Do they still do that thing of growing mustached for prostate cancer awareness in November? My sober anniversary month, November 17th, stained with the rainy teardrops of shaking and quaking and the usual marker between my manic and depressive phases --the pain is all long gone but the tremors linger on. Rough times, man. October is my favorite month, November my least (after April). But what is Heaven if not Hell finally accepted? The flaming beard of the sage is as a nest for the bird of wisdom; rant against cigarettes and condomless sex still the cows come home, Safety-First Clydes. Gives a flying fuck doth the sage? He accepts Hell and finds heaven. Or as Kristofferson put it:
"I ain't sayin' I beat the devil, but I drank his beer for nothing.Then I stole his song."See, the man Kristofferson is from a different time, his beard is a different breed from the quirky hipster's. It's all there in the movies of the 70s vs. the movies today. Badass country songwriters in the movies today got about two options: twitchy meth dealers who abuse their wives and children as ominous music simmers on the stove score, or serious, hard working sober Christians in flannel who just want to teach the son of the single mom he shacks up with how to fish, whittle, or tune a guitar before he has to ride into the sunset or take one last shady job to pay for his boy's operation. There is no middle ground today, no man who is both reveler and decent guy, spiritual seeker but not a prude, not a cliche'd everyman but a dude, one free to drink and smoke without needing to make a good impression. There's only the Dude left, and he's just gonna keep ridin' - keep takin' 'er easy. But once upon a time there was a slew. That's why LEBOWSKI would be nowhere without Sam Elliot to supply the narration and Saspirilla drinkin' - he's the sanctification, the link we need for clarity --we'd never see the straight line woven along from Hawks and Bogart's Marlowe to Gould's Marlowe to Bridges' faux-low easy rider, unscrambling the remains of the Chandler Sleep-verse deconstructing around him to, recently, Phoenix's Doc. But what about the less educated, less artsy, more plainspoken and 'real' representations of manly cool? The cowboys, the straight line between John Wayne and Bob Mitchum to football players played by Kristofferson and Reynolds in SEMI-TOUGH? All we got now is Adam goddamn Sandler and his saintly manchild contingents.
Back before that manchild thing, the result of not being able to smoke in public, before the PC putsch that gave rise to unbridled Commie indoctrination in academia, back in the 70s, if you wanted to tell a story about a raunchy team in the flyovers you could make them hard drinking ten year-olds or coaches who'd just as soon call the game off and pass out. Those were real men! I wish to god I was with 'em, but they're dead or worse, sober. For 17 godly years, but I drank the devil's brew for free. 'Til I paid. Fitting that the quote above is an intro to a song about meeting a "great and wasted" friend of his, Johnny Cash in a Kristofferson's "To Beat the Devil":
"I saw that he was about a step away from dyin' and I couldn't help but wonder why. And the lines of this song occurred to me. I'm happy to say he's no longer wasted and he's got him a good woman. And I'd like to dedicate this to John and June, who helped show me how to beat the devil."
"Do you suppose a man has to be a miserable son of a bitch all the time just to write a good song now and then?"
The hipsters today don't need to be miserable anymore, they got antidepressants and Cialis, they'd never be son of a bitches, and they'll never get the nicotine and cyprine stained beards of the 70s dads and groovy football-when-it-was-cool older brothers, the goalpost indication, the beard that cares without being a pussy about it, the indication that a man had 'passed' his acid test, was no longer that into looking young and gorgeous, was cured of all his narcissism and insecurity and was, above all, too lazy to shave.
November's also a month of great introversion and isolation and blockedness, so for me the usual cinematic obsessions with wild cool women fades. All I do is sit around and watch World War Two documentaries and Vin Diesel movies (he's our century's John Wayne and don't make me prove it), Tennessee Williams movies, James Coburn, John Huston, Voight, Reynolds and the man with the best beard of all, Kris Kristofferson. (1)
So who gives a fuck about that little pisher Jesse Eisenberg throwing his lot in with the UWS bourgeoisie and their smug piddly ass New Yorker subscriptions and their tired tweed jacket self-importance and knowing chortles? Soon my kind will drop 'em down and the new generation of ten thousand talkin' and nobody listenin' will swallow them up. Kristofferson is still the coolest man on TV. And all you have to do is watch THE VOICE and how regular that lanky Blake Shelton beats his the crushingly insecure and narcissistic manchild Adam Levine. I'm no country music fan in general but between who I'd rather drink and shoot bottles with or have as an AA sponosr, it's old Shelton. You just know he'd be able to talk about more than how you like his hair and what people are tweeting about him.
The 1970s dad was peaceful enough to understand the need for these sorts of outlets for his children and friends. In our more "enlightened" times no one is allowed to fight or have raunchy sex without consensual agreement in writing beforehand, and gloves on all contacting parts, or even the compulsive need to boast, overthink, drain the spontaneous joy out of it, and feel guilty afterwards, second-guessing and self sabotage all because we drank the nonsmoking manchild/perfect man dichotomy rom-com Kool Aid, which is exactly how European men describe the American woman's attitude towards sex. For all it's tossed-off clumsiness and Burt's intentionally shocking freedom with vulgarity and the N-word, SEMI-TOUGH is a rare document revealing that if only for a decade, we had sex like the French and fought like Americans instead of the sad reverse." (MORE)
COOLEST COUPLES: DINA SHORE and BURT REYNOLDS
We can see dim shades of it in Demi Moore and Ashton, but it's far more about, or seems about, two insecure narcissists desperate to connect. And Ashton and Burt in 1974 have a certain immature rawness in common where you could understand an older woman going for it, because she knows she has something worthwhile to give them back, more than money or maternal support. But there's no comparison beyond that because unlike Ashton, Burt was/is a real man. And here on Larry King he's being more emotional than Shore was, and that's why it's so brave, why it brings me almost tomy knees to read that interview above because it reminds me of something our 21st century man has yet to find. Male sensitivity now is inescapable, but it's worthless, it's just passive-aggressive snickering boy nonsense wrapped in high-voiced ectomorphic pretentiousness. Dinah would bitch slap the lot of them, while Burt cracked up in the background, and because she's not here to do it, we all mourn. (more)
1. I should add I'm very unnerved by Kristofferson when he's clean shaven. I know laudable critics from Kim Morgan to David Thomson love the naked faced KK in films like PAT GARRETT AND BILLY THE KID and CISCO PIKE... maybe I will too, one day.