Mack Williams: Dancing with the Stars, then
The other day, a very intrusive television commercial got on my nerves while I was in another part of the apartment, some distance from the TV. At one time, there was a law against such commercials bursting forth in a sudden increase of volume, but I guess the ruling was later overturned by a judge who happened to be a fan of Hadyn’s “Surprise Symphony”, No. 94.
The strident ad was for “Dancing With the Stars,” and it was just as loud and worrisome as those “abs” commercials, which can sound a little strange when heard at a distance.
There is a difference in our sounding of the consonants “s” and “b.” The “s” is accompanied with air, or “aspirated,” whereas the “b” is not. That wisp of air makes the “s” sound travel further than that of “b.” “A” is also more audible than “s” because it escapes an open mouth on the air.
When the “abs” commercial comes on, and when one is in another room, its partially heard pronunciation (with “a” and “s” naturally favored aurally over “b”) inspires an imagined (and somewhat frightening) mental picture of another part ( unintended) of the body becoming “ripped,” or even scarier, “six-packed!”
But back to “Dancing With the Stars” (the only time to worry is if I don’t realize that I have veered off subject and never return). The male “stars” featured on that particular “Dancing” ad seemed to resemble each other in boring homogeneity. But to be fair, perhaps I just caught the show’s commercial on a bad week.
None of those listed possessed the unique qualities of some of the old western character actors: Jack Elam, Slim Pickens, Jack Palance or Strother Martin. (Based on most of his film appearances, Mr. Martin particularly, would have benefitted from a good bit of “sprucing up” before dancing on national television.)
Another character with “character” was the actor Hank Worden, the older, tall, thin, bald-headed man, whom some of us recall from John Wayne’s films such as “The Horse Soldiers”.
And of course, we must add the classic face of Sydney Blackmer, who also had roles in some many movies, a few of which were B-westerns. I particularly recall one in which he was a bad man of the Pampas and worked a “mean” set of bolas.
The glimpses of “stars” displayed on that “Dancing With the Stars” commercial all looked to be young men in their mid-20s, sporting a four- to five-day growth of beard. This is evidently presently regarded as “sexy.” When I was at East Rowan in the mid-late 1960s, if any of the guys had come to class looking like that, it would have prompted his classmates to ask: “Did you forget to shave?”
That same question would have then been repeated like the “wave” at a football gae, working its way from the youth’s fellow classmates to his teachers, and eventually all the way up to his school principal.
But I forget; in accordance with the strictest adherence to chronological order, that question would have first been asked by the student’s bus driver.
At East, in the ‘60s, we guys went out of our way to avoid looking “scraggly.” (I bet that not one of the East Rowan girls back then had a poster of Gabby Hayes on her bedroom wall).
Humphrey Bogart sometimes appeared a little “grubby” in film, but with what he had, he could pull it off.
I do recall one person whom I thought really stood out as unique on “Dancing With the Stars,” and that was Buzz Aldrin, but I’ve always been a fan of NASA.
In comparison to the “Jello-and-bullion-cube” blandness of many of today’s stars, imagine if “Dancing” had been on the air during the 1950s and ‘60s. Nothing is on the air now, just on a wire, or from some satellite in the great void of space (“void” bringing to mind Newton Minow’s “vast wasteland”).
If it had been during those days, that recently aurally spiked television ad would have highlighted a guy getting a chance to dance with Gloria Swanson, possibly making him feel like William Holden (after having first made sure that the set didn’t contain a swimming pool).
Likewise that same week, imagine a girl finally getting that always yearned-for opportunity to take a turn on the dance floor with Peter Lorre!
But as they used to say in some of the old science fiction movies,Í “Some things are better left unknown” (and unimagined).