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.