Posts Tagged ‘W. C. Fields’

“Never give a sucker an even break.”

July 20, 2012

There is a sequence in a W. C. Fields movie (If memory servers, that would be “Never give a sucker an even break”) that shows a con man with a funny name (Fields) at a coffee shop lunch counter chatting up the fellow next to him.  The rapscallion makes his move and says to the victim:  “It’s been a pleasure talking to you; I think I’ll buy your lunch.  When I get up to the cashier, I’ll tell her to charge me for your lunch, so you raise your hand when I point in this direction.”  Then when he talks to the young hostess with access to the cash register, he says:  “The fellow next to me offered to buy my lunch.  It’s that guy.”  He points to the gullible fellow, who raises his hand.  Fields marches off in triumph leaving the film audience in hysterics.

All this esoteric film history would be relevant if we were trying to land a gig as the intern at the British film review website <a href =

>Cinesthesiac</I>, if they ever expand their staff to include that position.  However, since this column is going to be posted on sites that relish mordacious political punditry, we had better hasten to add that this vignette from the cinema vaults can serve as a metaphor for a newer and more pertinent swindle being perpetrated on gullible Americans and proceed immediately to the explanation of the symbolism involved.

A loveable rascal in the White House wanted to go down in history as a war President and so he convinces his country to start a quick war that (he assured the citizens) wouldn’t cost much and would be over quickly and successfully.  Then, several years later, when his successor from another political party falls into the trap, the slick fellow tells the cashier:  “He’s going to pay for my war!” and <I>voila!</I> the chump raises his hand and (eventually) gets a big surprise.  Economic chaos ensues (Don’t the Republicans think that economic chaos is an example of knee-slap funny humor?) . . . .

If a W. C. Fields character where to be given a contract for security at a big world famous sports event, the cad would over promise performance, under deliver results, and then take the money and run leaving the host country to fill the security gap.  What Conservative doesn’t believe in the old Woody Allen philosophy of “Take the money and run”?

Before America got into WWII, Fields ran a campaign for President.  The thought of a fellow who is mostly known for bumbling, unscrupulous business conduct vying for a chance to move into the White House was a hilarious diversion for the American voters who had, in 1940, been coping with economic adversity for a decade.

One of the agents in the World’s Laziest Journalist spy corps recently filed a report saying that over at the Amalgamated Conspiracy Theory Factory, some of the more radical thinkers (?) on the staff are predicting that the Republicans are going to use a “Lucy van Pelt pulls away the football” type maneuver to take the nomination away from the presumptive (“never assume!”) nominee.

Gullible rubes refuse to consider the possibility that pundits are serious when the use the qualifying phrase “presumptive nominee” when they talk about Mitt Romney.  Their naiveté is a crucial ingredient for the political <I>blitzkrieg</I> (allegorically speaking) that will be unleashed before the Republican convention is called to order in Tampa.

The folks at the Amalgamated Conspiracy Theory Factory, this week, were expressing the old Jimmy Durante line:  “Everybody is trying to get into the act.”  Where does journalism reporting rumors end and conspiracy theories start?  Is there a cusp area? There were rumors online Thursday hinting that a certain front running candidate may have to contend with assertions he was given amnesty for some income tax evasion offenses and if this unfounded rumor turns out to be true, he might be ruled retroactively ineligible to be a participant in the Primary and General Election activities.

Americans have been anesthetized to any shock that might accompany proof that a politician is telling blatant lies.  Suppose (AKA “What if . . . ?”) that a party’s front runner has to content with undeniable, irrefutable proof that he has committed a major misdeed (such as income tax evasion?) just days before the convention is scheduled to start?  Could a fellow be ruled retroactively ineligible to participate in some Primary elections and stripped of his wins?  (Did Mitt ever win the tour de France?)

It seems to some of the members of the Amalgamated Conspiracy Theory Workers union that some amateur scabs were doing some speculating this week that come perilously close to infringing on their trade.

There could be major problems ahead for the Republican Party.  If (subjunctive mood) Mitt is a rich kid who knows that where there is enough available money there is always a way to get what he wants and if the Republicans hint that it is time for him to be graceful and step down, perhaps the rich kid will become obstreperous.  If Mitt comes unglued by the tax question, he might have a meltdown that would make the Howard Dean scream incident seem very tame in comparison.

What would the Republican Party do if a respected newspaper had a Pentagon Papers moment and published authentic copies of the tax returns in dispute?  What if Mitt still wouldn’t step aside?

If that were to happen, then it might be time for a journalist-curmudgeon to say:  “The kid’s not a real trooper; send him home.”

If a Mitt candidacy is unacceptable to Republicans how can they possibly expect to sell him to Reagan Democrats?

If Mitt wasn’t really shuttling between working on the Olympics and working at Bain, could that rascally old Mormon have been splitting some of his family values time with an extra wife?

Speaking of double standards, most Liberals don’t understand the Conservative philosophy of boardroom conduct.  The executives, because of their “hands on” style of management, earn every last cent of their paycheck when things are rosy and profitable, but when things go sour, it must always be blamed on some underling who kept “the chief” in the dark about potential problems.  Being a mid-level management executive these days is like being a human shield protecting the fearless leader from indictments and irate stockholders.  When Republican industrial moguls say “You can’t loose,” that exactly what they mean.  Unfortunately, that caveat doesn’t apply to managers who don’t sit of the board of directors.

Was it Fields or Laurel and Hardy that featured the shtick about flipping a coin and saying:  “Heads, I win; tails, you loose!”?  What conservative Christian can’t condone that example of how to bamboozle a sucker?

St. Ronald Reagan often said that the eleventh commandment was:  Never speak ill of a fellow Republican.  The recent rash of Republican ruminating about the Romney run makes skeptics wonder what’s up in that party.  Either Reagan’s sway on the party faithful is waning or the Conservative Christians don’t consider Mitt to be an authentic member of their party.  If that’s the case, the chorus of criticism will continue until Mitt is deemed disqualified for the nomination and then he and his supporters will have a WTF mind meld moment and start asking themselves the usual Charlie Brown questions about being fleeced of their campaign money and being rooked out of the nomination they considered rightfully theirs.

There is a bit of old conventional wisdom among film critics that holds that the key to watching any film about swindlers is to keep in mind that the iron clad rule for the genre which is:  the con men are always the ones who get fleeced.  Thus film critics who see Mitt Romney as a modern W. C. Fields patent medicine salesman expect that he will wind up (like the fellow in a particular Jerry Reed song) getting the shaft instead of the expected gold mine.

If the Mittster is looking for a slogan for his Presidential campaign, perhaps he can swipe the phrase that Texas Guinan used to use when she greeted customers entering her New York speakeasy:  “Hello, sucker!”

For a column on swindles that will be posted on July 20, the disk jockey insists that his closing selection of songs starts off with “Springtime for Hitler” (from Mel Brooks’ “The Producers”), the Rolling Stones contractual obligation album [when they were committed to delivering one more album to a certain record company, they delivered a package of über-bawdy material and when the record company executives complained that they couldn’t release the album, the Stones lawyers indicated “That’s your problem.” (It became a top bootleg product for those people who sanction unauthorized products.)] and as a memorial tribute for country music fans, Kitty Wells’ breakthrough Country hit “It wasn’t God who made Honky-tonk angels.”  We have to go check and see who the Republicans have available on the bench in the bullpen.   Have an “I’ll hold the football for you, Charlie Brown,” type week.

[Quagmire, who may be the littlest panhandler on Shattuck Avenue in Berkeley, attacked the columnist after being given a “drop in the bucket” offering and bit the writer’s cane so we thought a picture of this ungrateful cur would be an acceptable illustration for a column about swindles.  Why a cane?  Isn’t a cane essential for projecting the image of a suave <I>boulevardier</I>?]


A Familiar Voice from the Shadows

February 7, 2012

A distinctive voice coming from a man walking in the shadows is a set-up if most of the people in the audience can identify the voice’s owner.  The voice fans in the audience might identify the source before the actor steps into the light and be pleased they didn’t need to see the guy’s mug to I.D. the perpetrator.  The celebrity dominated culture in theUnited Stateswould have been sorely disappointed if the image of the speaker’s face didn’t solve the “who dat?”” puzzle of the familiar voice.

If, thanks to computer wizardry, Rod Serling had stepped out of the shadows most of the viewers on the younger side of the age demographics for the Superbowl audience would have known that it was the Twilight Zone guy.

What would the reaction to a technological cloning have been if it turned out that the voice and the face belonged to be Edward R. Murrow?  How many kids on the outside of a School for Journalism would have recognized the “Londoncalling” voice and associated it with daredevil reporting of the highest caliber?

Obviously using the voice and image of W. C. Fields would have had a sabotage effect.  Would today’s hipsters recognize, let alone appreciate, Fields’ voice?  Do they still sell the posters featuring the once famous comedian?  They were ubiquitous in the late Sixties, don’t cha know?

If the computers had produced that Superbowl ad with St. Ronald Reagan stepping out of the shadows, Republicans all acrossAmericawould have wept openly.  It’s morning inAmerica, again, folks and a cinematic cowboy is here to make you feel safe and warm.

Could the folks who want to see the Bush gang hang possibly misinterpret the Cling Eastwood commercial and see it as an endorsement of Dirty Harry tactics that include a complete disregard for the rules of war that were proclaimed at the Nuremburg War Crime Trials? 

In some long ago news broadcast we heard a news story that asserted that female infants would pay more attention to the voice of a male stranger than they would to their mother’s voice.

According to a reliable source, over a decade ago a young UCLA coed, who was working as an interviewer for a phone survey, called the provided phone number and started to convince the young man who answered the phone to participate in the poll.  He heard her voice and offered to come fromNew York Cityfor a date in L. A. the following weekend.  Since she wasn’t hurting for male attention, she politely declined.

When Johnny Carson made a casual comment about “the late John Carradine,” he got a phone call from the actor saying:  “John, at my age it’s hard enough to get work without you announcing to the world that I’m dead.” Carsonnoted the quality of the voice he was hearing before he moved along to the fact that he then issued an invitation to come on the Tonight Show.  Carradine got subsequent invitations to return to that show.

We have read somewhere a story that alleged that David Brinkley one time called into a Washington D. C. contest seeking a David Brinkley sound-alike.  He came in second place. 

When future radio fans look back on the Post Dubya era, we wonder which voices from 2012 will be the most recognizable. 

Uncle Rushbo, of course.  Who else? 

We have, in past columns, lamented the fact that there seems to be room in the smorgasbord of contemporary culture for a competition for would-be voice over actors, but, alas, our suggestion has fallen upon dead ears.

The World’s Laziest Journalist has begun to do the preliminary fact checking needed as preparation for doing a column on story telling competitions.  As luck would have it, the only item produced by several Google searches is something called the <a href =>Porchlight competition held in San Francisco CA</a>.  So maybe we can enter that contest and get some material for a “been there done that” first hand account column about that competition. 

Maybe some reader will have additional information to add to the comments for this column and thereby adding to the potential for doing a future column on story telling competitions.

We note that the Liars Hall of Fame seems to be an example of a variation on the tall tales in the field of exaggeration variety rather than an actual Hall of Fame whereby someone who spread the WMD alarm is accused of providing an entry for consideration by the Liars Hall of Fame induction committee.

Don’t some (all?) of the best raconteurs have bits of Irish ancestry in their blood?

Rather than a closing quote <I>per se</I>, we will recount a story that we heard St. Ronald Reagan tell in 1980.  While he was campaigning inIowa, he knocked on a farmer’s door.  The man was flabbergasted.  “I know you!  You’re the actor.   I forget your name.”  Reagan suggested that as a hint he would supply his initials.  The man heard “R. R.” and immediately turned toward the interior of the house and called out:  “Mama, come quick and meet Roy Rogers. 

OK you won’t let it slide?  You want a real quote as the closing quote?

“Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player

That struts and frets out his hour upon the stage,

And then is heard no more’ it is a tale

Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,

Signifying nothing.”

A friend in L. A., chef Teddy B. Owen, may have provided the best closing quote for this column when he said:  “The voices in my head have the call waiting feature.”

Now the disk jockey will play Carly Simons’ “You’re So Vain” (Tell me you can’t hear Mick Jagger’s distinctive voice singing backup), Clint Eastwood’s recording of “Born Under a Wandering Star,” and Judy Collins’ version of “Amazing Grace.”  We have to go gargle.  Have a “stifle talk about unionizing” type of week.

Never Give the Next President an Even Break

June 9, 2009

The headline on the front page of the Los Angeles Times for Tuesday, June 9, 2009, read: “U. S. caught in a tight spot on North Korea. Now that the President is a member of the Democratic Party, the pro-liberal (?) media is free to criticize him in a way they did not dare when the Republican President resented any negative insinuations, let alone negative tone, and he could regulate the use of the word “recession” and be immune from any disparaging remarks. Now, with a Democrat at the helm, the scrappy journalists are very eager to prove (via the use of Republican talking points) that “the gloves are off.” President Bush invaded Iraq because, he said, Iraq was about to acquire nuclear weapons. When it started to look like Iran would also be making nuclear weapons, Bush talked up a possible preemptive bombing raid. He used very tough talk and delighted all the conservative talk show hosts. Now that North Korea has nuclear weapons, the next man to occupy the Oval Office in the White House faces a loose-loose binary choice. He can either order a preemptive attack on North Korea in an effort to seize the weapons, but that could lead to a bloodbath that would make the toll being paid for the invasion of Iraq seem insignificant or he can back off and seem to observers like someone who has chickened out. Here’s a suggestion: Since Kim Jong-il’s strategy could be interpreted as a bid for attention, and since he also seems to be fascinated by contemporary American culture, especially Hollywood films, perhaps President Obama should invite him to a summit conference in Washington and then the new President could use his considerable amount of charm and a heavy serving of flattery to defuse the tension between the two countries. Bush has set up a clever “fork” for the new Democratic President to face. If President Obama goes for a military solution to the dilemma, the Democrats will feel betrayed by a new war. If he takes the other choice and just remains mum, while Kim Jong-il struts about commanding the world’s attention, he will outrage all Republican and more than a few Democrats. Most pundits who are eager to curry favor with the fat cats in the Republican party will be too polite to point out than any current confrontation with North Korea was set up as an inevitability by Bush. Unfortunately, this columnist didn’t get the memo urging the implementing of that “good Bushy” attitude. That may remind some W. C. Fields fans (Wasn’t it in “Never Give a Sucker and Even Break,”?) of the part of one of his movies that depicted a confidence game that a clever crook used to get a free lunch. The bad guy, who would be finishing up his meal at the counter would engage the guy next to him in a conversation. When it was time for Slick to leave, he would say to his new friend: “I’ll buy you lunch. When I tell the cashier, I’ll point to you and you wave and she’ll give me your bill and I’ll pay for both of us.” When the confidence man got to the cashier, he would say: “My buddy is going to pay for my lunch. It’s him.” He would then point to the sucker, who would wave back on cue. The cashier would assume that what she had been told was true and the swindle would be set in motion. Doesn’t it seem like Bush has done something similar with all the tough talk, Iraq invasion, threats against Iran, and his trademark swagger? Kim Jong Il is free to snarl: “What are you going to do about it?” Now, it’s time to pay the bill and for the new President to decide to “Put up or shut up” regarding North Korea. Bush reaped the benefit of talking touch and now his successor has to be thinking of the old Vietnam era assessment about the eagles coming home to roost. Mae West quote: “A man has one hundred dollars and you leave him with two dollars, that’s subtraction.” Was she a Republican? Now, the disk jockey will play the country tune that surely must be gaining in popularity in the West Wing these days: “Holding the bag” by Moe Bandy and Joe Stampley. It’s time for us to take our bill over to the cashier and leave. Have a “You Can’t Cheat an Honest Man” type week.