Every unhappy family.

One book I read recently, which didn’t ahem make the right rail here, was “The Last Days of Dead Celebrities,” by Mitchell Fink. I needn’t have been ashamed; it’s an entirely respectable work of journalism, and if you squint your eyes a bit, it even works as a collection of cautionary tales about how to deal with the end of your life, whether you see it coming or not. I got it from the library because I wanted to read the chapter on Warren Zevon, but I found others more interesting, especially that of Ted Williams, the baseball player.

I lost the thread of the family wrangle over Teddy Ballgame’s remains — as I recall, Bob Greene wrote a really stupid column about it that queered me on the whole story — but it turns out the forces of evil triumphed, and somewhere in California or Florida Williams’ disembodied head rests in a cryogenic suspension, waiting for science to make a whole hell of a lot of advances, so that one day it can…do something. Not sure.

Anyway, it was yet another reminder, if any of us needed it, that families are fractious things. Today comes another: Billy Graham’s sons are fighting over where to bury the old man. The fact he isn’t, technically, dead yet is only one interesting angle of this story. One son wants him buried at the still-under-construction memorial library in Charlotte, which is built to look like a barn and silo, and features a cross-shaped entry and a mechanical talking cow. The other wants what his mother wants — a more dignified and private final resting place in the Carolina mountains. The fact that the sons are even capable of disagreeing over this astonishes me, but probably shouldn’t. We’re all human.

I watched a Billy Graham crusade on TV when I was about Kate’s age. My attention span hadn’t been shredded by the internet, remote-control channel-changing and the like, but I still think it’s remarkable that my attention was captured and held for some time. At the altar call at the end, I stood up and wanted to walk down to Billy and make my commitment to Jesus. Only he was imprisoned in a small black-and-white television, and I remembered I was Catholic and had, technically, already made the commitment. So I sat back down and changed the channel. Still, the man could preach.

OK, subject change: One of the earliest and most lasting bonds between Lance Mannion’s wife, the Blonde, and me, back in the day, was our shared devotion to the comics page. I still credit the Blonde with handing me one of my most satisfying columns, the great Journal Gazette Doonesbury/Spiderman “Sucks” Flip-Flop, which I’ve shared here before, so I won’t bore you. When Alan became features editor, I was elevated to a post of rare power vis-a-vis the comics page; I had the ear of the Decider. Still, it never came to much, because by the time that happened a new world order was ruling newspapers and especially comics, and it was: Less space, more crap.

The crap mostly came because of, who else, fretful editors, who thought they could hang on to readers by introducing, say, a comic strip featuring a young black couple. The funnies should look like America! And so on.

Of course comics are over. A few stalwarts hang on — Doonesbury is still worth your time, and we always have hope for another Calvin & Hobbes — but in the age of Photoshop funnies and Get Your War On, what more can be said in three panels?

Well, there’s this: “Mary Worth” comics in digital video, including the original camera angles. Enjoy, the Blonde! P.S. You’ll need QuickTime.

Posted at 10:30 am in Current events, Popculch |

17 responses to “Every unhappy family.”

  1. Dorothy said on December 13, 2006 at 12:00 pm

    The only comics I read regularly are Baby Blues and Zits. Both are frequently laugh-out-loud funny. Oh, and I also like For Better or for Worse, which is sort of sappy, but I like it. It helps to have a teen age boy around, or had one in your past, to appreciate Zits.

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  2. brian stouder said on December 13, 2006 at 12:05 pm

    Was Gregory ‘Pappy’ Boyington in there? After becoming famous as an ace in the war in the South Pacific, I believe he ended up wrestling bears in a sideshow somewhere (a serious substance abuse problem, apparently)…

    Even the remains of Abraham Lincoln, the greatest president that the US ever had – a genuine national icon – have been disinterred at least twice (most recently in the early 20th century). Stonewall Jackson’s remains were also moved at least once (at the insistence of his second wife) – although his left forearm was moved twice (it was originally buried at Chancellorsville, but the general lived another 10 days and died elsewhere in Virginia)

    It would be fitting if Billy outlives at least one of his sons

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  3. Randy said on December 13, 2006 at 12:14 pm

    Nancy, try The Comics Curmudgeon (joshreads.com), he skewers the comics, and has a special place for Mary Worth.

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  4. Mary O said on December 13, 2006 at 12:45 pm

    Re: Billy Grahsm. My mother, a devout Catholic if there ever was one, loved to watch his periodic crusade programs on TV. Never having watched them myself (o cynical high school-age me) I couldn’t figure out why or how she could do it. I guess that just shows how open she was to ideas. She was a saint, by the way.

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  5. Adrianne said on December 13, 2006 at 12:51 pm

    Be still, my beating heart! Digital Mary Worth! My favorite moments in such old chestnuts like Mary, Rex Morgan, M.D., and Gil Thorp is when they introduce “contemporary” problems into the strip. Remember when Claudia, a minor figure in Mary Worth, succumbed to a cocaine jones and was seen snorting up, complete with her beehive hairdo and sensible suits? I know Gil has tackled such worthy subjects as teen pregnancy, domestic violence, etc., but none of these horrors ever disturb a hair of his buzz cut.

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  6. mary said on December 13, 2006 at 1:10 pm

    In my high school paper I used to collaborate with an artist friend on a weekly strip called Mary Worthless. She basicallly was a busybody with bad judgement.

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  7. danno said on December 13, 2006 at 4:46 pm

    Speaking of comic strips, did you catch the arrest for DWI of Edward Bruce Tinsley (Mallard Fillmore) in Columbus, IN this past Tuesday?
    What more can I say??

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  8. brian stouder said on December 13, 2006 at 5:11 pm

    In my high school paper I used to collaborate with an artist friend on a weekly strip

    Mary – me too! I’ve no artistic ability at all; and cannot write – but I was dating the Editor in Chief, which helped!

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  9. mary said on December 13, 2006 at 6:29 pm

    I was the features editor. It allowed me to get out of school to interview people, which was a bonus. I interviewed Jean Shepherd, the guy who wrote the book that the movie “A Christmas Story,” was based on. He had a radio show in NYC at the time.

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  10. MarkH said on December 13, 2006 at 7:12 pm

    Wow, Mary! I am envious that you actually got to meet Jean Shepherd, one of my absolute favorites. Great wit, terrific writer, as evidenced by “A Christmas Story”, among others. One of my all-time favorite PBS series was his take on all things Americana, titled, appropriately, “Jean Shepherd’s America”. Produced and aired in the ’70s. I’d love to find a dvd set.

    COMICS: Yes, they sure have changed, but some are still around that I stick with: B.C., Wizard if Id, Hagar, Beetle Bailey and Doonesbury, required reading, especially Sunday’s. The Casper, Wyo. paper, still carries a decent selection. Can anybody figure out why Prince Valiant is still around? Does anyone actually READ the thing? “Our Story…”. Its first panel has started that way since I was five, and that’s 50 years ago.

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  11. mary said on December 13, 2006 at 8:47 pm

    As a kid I always admired the color Prince Valiant panels on Sundays, but never had the patience to read them. Loved the look of it. I always liked the look of Blondie too. Especially any panel with Dagwood rushing around or colliding with people or things. His boss was really well drawn. Mr. Dithers I think.

    And then, there’s Nancy, but we’ve discussed that in depth here before.

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  12. brian stouder said on December 13, 2006 at 9:52 pm

    I always liked the look of Blondie too.


    My theory is that they always drew her naked, and then inked on blouses skirts. But Blondie is da bomb!

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  13. Joe Kobiela said on December 13, 2006 at 10:21 pm

    anyone know Blondie’s maiden name??

    Blondie – boop a doop
    wierd what we remember.
    Comic wise, Shermans Lagoon always make me laugh.

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  14. Danny said on December 14, 2006 at 10:45 am

    OT: RIP, Peter Boyle.

    “You must have been the tallest one in your class”

    “Are you saying that I put an abnormal brain into a seven and a half foot long, fifty-four inch wide GORILLA? ”

    “For as long as I can remember people have hated me. They looked at my face and my body and they ran away in horror. In my loneliness I decided that if I could not inspire love, which is my deepest hope, I would instead cause fear. I live because this poor half-crazed genius, has given me life. He alone held an image of me as something beautiful and then, when it would have been easy enough to stay out of danger, he used his own body as a guinea pig to give me a calmer brain and a somewhat more sophisticated way of expressing myself.”

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  15. Joe Kobiela said on December 14, 2006 at 12:02 pm

    What Hump?

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  16. MarkH said on December 14, 2006 at 5:30 pm

    For anything and everything cartoon and comic-related, go here:


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  17. MarkH said on December 14, 2006 at 8:35 pm

    Brian –

    Boyington did indeed wrestle, but nothing so low as sideshow bears. He participated in and refereed pro wrestling bouts. He disavowed the ’70s Robert Conrad TV series as fiction, but did appear in one episode. He died of cancer in 1988 and was buried with full military honors befitting a Medal of Honor recipient. And, indeed, sadly, an alcoholic most of his life.

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