Wednesday, September 14, 2011


Another one sent my way thanks to the graciousness of Bill Shute, though for some strange reason I don't understand why the man would want to give away such a thoughtful and analytical political read such as this collection of various Al Capp columns that he scribbled for THE DAILY NEWS at the height of early-seventies student unrest and wishy washy mainstream reaction to it all. I have the feeling that Bill, being a highly-respected professor at a Major Western University, feared for his job if such a book as this were to have been found in his possession...oh well, at least he didn't burn this 'un like he did that one volume of traitorous rants and conspiratorial screeching that he promised to send my way back when he was moving away from his Catawba Virginia digs oh so long ago! (I forget the exact nature of the book at hand---perhaps Bill could refresh my memory.) Y'see, Bill figured that if the package somehow got damaged and the contents were discovered and traced back to him he could have found himself in some mighty deep caga so better he destroy the evidence before it could destroy him! And all I wanted it for was so's I could order the multi-album set being advertised in the back section, a damning indictment of the Federal Reserve System narrated by none other than John Carradine!

But hey, is this collection the classiest or what? Yeah, I know that Capp has set up more straw men in this book than one could find in an entire third grade art class and it's more'n obvious that Capp was more of a neocon rather'n just plain (old time, not that thing that passes nowadays) conservative as his comments about still being a "liberal" in the old sense and how he would still be one if only liberalism hadn't lost its bearings undoubtedly prove. If the guy were alive and kicking today I'm pretty sure that his opines would find a more hearty audience on what passes for the "alternative" "conservative" "media" 'stead of the so-called fringes of hardcore conservative ideals where the likes of everyone from Pat Buchanan to Justin Raimondo make their opines known.

But as the sage said "so what else is old?",  and come to think of it being turned off by something Capp might have become doesn't mean that I can't have a fun time reading this controversial cartoonist's opines that were being made at a time when it seemed as if Ameriga was tearing itself apart at the seams. And when that's happening, it's always good to tune in some snarky commentator who's bound to offend all of those people who sure could use a li'l offendin' , especially when you can plainly see that such oft-verboten subject matter could use a little bloody humiliation if only to drag them off of their high horses and back into reality.

Of course that doesn't make Al Capp the original Ann Coulter (a writer who I can appreciate in many ways even if she and I seem to not be seeing eye to eye on many a subject as the weeks progress). But boy does he dish it out on a wide array of pertinent subjects from college protesters to welfare recipients to women's lippers as well as unwed mothers and Elliot Gould nude scenes! After reading the book coupled with a slew of late sixties LI'L ABNER storylines it's no wonder that Capp lost a lotta status amongst the same intelligentsia which hailed his work only a good decade or three earlier! (Enough that he didn't even bother to ask anybody to write a forward to this collection, perhaps because he knew that by this time most of the intellectuals and "commentators" who once sang his praises had all run for cover, totally ashamed and embarrassed over what had become of the comic strip that was once "hip" to be seen reading! Well, at least there was still POGO!)

Frankly,  I wonder why nobody else thought of doing what Capp became legendary for a whole lot sooner. All of these targets, and many more that Capp feels worthy enough to so deftly skewer, should have been such GRANDIOSE fodder for comedians, cartoonists and other sundries for ages yet you never see anybody tearing such obvious targets to shreds for their indecencies the same way you see Bill Maher and Penn Jillette always going after people who tend to keep their pants up so's they don't have to worry about contributing to either the venereal disease or bastard problems that has been plaguing us for nigh on forty years. (Well maybe not...after all, here's something that comes close even if it sure lacks the typical snide rudeness of a typical Capp column.)  But hey, reading Capp dig into the entrails of just about everybody from Jane Fonda (otherwise known as "Jane Porna") to various other gadflies as Senator George McGrovel and Ho Chi Swine is quite refreshing considering just how much such objects were more or less not only given free passes but held up for veneration when it came to politically-oriented humor. It just goes to make ya think that hey, despite being called a redneck and fag for being so cube when I was a kid maybe I was right about at least a few li'l things back when everybody else was jumping on the peace 'n love (grade school edition) bandwagon! And only if I had enough gutz to make my feelings proudly known with a few swift punches to the gut and a few karate chops behind the neck  maybe I wouldn't have grown up to be the terminally short-fused, frustrated chap that you all know me to be these sad and sorry times!

(Gotta admit that I was a li'l surprised over Capp's various defenses of none other'n Spiro Agnew, especially considering how the then-[heavy on the vice]-prez used to get an occasional ribbing in the the ABNER strip...well, actually Capp was more or less going after the likes of Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin who would complain that Agnew was stifling free speech when he called them "coarse" which I will admit was a rather funny observation. Naturally that was after the noted rabble rousers called him every name in the book so really, I can see Capp siding up with Agnew at least on this particular point!)

Capp's a fairly good (yet not always as etapoint as one would wish) writer too and he can convey his eternal loathing for the longhairs and other bottom feeders in life with a pretty good keystroke if I do say so myself. Capp always aims right for the tenderloins, stripping away the facade  from the various denizens of The New Left while making them look pretty sorry in the process (a trait that seems to have been lost on all but a few scribes these days, excepting such stellar commentators as Jim Goad, Paul Gottfried and of course the aforementioned Buchanan and Raimondo). Too many juicy examples of this to present here, but whenever Capp confronts student radicals or poverty or even SESAME STREET he really knows how to go after his victims like Roman Polanski goes after a brownie troop!

Hokay, I'll give you one nice morsel of the Capp political wit, one where he aptly takes down none other than a public figure once regarded as the true voice of woman before it became "wimmer" then "womyn" yet who has since joined the every-growing ranks of seventies hasbeendom, Gloria Steinem:
Gloria Steinem, the Doris Day of Women's Liberation, came on the Dick Cavett show one night and complained about her problems. I came on a night or two later and solved them for her.

She complained that when she walked though the Senate dining hall, the senators all stared at her.

I suggested that next time she might try wearing a mini that came down a bit lower than her navel.

She complained that girl reporters weren't given the same opportunities as men.

I recalled that Gloria was an obscure reporter until the Playboy Club hired her as a bunny, and she wrote an expose of bunnyhood.

I said I'd bet that Norman Mailer wouldn't have been given the same opportunity when he was an obscure reporter, or even John Updike, although they both have great legs.

Instead of thanking me, Gloria fired off a telegram accusing me of not treating her like a lady.

With the gallantry that has made me a legend, I replied; "Dear Gloria: If you intend to send off scolding telegrams to everyone who criticizes you, you'll go broke. The day after I did, THE NEW YORK TIMES did, and then Jimmy Cannon did, and then Bill Buckley did, and that's only the beginning.

"My advice, dear Gloria, is to remember what Harry Truman once said, 'If  you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.'"
Now, one could accuse Capp of being just another one of them establishment figures who has no idea at all regarding the degrading evil that women as belly-crawling reptiles have to go through in this male-dominated society 'n all, but people on the whole had yet to be enlightened and blessed by Phil Donahue at this point in time. Me, I just wonder why he'd actually toss a quote in from none other'n former Prez Truman, a guy who the old anti-interventionist right didn't exactly snuggle up to as if there really was anyone out there for them to snuggle up against other'n Gov. Taft. Oh wait...since Capp was a neocon I guess he was just setting precedence for the likes of Ronald Reagan and Newt Gingrich to claim deep admiration for Franklin Roosevelt, something which perhaps is about as telling as it is stymieing.

Hokay, here's another Capp gem which I thought I should share with you considering how such forms of political satire are pretty much verboten by the hippie-bred types who run the every-dying newspaper industry these days...

Senator George McGrovel, whose groveling at the feet of the miniscule minority of the untoilet-trained on our campuses has won him the reputation as spokesman for all youth, was interviewed on the late-night TV talk show, starring the beloved Tommy Wholesome.

"The older generation," said McGrovel, "has failed abysmally!"

"Then who will lead America?" asked Tommy, who is also pushing 50.

"Us youth!" cried McGrovel.

The studio audience of runaways, high school dropouts, purse-snatchers and teenage unwed mothers cheered.

"You're not putting us on," ad-libbed Tommy with his quick wit that has made him a legend.

At this his producer held up the "CONVULSIVE LAUGHTER FOLLOWED BY PROLONGED OVATION" sign, and after the tumult subsided, McGrovel said, "The older generation must step aside, and let youth lead the way!"

They were interrupted by 243 commercials followed by 675 spot announcements, leaving Tommy only time enough to thank Senator McGrovel and announce his next night's in-depth interview.

Outside, the Senator hailed a cab and gave the driver his hotel address. The cab blasted off at 180 miles an hour through traffic, past red lights, and then hurled down a one way street the wrong way.

"Are you out of your skull?" screamed McGrovel.

"Just youthful zest is all, man" grinned the driver, turning around and revealing a New Left face peering out of an Old Testament beard.

"I'm a Columbia student making a few bucks for bail for my buddies who got busted at this "Get Stoned and Stone a Cop Love-In for Peace..."

"Let me out of here, you half-baked idiot," McGrovel was screaming when the vehicle went out of control and crashed into the window of a mid-town store, which the owner had locked, barred, and fled from the hour when New York City streets become too dangerous for business, 2 P.M.

The youth extricated himself from the smoldering debris and ran.

Since McGrovel's ankle was fractured, his hip dislocated, and his skull stove in, he waited for the ambulance.

En route to the hospital, the young intern examined him. "You'll need some pretty tricky brain surgery," he said, "and I can't imaging where we'll get a specialist at this hour. But don't worry, I'll have a go at it."

"Not at me you won't, you blundering amateur!" replied McGrovel, kneeing him with his one functional leg.

The Senator insisted that an experienced surgeon perform the operation and during his convalescence he kicked out the student nurses the shorthanded hospital offered him.

"That stuff about trusting the fate of the nation to youth is okay for TV talk shows," he remarked later, as his white-haired nurse was giving him some time-tested medicine and putting him through some traditional exercises, "but you don't catch me trusting them with my own!"
Of course there's much more I would just love to dish out atcha, but time limitations and stamina prevent me. Instead, how about if I just drop a few titles your way..."The Day After John Lindsay Was Inaugurated President", "Mothers Have Fertility Rights", "It's Legal to Run Against Ted Kennedy in Massachusetts - It Just Isn't In Good Taste", "A Stranger in a Disgustingly Familiar Land" and of course the series of letters addressed to "Cro-Magnon Daddy and Neanderthal Mommy" written by some young revolutionary gal now living under the auspices of a William K. Fowlemouth. And all of 'em are worth the time and effort to digest every sniveling word included!

Too bad Capp fell from grace at such an alarming rate before closing up LI'L ABNER in '77 and making his own grand exit two years later. He would have at least been a lively commentator had he been able to make it into the eighties and even nineties intact, and given the abysmal state of the comics page and how the politics it exudes has become rote, formulaic and just as stale a reflection of the seventies radicalism that railed against Capp, anything would be a welcome relief! Until then you can always snatch this book up somewhere cheap, and a few trips to the microfilm department at your local library might reveal to you the brilliance and on-target satire of LI'L ABNER even though I'm sure some policy-driven old maid librarian would probably want to steer you closer to some DOONESBURY collection if only she knew...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Chris, I found the book to be very interesting and somewhat enjoyable. It's a book I've seen people make reference to for decades (and sometimes I didn't think they'd actually read it), so I wanted to read it for myself. I knew Brad would enjoy it too, so I sent it to him first with instructions to pass it along to you.
The humor here is really not that different from that in LIL ABNER, though the targets are different and like a lot of people who've been on the job for too long and are getting a bit soft, he's no longer firing on all cylinders and anger sometimes gets in the way of satire. The sacred cows of liberal-dom need skewering, as do all sacred cows. Frankly, as much as I love John and Yoko, they needed someone to come in during that "bed-in" in Canada and have some one point out that the emperor was wearing no clothes. The media of the day treated their touchy-feely peace pablum with kid gloves and never really challenged the assumptions on which they based their shtick. In fact, if you look at that footage of Capp in their hotel room, his approach is really PUNK...I can imagine a number of our punk heroes taking on some 60's hippie dinosaur in much the same way.
Besides, any book that has multiple references to Elliott Gould AND a nude cartoon of Mr. Gould is OK by me.

Bill S.