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October 27, 2010

Woody Allen and "Hair": More Strange Bedfellows?

By Marta Steele

Another post on the benefits and education from comparing unlikely components. This hearkens back to my "Tale of Two Books" and forward to the November elections.


October 2010: Woody Allen (E Street Cinema)

and "Hair" (Kennedy Center): More Strange Bedfellows?

This week's culture fix involved Woody Allen's "You Will Meet a Tall, Dark Stranger" and the Broadway early-seventies musical "Hair."

Neither attracted full houses.

In one (the film), the "fall guy" wins the day and in the other ("Hair") the "God's gift" ends up dead and totally compromised.

But it's silly to compare a period piece with a Woody Allen production--he habitually time-trips to produce his inimitable farces. This film is set in the present tense.

"Hair" commemorates the worst aspects of an era that will stand out for many reasons other than drug-crazed street hippies with a poignant tale. You've read my paieon/ plainh about that brief Camelot in time where the quality of education for middle-class whites reached its peak and threatened the right wing so entirely that they succeeded in dumbing down most of us, to the detriment of all of us except those Exeter grads who hold a hugely oversized proportion of our country's wealth and, with it, our systems, which they are attempting to force to ignore the common welfare.

"Hair" recalls that rejection of middle-class values and questioning of all conventions. What if? This. A reverse revolution followed, beginning with the election of Nixon in 1968. The super-rich Yippies, the crème de la crème of the movement, the brashest who initiated the convention of plaster-of-paris effigies amid protest marches that are now conventional in this milieu, fled back to their gated communities while the middle class retrogressed to the American dream.

A few stalwarts moved to communes you won't find on your GPS or Mapquest.

The most beautiful scene in "Hair" involves the stereotype the right wing loves to ridicule, a flesh heap getting high so gracefully, a dancing tableau vivant.

God did those kids work hard. Te band, visible on stage-right scaffolding, was remarkable. True to the opera-hall venue, the actors could pause for breath, but the music hardly stopped at all.

The scenes with straights confronting this rebellion are priceless, with the dumpy middle-aged newly wed suddenly parting her housedress to reveal a male body, which her new, diminutive spouse, busily photographing the era, is unaware of. What a voice--strength enough to send Barbra Streisand back for a few more lessons.

The star of the show, Claude, regresses, under parental pressure to cut off his sustenance, to his inverse, the Vietnam-bound, uniformed draftee (he first pantomimes wiping himself with his draft summons) whom his tribe cannot recognize. Neither can any of the audience, though he sings his same song of self-aggrandizement. In the last scene he ends up dead, lying on a new carpet, the American flag.

Why die for your country? asks the musical. Why not make love instead--questions that once opposed the Odes of Horace to the "bohemian" defiance of the love-crazed poetry of Propertius in ancient Rome.

I guess we're still asking that same question as the left wing fights the right wing, ridiculing them for wasting billions while at home the numbers of homeless and jobless are spiraling.


I first saw "Hair" in 1972 with a super-straight guy in 1972 at the Hollywood Bowl. I have to say that ultimately what I love most about this musical is the music. The productions can't quite measure up, though the performers are extraordinarily talented and graceful. Maybe the acoustics weren't the best--in one instance outdoors vying with the cicadas of early evening and in the other a seat in the second balcony, far right, where I depended on opera glasses in the Kennedy Center opera hall to see anything but a remote puppet show.

Love that music and the very important memoir, skewed as it is toward the dance of stereotypes rather than the agony of temporary activists who forced society to undress itself even as the "Hair" hippies did, and oppose the Vietnam war, even if so many more young men had to die before the rest came home to an unhospitable, almost-hostile reception. And Nixon self-aggrandized by means of this euphemized peace-with-honor.


Meanwhile, Woody Allen, who self-admittedly has been in psychiatric counseling all of his adult life--and what a genius of a therapist he must have--blatantly substitutes a charlatan psychic for a psychotherapist because of the discount self-disclosure the alternative scenario affords. And unlike an unresearched proportion of professionals, the psychic turns the "fall guy"'s life around, having predicted this positive change for a frumpy middle-aged woman no one would predict could find happiness. This she does, with a middle-aged bookseller who also believes in psychics--there is a cameo, parodic séance scene one can take or leave.

All of the bloodsuckers, sympathetic though they are at some level, end up floundering, both anticipating more suckling out of Momma's piggy bank, which she ultimately kidnaps. The film starts with a ridiculous midlife crisis and ends up teaching a young woman a lesson: don't quit your day job before you're sure of the promotion. Your "fall-guy" mom might be diverted by a higher quality of love than her ex-husband and daughter provided.


And so, ultimately, money compromises exploitation as well as ideals and an alternative lifestyle. How did the rest of the tribe in Hair survive? All of them off of more lenient parents? Only one instance, other than the scene between Claude and his parents, hints at the power of money over loftier ideals, though antiwar protest extends from stage to orchestra section. I think one member of the audience was actually panhandled, though the response form the middle-aged man, "What do you want?" recalls tolerance as well as resistance of the older generation back then. What did we want?

As the tribe sings, "Peace. Love. Freedom. Happiness." But again, it rests on outside support. All of these beautiful abstracts cost money.

All the left-wing hippies I knew, though they stayed in college throughout the rebellion, retreated from this academic, mostly extracurricular diversion to the American Dream, which is costly but came easily to them. They were brilliant, but not clairvoyant enough to realize that their exit ran up debt and compromised their late-sixties rebellion, to the detriment of all of us.

Bernadette Devlin got married and moved to the "burbs. Joan Baez cut her hair and was photographed behind a baby carriage. Once released from prison for his defiance of the establishment, her so-long-for, so sorely missed husband evaporated. Where he went I do not know. Che Guevara left the middle class for the guerilla life--also quitting his day job without anticipating that all populations weren't like the Cubans, longing for liberation and change. Opting for rebellion over the good life can kill. No offense intended against this heroic iconoclast.


And so I defy anyone out in Cyberspace to offer any two objects or situations that can't somehow be comparable. Both the right wing and the left wing are fighting for their values.

And it looks like money will win out again, just as it did in "Hair" and "You Will Meet a Tall, Dark Stranger."

The Obama people, valiant battle that they may be fighting, just didn't start soon enough. Obama compromised, the only way he could further his agenda, but the other side didn't.

All I can hope for, besides a miracle, is that the public is turned off enough by the consequences of this rebellion from the incumbency to re-elect Obama again in 2012, by another landslide. All those youngsters that must die first.

Submitters Website: http://www.wordsunltd.com; http://www.editingunltd.com

Submitters Bio:

A jack of some trades, writing and editing among them, Marta Steele, an admitted and proud holdover from the late sixties, returned to activism ten years ago after first establishing her skills as a college [mostly adjunct] professor in three subjects, then writer ("born" in the South, of course), then mother, then highly successful publishing professional (editor). In the latter context, she began to write or, more accurately, couldn't stop herself from protesting when the entire country came down with media/ Monica obsession and, stripped of judgment, turned to impeach a capable president for doing, perhaps too openly, what few presidents haven't either done themselves or wanted to. Subsequently and probably as a result, Bush was elected and Steele's venom turned against the hideous corruption that had accomplished this. She became an election integrity activist and harsh media critic, incredulous about media indifference to issues of vital importance to democracy. She also became a peace activist, serving on the board of the Delaware Valley Coalition for Peace Action and writing droves of blog entries on this subject. Even as protest against the Iraq invasion burgeoned, the media had other, yellower, red herrings to throw at us. Concerned to inform the future if not the present about the protest movement and the amazing words and events that accompanied it, she attended as many protest events as she could, ink freezing in her pen under the worst weather conditions. These writings reside in hard-copy archives of Words, UnLtd., a paper journal born in 1999, as every blog entry since its cyberspace rebirth in 2005, just when the election integrity movement burgeoned, "fooled again" by Bush's reelection in 2004. She works as a freelance editor (mostly academic) and writer, the proud mom of an ABD. Liza Gwendolyn, working to gain her PhD in public sociology at Princeton University. She still blogs regularly, mainly at Wordsunltd.com and Opednews, but writings are picked up at other sites and sent out into the blogosphere and hard-copy publications as well. At work on an 8-year history of the election integrity movement, she was stricken with Bell's Palsy and had to divert her energies. Time willing, once this monster abates (well on its way, deo gratias), she hopes to resume work on it. She has a large opus she'd like to publish in hard copy as essay anthologies, but so far that hasn't worked--the advice is to make an attracting enough name to succeed in an effort that usually follows upon more single-themed hard-copy and public visibility. Wish me luck. All leads welcome. Stage two: single-themed hard copy accomplished--advance orders welcome for "Grassroots, Geeks, Pros, and Pols." Blurb follows below: "Grassroots, Geeks, Pros, and Pols: How the People Lost and Won, 2000-2008," by Election Integrity (EI) activist Marta Steele, is a history of the Election Integrity movement from 2000 to 2008, highlighting the corrupt practices of that decade, and how the people rallied to control and ultimately overcome them, at least in Election 2008. What happened thereafter will become another book. The culprits were highly corruptible and low-quality machines and the machinery that allowed them to proliferate, defying the will of the people in favor of conservative values unconcerned with the exigent issues that drew the people to the polls. Voters turned out in record numbers in 2008. Thirty percent of those who usually sit out elections (a total of about 100 million) showed up. For their will not to have prevailed would have represented the biggest travesty in our nation's history; and yet a week before Election Day both John McCain and Karl Rove were predicting a Republican victory. Then Rove changed his mind on the eve of Election Day, predicting that Obama would win. But this occurred after the huge battle, at so many levels, ultimately boiled down to a deposition in Columbus, Ohio, on November 3, 2008, of a Rove IT operative. Once Judge Solomon Oliver found holes in the deposition, the people's will exploded and the people's choice went to Washington. Perhaps the day before Election 2008 did not become the major holiday it should have because the machinery of election corruption is up and running again and the people are still fighting. But in Grassroots, Geeks, Pros, and Pols the dramatic victory achieved was a successful revolution and in the long run may be remembered for that. The ultimate success will not be a sigh of relief and a cheer for a brief period of time, but the permanent death of anti-American activities. Our vote is our sacred right, nothing we need to acquire with a government-issued photo i.d. It is the bottom line of democracy. Without it, there is no democracy, which is not an abstract noun but continuous work. All this our founding fathers knew and passed down to us, a tough legacy and challenge but well worth our necessary efforts.