When Alan was Features editor in Fort Wayne, sometimes our daily download of how-was-your-day-dear involved issues of, how you say, taste. The rebellious world of youth culture was always trying to shake up the squares in Features. I can’t tell you how often he’d have to waste time getting an executive ruling on whether Big Dick & the Penetrators could go in the club listings. (And those rulings usually went all the way up the chain of command, because if there’s one thing editors can do well, it’s avoid making decisions.)
The Cherry-Poppin’ Daddies were another problem. Once Big Dick & the Penetrators had been cleared, on the grounds that the sort of people who were likely to be offended by the name wouldn’t be poring over the fine print in the Where To Go listings, you’d think the Cherry-Poppin’ Daddies wouldn’t be a problem, either. But you never knew when that one would wash up on the shores of some feminist copy editor whose lips would compress to a thin line and whose flag would be raised, the one emblazoned, “No retreat, no surrender.”
Anyway, I’m wondering how many editors are, even as we speak, passing the buck up the chain of command for a ruling on the hot new craze that’s sweepin’ the nation, i.e.:
Do not laugh, but be prepared to snicker, as you learn a few facts about the game. Did you know, for instance, that Cincinnati is “crazy for cornhole?” Did you know there’s a company called the Ohio Cornhole Company? Did you know that Geauga Lake, the northwest Ohio amusement park, is offering an All-American Cornhole Toss on the midway this year?
Man, just as Borat’s act is over, too.
Cornhole is basically beanbag toss, and gets its name from the grain that fills the bags (corn, not beans). Some people choose to call it “Baggo,” but that’s probably because they’re, you know, homophobic.
Oh, wait. Baggo. Never mind.
It was Family Movie Weekend, but I was the only one who saw all three — “Hairspray” for all three of us, “Shrek the Third” for Kate and me and “The Queen” for the adults. The latter was the only one worth discussing; I wish I’d had time to watch it again, if only to re-examine how they worked the magic, making a terrific, watchable two-hour movie about an idea (what are the uses of tradition?) and where the action consists mostly of people talking on the phone. I guess you do it with killer performances, and every nice thing anyone ever said about Helen Mirren was deserved, and then some.
During that week in 1997, around day four or five, when it seemed the entire world had taken leave of its senses over Princess Di, I stepped off the crazy train. I think I disembarked around the time Mother Teresa died, and she was treated like a crack-house O.D. Maybe not exactly, but definitely not top-o’-the-newscast. In other news at this hour, we go to Calcutta… The local Border’s had a “condolence book” you could sign, sitting on a table with a box of Kleenex. The audience at the big Labor Day classic-car auction lined up to throw gladiolus blossoms into the back seat of a Rolls-Royce that Diana had ridden in precisely once. It was clear this had gone from genuine feeling to a sort of mass hysteria. I didn’t give much thought to how the royal family was dealing with all of this, beyond acknowledging the obvious — the cluelessness of their non-reaction reaction; the Parade Before the Flowers, which inspired that rarity, a truly memorable and funny Maureen Dowd line (“they looked like they were judging a dog show”). “The Queen” isn’t journalism, God knows, only a smart, educated guess about what they were thinking, based on what they did, but it has the feel of something that could be the truth. (Wow, talk about your qualifiers.)
Honestly? I even felt a tiny bit of empathy for James Cromwell as Prince Philip, who was obviously there for comic relief and to lay down the law on such burning questions as How Do We Fly the Royal Standard. His way of coping with Diana’s children’s grief? Take them for a walk in the Scottish highlands. Someday the princes will grow old, and they’ll look back and say: There are worse ways to grieve.
However, even “The Queen” was swept away by the third-to-last Sopranos episode last night, “The Second Coming.” It would seem the ducks are coming home to roost.