Hello, children, welcome to the Phile for a Monday. How are you? It's no secret that the Mormon Church isn't at the forefront of women's rights. Women are denied priesthood and it was huge news last year when female missionaries were granted the right to wear pants (just not to church). But it was still shocking to read this flyer given to girls attending a Mormon youth dance.
It was posted by the Latter Day Lesbian Podcast, which is hosted by two queer women who left the Church. The flyer tells female attendees they shouldn't make boys "feel uncomfortable" with their dress or turn down anyone who's requested a dance. Holy rape culture, Batman! It propagates a confusing double-bind for young girls: be yourself, assuming that self is attractive to members of the opposite sex. Boys aren't armed with similar counsel, and if they were, it wouldn't be about respecting girls' wishes. Girls' agency re: sex and dating aren't important. It's more important to protect boys' feelings and give them what they asked for. Perhaps the least offensive part is the absolute mishmash of fonts. Oof. All in all, a discouraging window into Mormon youth culture. Any Mormons or former Church members willing to weigh in?
Kate Middleton wearing a coat? That's news. Kate Middleton re-wearing a coat for the fourth time? That means she's worn the same coat a whopping FIVE times, and that's BREAKING news! A recent headline on the tabloid Page Six tallied up the number of times the Duchess of Cambridge donned the same Alexander McQueen jacket, and it spawned a write up that's over 200 words. The post was promptly ratioed, as counting the exact number of times a woman wears a coat and framing it as news is quite ridiculous.
Women wear clothes... fashion reporting is fun and a real discipline... but framing the recycling as novel is just funny. The nature of outerwear is to be worn repeatedly. The headline could be interpreted as critcizing Kate, but it can also be seen as humanizing the royal to the masses. Stars: they're just like us! They wear coats! There's also plenty of other important things going on. Climate change is real, and people must recycle. For instance, one can wear a coat multiple times.
On September 20th, over 4 million people marched on the streets in climate strikes across the world to demand leaders and giant corporations recognize and join the fight against climate change, which poses an increasing existential threat. As recently as thirty years ago, it was fairly mainstream to discount the severe threats posed by climate change, a large portion of the general public turned a blind eye and most leaders in power conveniently ignored the science. But now, as the Amazon rainforest burns and climate change fuels migration millions have joined the fight to call out leaders and demand systemic change, while also making personal changes (such as going vegan, biking, and planting trees) to combat a catastrophic future. Still, amidst ample evidence and a growing crisis, there are still deniers... some hold office like Donald Trump, and others spend their time trolling on Twitter (like Trump). When the columnist Lorrie Goldstein went on Twitter to troll "social justice warriors" about their inability to explain climate science, his post quickly backfired. Karen Geier, the writer and producer of On Belief: A Podcast About Cutls and On Grief: A Podcast About Death, was quick to chime in with a series of well laid out facts proving climate change is real. Geier clearly laid out the progression of climate change since the industrial age, and precisely why the earth has been trapping heat. Geier even posted links and referenced the fact that 97 percent of scientists support the research backing climate change, and its very real risks (and current wreckage). Others jumped on the thread to point out the fact that many of us can't describe the science of everyday objects we use... or even gravity itself, but that doesn't negate the reality. It's truly dangerous to deny climate change at this point, and it also logically makes no sense because even in a parallel universe where climate change wasn't real, we'd all still benefit from cleaning up the environment.
What did your president do this month? Mine made fun of a teenage girl who is trying to save the entire planet from extinction. Unfortunately it's real life, although I'm still waiting for someone to jump out of a cake and announce that this has all been one long, dark joke, that Obama is still president and Ashton Kutcher has been punking us this whole time. Just in case you don't know by now, 16-year-old Swedish activist Greta Thunberg spoke at the U.N.'s summit on climate change, and the President of the United States of America responded by mocking her on Twitter. In a widely-circulating video, the teenager speaks gravely, and often seems to be on the verge of tears, as she talks about the dismal future, and present, of our planet. "People are suffering, people are dying, entire ecosystems are collapsing," she says. "We are in the beginning of a mass extinction and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth." Surprise! Trump, whose entire platform is a fairy tale of eternal economic growth (bolstered by racism), did not like it. He responded on Twitter by sarcastically mocking her for not being "happy" enough: "She seems like a very happy young girl looking forward to a bright and wonderful future," he wrote. "So nice to see!" Many people responded to Trump's petulant tweet, but the best response by far came from Thunberg herself, who played Trump at his own game with a few choice words in her Twitter bio.
The Internet is praising Greta for out-trolling the U.S. President. The hashtag #GretaThunbergOutdidTrump is trending on Twitter as support for the teen activist rolls in from all over the world. Many are quoting the teen's more-pertinent-than-ever words from this past August, when she said, "When haters go after your looks and differences, it means they have nowhere left to go. And then you know you’re winning! I have Aspergers and that means I’m sometimes a bit different from the norm. And... given the right circumstances... being different is a superpower." Greta even got the approval of Twitter's clap-back queen, Miss Christine Teigen. This is Girl Power at it's finest. Maybe the President should focus on the impending impeachment proceedings and not spend his free time picking on teens on Twitter.
The Sun Herald reports that a truck driver and her husband stopped at the Tiger Truck Stop, a Louisiana destination known for housing exotic animals. The couple stepped out with their dog, while not an exotic animal, happens to be deaf, and when he ran away, the woman chased him into a camel's barbed wire pen. WBRZ reported what happened next, and it reads like the synopsis of an "Animaniacs" cartoon, "Authorities say camel was spooked by the wandering dog and woman chasing it, so the camel gave chase to the woman, eventually pinning her against the wall of a building. The camel then sat on top of the woman, nearly crushing her. Authorities said in an attempt to save herself, the woman bit the testicles of the camel so it would jump off of her. The woman then escaped, authorities said." As if being crushed by a camel and having its balls in your mouth isn't bad enough, the woman was issued a ticket for trespassing and not having a dog on a leash. Next time you want to bite a camel's balls, make sure you have its permission to enter its pen.
Instead of doing this blog thing maybe I should be listening to this album...
Maybe not. Do you think Ireland's President looks like Danny DeVito playing Bernie Sanders? Here he is...
I do. If I had a TARDIS I would probably end up going to the set of a movie I have never seen, Gone With the Wind but knowing my luck Vivian Leigh would be sleeping...
This just in, the white House Press Secretary just released a newly discovered hotfoot of Trump's inauguration...
That's a lot of people. Haha. So, if you're thinking of cheating on your loved one you might wanna think twice after seeing this...
If you can't read what it says I'll tell you... it says, "[McDonalds, Cargill Inc., Burger King] Don't be chicken, stop burning the Amazon for soy to feed me." Some signs that people had were pretty snarky...
Ha! That's great! Now from the home office in Port Jefferson, New York, here is...
5. He shows up with a pair of nail clippers and a Ziploc bag.
4. On the side of his mower you notice the stenciled silhouettes of thirteen cats.
3. Stops frequently to nap inside the grass-catcher.
2. Always trying to impress you by stopping the mower blades with his head.
And the number one sign you hired the wrong kid to mow your lawn is...
1. You notice him shoving the last of his clothes into the mulcher.
If you spot the Mindphuck let me know. Okay, so, there's this guy who is known as the fanciest man in town. He likes to pop in to the Phile once in a while so please welcome back to the Phile...
Me: Samual, welcome back to the Phile. What's going on?
Samual: Hello, Jason. I went to a furniture store the other day and purchased some new furniture.
Me: Oh, yeah? What did you get?
Samual: Matching bedroom furniture. Especially a vanity table set with a little fancy bench.
Me: Ummm... okay. A vanity table?
Samual: Such a status symbol to sit on a little padded stool with three backlit mirrors!
Me: Hmmmm... okay.
Samual: Well, I like it. I have to run, Jason, there's a sale going on for something I want that's really fancy.
Me: What's that?
Samual: Fragrant body powder that came in a little round box with a poof. I'm amazed. Bye for now.
Me: Samual Phancy, the fanciest man in town, kids.
His drinking buddies have changed. Alright, there's this really tough guy who likes to come on to the Phile and tell us something about his life to prove how masculine he is. I don't think he is but I'm not telling him that to his face. Anyway, please welcome back to the Phile...
Me: Hello, Martin, how are you?
Martin Masculinity: I'm good, Jason, how are you?
Me: Pretty good. So, what's new?
Martin Masculinity: I saw this one this one guy the other day that got on his tip toes and bowed out his chest like a gorilla and get all in my face.
Me: Huh? Why is that?
Martin Masculinity: Goes she felt threatened. It was such a funny stereotype maneuver.
Me: Hmmm... what did you do?
Martin Masculinity: Nothing. I laughed in his face and walked away.
Me: That's it? You didn;t hit him or push him or anything?
Martin Masculinity: No, I'm more masculine than that.
Me: Okay. Martin Masculinity, the toughest an alive. So he says.
The 106th book to be pheatured in the Peverett Phile Book Club is...
That's a classic book. John Irving will be the guest on the Phile in a few weeks.
Phact 1. In Russia, the Russian word for vodka is in the top 1000 most used words. (#945).
Phact 2. Mountain Dew was made to be mixed with whiskey.
Phact 3. For a short period of time, the Punisher was revived as a Frankenstein’s Monster-like creature, magically reassembled together out of decomposing pieces of the corpse of Frank Castle, who had just been killed by Wolverine’s son.
Phact 4. In the 30s, workers in Costa Rica unearthed almost perfectly round stone spheres. No one is sure exactly when or how they were made, or by whom, or for what reason. The largest is 16 tons.
Phact 5. There are no Walmarts in New York City due to intense opposition from local unions and politicians.
Today's guest was a television writer for "Late Show with David Letterman" and "Late Night with David Letterman." He stars in the 2018 documentary Bathtubs Over Broadway detailing his discovery and pursuit of Industrial Musicals, which you could currently see on Netflix and Amazon Prime. Please welcome to the Phile... Steve Doing.
Me: Hey, Steve, welcome to the Phile. It's great to have you here. How are you?
Steve: Thanks for having me, Jason, and I'm doing good.
Me: You're welcome. You wrote for David Letterman for a long time, Steve. Are you still writing? I know not for Dave but for anyone else?
Steve: Yeah, I'm still writing. Like I said before I have comedy damage.
Me: Comedy damage? What does that mean? You can say this blog is full of "comedy damage." Hahahaha.
Steve: It means I've spent so much time writing jokes, rewriting jokes, analyzing jokes, hearing other people's jokes, I was up to my eyeballs everyday in jokes. It came to a point where it was more of a practical consideration opposed to whether it was funny anymore. This is not unique to me, I think many, many people in the comedy world react to jokes by going "Hm hmm, yeah, that's good." It's sad but sort of hilarious in a way that I lost the ability to enjoy humor on the most primal level of "Wow! Great! Burst put laughing." I just think analytically yes, that works properly.
Me: Okay, so you have a documentary out called Bathtubs Over Broadway. I had Martin Short on the Phile not long ago and he was in some of these musicals. First of, can you explain what these musicals are?
Steve: Simply lavish musicals... complete with catchy songs, choreographed dances and intricate costumes... that were never intended for the general public. I discovered that companies like Ford, McDonald's and General Electric all had commissioned musicals to entertain clients and investors at corporate meetings. Unable to believe that these secret shows existed.
Me: I think that's kinda cool and crazy at the same time. How did you first find out about these musicals?
Steve: I was just starting at the Letterman show in 1990. The head writer said, "We do this bit called 'Dave's Record Collection.' Maybe you could be the guy scooping up the weird used records for that." It had to be unintentionally funny, it would not work to do something that someone had already prepackaged as funny. So I would look for weird instructional records and celebrities who shouldn't have been singing but were. Any sort of oddball material I would go out and find these records in stores around New York City. There were still more records stores in those days and thrift shops. I started coming back with these record albums and at first I couldn't wrap my mind around what they were. The first one I found was a G.E. one from 1966 was the first one I ever saw. I just thought it was one more weird record in the parade of weird records. Then when I found about four more it dawned on me that is a genre and it thrills me to my core because it is so conceptually improbable these super well produced musicals full of songs I cannot get out of my head. They're all about selling tires, or selling tractors or being a Coca-Cola bottle or whatever, it's just like how can this possibly be true at the same time... with lyrics about how to sell the tires or the tractors and the peppy show tunes. It was better than comedy that I could've written.
Me: This wasn't just a little show like a school's talent show, this was a huge Broadway like musical, right? I have a picture of what one would look like here...
Steve: Yeah, a lot of people think that'll be cute, a little in house thing with the talented girl down the hall in PR singing a little intro. Imagine Radio City Music Hall in New York City packed to the rafters with five or six thousand Ford tractor personnel from all over the world that have been flown in and there on the stage at Radio City Music Hall there was all the Rockettes and professional Broadway singers, dancers, actors and a dozen tractors. It just goes back to how can that have been real and thank god it was because it was better than anything I could have thought up.
Me: Why did the records exist? Was it a souvenir?
Steve: Yes. If you were at the show or in the theater company to help pound home the messages about why it's going to be a great year and here are the facts about the new specifications of the sneakers they were going to be selling it was believed this was a great way to keep the excitement of the conventional live, and I don't find many of the records that show heavy use. Let me tell you I think it'a adorable, it's like, "Why did I get this? No, I'm not going to listen to it again." So I find a lot that don't seem to be played.
Me: Why did these companies make these in the first place?
Steve: They seemed to reach their flowering at the point after World War 2 and several things happened. Broadway musicals had hit their stride and were fully mainstream entertainment in the 50s. I don't know what the exact proportions were but it was assumed that if they were nice middle class people and interested in culture they probably had the soundtrack to My Fair Lady in their house because that was one of the most popular records of the decade. It was not weird or niche to be interested in musicals. Then there were these companies that were juggernauts in this post-war economy with money to burn... I think it was a tax write off in many cases to do these shows. So it was not deeply dangerous to their bottom line. It was protégés, it was fun and when done correctly it actually could have this magic fairy dust of excitement and motivation that really no other activity at one of these meetings could have done.
Me: Was it hard to choose which songs to out in the film?
Steve: Yeah, there were antagonizing choices that Dave the director had to make. There were thousands and thousands of songs that I provided.
Me: What is one of the most surprising records you found?
Steve: It was the Dominion Road Machinery Company which made motor-graters for road construction. The first time I ever saw this record I bought it from sight unseen from a record dealer who pulled it out of a thrift shop. He had a pretty high price tag on it and I was like, "Ewwwww. Guess you got me over a barrel." Best 75 dollars I ever spent was for this record.
Me: Okay, so, if you played those records now what goes through your head?
Steve: Well, the thrill of this is way better than it should've been or needed to be. What I found out talking to so many people who worked on this stuff the better creative people just had no setting other than maximum. That's one of the ways I really learnt to love this stuff. "I don't care if a hundred people here this once, it's going to be the best musical about motor-graters than could be imagined." I love that about them, I love the wild variety of musical styles I see across the decades. This thing has been quite the education for me. I love the detective work and sometimes I'm frustrated, I still have no idea who wrote to or who performed in it.
Me: Do you know who wrote any of them?
Steve: Yeah, I do know who wrote the General Electric one. Fred Ebb, John Kander, and Walter Marks. Kander and Ebb did this G.E. show right before Cabaret went on Broadway and suddenly they were major players on Broadway. They graduated out of "Industrials."
Me: What do you think you connect with emotionally here?
Steve: Well, it was a long multi-stage process. The weirdness of it and the delight of finding something so well hidden, so off the radar, that seems so enormous. with these shows we'll never know how many were done but I'm sure it's in the thousands. Very few were recorded, and I feel the thrill of rescuing the fragments of history before they go over the edge into the darkness for ever. And once I started talking to people who wrote these things and performed in them and learning about their lives and their attitudes to what they did that sometimes seems eerily like what I had to think about getting up every day going to the Letterman show where I was having a great time generally but most of what I would work on wasn't used or was used and really, who was going to remember it a week later.
Me: Do you think that's normal for a daily talk show?
Steve: Yeah, I had to make peace with a lot of stuff is not going to get used or if it is used it's disposable. This stuff was considered as ultimate disposable.
Me: You said at the start of the interview that comedy doesn't really make you laugh a lot, but in the film you laugh a lot. What is making you laugh there?
Steve: Oh, I suppose it's the fact that it's not trying to be a conventional joke. There are layers of comedy here way of the usual grid but just at the delight of further discovery and when something sounds really good and I think okay, this is one for the hall of fame.
Me: I have to tell you that I am a big Letterman fan. What did you think of him or the show?
Steve: For the Letterman show Dave came along and really got going at a time when a generation had grown up on the birth on television more or less. It had absorbed all these cliches and conventions, internalized them, pondered their absurdities and was ready to regurgitate them upside down and backwards absurd surreal forms. Dave was doing that and there's some of that in this although this is completely sincere.
Me: What makes you laugh the most?
Steve: I find I laugh very hard at what I could not have thought of. For me surprise in comedy is an allusive quality.
Me: Were these musicals supposed to be funny?
Steve: Sometimes there was no laugh point, it was just so hilarious I couldn't find the oxygen around it to get a laugh out.
Me: I watched a clip of you being interviewed by Dave when your book came out and he seemed to enjoy showing the records and talking about it. Am I right? I have a screen shot of it...
Steve: Dave loves certain things generally and I respond to that also.
Me: What was it like meeting the people that worked on these shows? That really must have been cool for you, Steve.
Steve: I was so thrilled when I met the people that worked on this stuff, I could not have imagined that it existed, I could not have imagined that I would meet these people, find a kinship with them, a friendship with them. That is a sort of laughter of delight on a cosmic level.
Me: I love the bathroom song "My Bathroom" from The Bathrooms Are Coming! that you show a clip of, and Dave played on the show when he interviewed you. What do you think of this song?
Steve: This I often refer to this song as the gateway drug because it's so startling on every level. It's beautifully written, it's beautifully performed, it's beautifully sung by my dear friend Pat who I am now friends with. It has this combination of eerily other worldly bulletproof music and then there's lyric, "well, it's my bathroom." Yes, it's mundane, and then it bursts past mundane into this cosmic... do I keep saying cosmic?
Me: Nope. The bathroom is a nice place to be, right?
Steve: She's not wrong.
Me: What does the person singing about bathrooms think of it now?
Steve: Pat, who I had a great pleasure to talk to and hang out with many times, we've talked about this song and how it seems to rise above all the other ones. She said, "Well, there's great songs in this genre about tractors, but not that many people have tractors." Everybody's got a bathroom, everybody feels that this song is about something they know and they never knew they'd be a song about it, and if there's going to be a song, damn, let's make it this one.
Me: Why did you want to track Pat and these other people down?
Steve: Well, I have to admit I did not know when I started with my detective work where it was going to go. I was just until the somewhat cynical comedy writer who thought 'if I can find this guy whose name is on the back of this record maybe he'll tell me what else he did and maybe he's got stuff in his basement and maybe I can add to my collection.' Many of times that has happened and that's wonderful but I didn't think what was happening that I would makes these lifelong friendships with people from different walks of life. But in many cases people at the far end of their careers who were certain that everything in this genre had disappeared forever and no one was going to ask them about it. No one would ever appreciate what they did. It was thrilling for me to tell someone, "No, I'm a fan of your work. I know I'm not supposed to hear it but I heard it and gone past the feeling that it's a novelty. I want to talk to you about what you did."
Me: Were they touched?
Steve: Sometimes people have been very suspicious of this on the outset. "Very funny, who put you up to this? This is a prank, right? How can anyone be asking a serious question about what is the deal with the '79 BF Goodrich tire show?" They think some friend of theres is pulling one over on them. Then they're surprised, "How did you find this? My god, I never thought someone would ask me about this." Then the follow up is, "You know, after we spoke I went down to the basement and pulled out some stuff and found my old records and listened to them. They were good, weren't they?" They get to reaccess their own work in a way that probably was not going to happen otherwise.
Me: Are the people that wrote Cabaret or other musicals ashamed at all of this work that they did?
Steve: It's possible some people are. Not everybody I tried to find I've been successful of reaching. I think some people want to forget about this. But it seems to me a vast majority of writers, performers, are unapologetic they say, "Yes, it was a great training ground, we made good money, we met wonderful people." All this stuff was shot through with top level talent with every level. Some people said it was just a wonderful training ground, Sheldon Hernick, the Fiddler on the Roof lyricist actually said when he started to get some real traction on Broadway he felt twinge of regret because he thought he hoped he didn't have to stop doing industrials. He enjoyed the puzzle of it so much, how to combine music that was so good with lyrics that were so improbable but he forced it to work against all odds. He liked that.
Me: Was there a stigma at the time of doing it?
Steve: There could be that feeling that they would get pigeon holed. "Oh, well, he's very good at doing industrials, he's sort of slick and glib and whatever." But too many people proved that that was a joke that they could get forced to stay in. So many people went on to legitimate Broadway careers. A number of Tony Award winners and for god's sake, I talked to Chita Rivera and she showed up for her interview wearing her Presidential Medal of Freedom. I don't think she could be put down as a hack.
Me: Nope. So, I have worked for the Disney company at Walt Disney World for 31 years or so and is considered a "lifer." A lot of people who went to see these industrial shows worked at their companies all their lives as well, as you mentioned in the documentary. Why is that?
Steve: There was great work and honest work done at so many levels. For the person in the audience getting ready to go back out to help the product of Americas progress, the people who are writing it, the people who are singing it, the people who are in the executive suite who say we want these people to feel the pride in this company's mission that will help us all do better. And then my own honest work hopefully in finding these people and giving them credit that they weren't destined to get. But now here we are.
Me: When you play, or if you play, any of these records to other people what do they say about them?
Steve: People who don't know what they're getting into think it's going to be kitschy and shallow and quirky, funny, they'd laugh and move on. There's been songs that people said to me, "I know I'm not a diesel engine dealer but I started to get a little weepy about this song or that song." It's very affective where they could put stuff like this in a song to make someone think something is important here and I want to be part of it.
Me: You even wrote some of your own music for this film, Steve. Would you call them "industrials?"
Steve: They're in the ballpark. They're setting the stage for something we want you to know about. They're "infotainment" perhaps but the closing number I think s in the vein of "Tractor Driving Man" or "My Bathroom," a celebration of why we're all in this together.
Me: Have you written music before?
Steve: Yeah, I wrote music for the Letterman show and I have been writing music for a long time.
Me: Cool. Now you have written songs who have written music for these industrials... how does that make you feel?
Steve: Well, I'm what you'd consider a "duffer," I'm a decent finger picker on an acoustic guitar and I guess I have some facility with words but I never considered myself a songwriter who cannot himself up to the next to the people who are the top practitioners of this stuff like Hank Beebe, Sid Siegel, Michael Brown and many others we didn't even have a chance to mention in the film. So if I get to sit down next to one of these people as a colleague peer it's gift they might be sort of indulgent. Maybe they see something in me that I don't see in the same way that I saw things in them or their work that they didn't know about.
Me: Steve, this was a cool interview. Thanks for being on the Phile, sir. I have to mention Rob Burnett who I had on the Phile who emailed me recommending I interview you.
Steve: It's my pleasure. This has been my great driving mission for so long, I can't believe this is real, you got to hear this. That's just the genesis of it.
Me: I want to find some of these records. So, do you still talk to Dave?
Steve: Yeah, Dave Letterman is an executive producer of this movie and a great supporter and is in the film which is sort of astonishing also. I got to sit down and interview the man. Not to many people get to do that.
Me: Well, tell him I want to interview him next time you speak to him, Steve. Haha.
Steve: I will. It's great to talk to you, Jason.
That about does it for this entry of the Phile. Thanks to Steve Young for a great interview. The Phile will be back on Thursday with musician Dave Bickler. Spread the word, not the turd. Don't let snakes and alligators bite you. Bye, love you, bye.
I don't want you, cook my bread, I don't want you, make my bed, I don't want your money too, I just want to make love to you. - Willie Dixon