them in their depravity.”

Smacker frowned and bit his lip to signify that the moment of truth had arrived. “Look, GB, the thing is I need your help,” he pleaded. “The ringmaster won’t be ready for the show unless we do something about that boil and everyone expects me to take care of it because we haven’t hired a new doctor. They just won’t accept that it’s unprofessional for a vet to go around lancing men’s boils. I mean, no one expects a doctor to treat animals, do they?”

I looked at Smacker through narrowed eyelids. “You seem to know enough about his condition to have diagnosed that the boil needs lancing. Why not just take a deep breath and prick the ruddy thing?”

“I’ll be damned if I will!” cried Smacker vehemently. “I refuse to meddle with another man’s arse! I went to a boarding school so I’m sensitive about that kind of thing. It’s positively indecent!”

“You’re not suggesting that I do it, Smacker?” I asked in stupefied revulsion.

“Would you, please, GB? I swear I’d be eternally grateful. A gorilla can get away with that sort of thing because he’s immune from the hang-ups we humans have about our bums. I’ll give you a little syringe. Just prick it gently at the highest point and draw out all the fluid. It won’t take a second.”

I glared at Smacker indignantly. It was the old story of man assigning a task he found too arduous to an obedient beast of burden. My first inclination was to pound my chest and tell him to get lost. But then I considered the wider issues. If allowed to fester for much longer, this wretched pustule would rapidly become the talk of the circus. A celebrity boil would degrade our communal discourse to below the level of the gutter: I fairly winced at the prospect of hearing the clowns discuss its finer points. Sometimes one is selected by fate to perform a thankless task for the common good – like the fearless knight of yore who is called upon to slay a fire-breathing dragon to confound the intrigues of the evil necromancer.

“Smacker,” I replied at length, “you are a miserable poltroon. However, I agree to carry out this mission, not to save your blushes, but out of regard for public decency. Lead me to the ignoble carbuncle!”

When we entered the mobile clinic, the ringmaster was lying on his side with his face to the wall, moaning dejectedly. I inspected his buttocks. The boil was an absolute devil: a pus-filled blister about the size of half a ping-pong ball, which seemed to change colour from pink to yellow to white as I varied my angle of view. A monstrosity of that calibre had to be destroyed without mercy.

“Ringmaster,” I said quietly, “what I am about to do will hurt you far less than it will disgust me. I want you to imagine that you are sitting on a bidet spouting cool, lavender-scented fluids.” I removed the syringe from its package and brought it to bear on the afflicted tissue, crying: “I deploy my instrument in the name of St. George!”

The ringmaster yelped like a Chihuahua when the needle pierced the boil, but the pus drained away painlessly into the syringe. Smacker then handed me a pair of forceps, which held a copious ball of alcohol-soaked cotton wool. I applied this firmly to the deflated sore, which caused the ringmaster to weep like a craven sissy. I then affixed a plaster of ample dimensions on the sterilised wound. The operation having been completed, Smacker and I exited the mobile clinic, leaving our patient to convalesce.

The ringmaster made a speedy recovery and played his customary role in our opening performance of the season. We happened to pass each other in the backstage area during the trapeze act.

“Thank-you for dealing with of mine,” he mumbled. “I can’t tell you what a relief it was to sit down again.”

“Think nothing of it ringmaster,” I replied. “I just followed Dr Ramrod’s instructions. Is everything shipshape in the, ah, affected region?”

“There’s no pain, but it does itch a bit when I walk. You wouldn’t be able to apply a cream or something, would you?”

“Itches does it, ringmaster? Well to begin with, I’d advise you to get hold of a hairbrush and give it a good scratch – that normally works quite well with itches. If it still feels itchy after that, go and see Dr Ramrod, who’d be only too pleased to rub a soothing ointment into your sore. These medical men are never happier than when they’re treating their patients.”

Smacker Ramrod is a decent chap, but there are times when even a gorilla has to play hardball.

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