Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Goodbye, Mr. Ford and Mr. Brown.

Gerald Ford died yesterday. He was our nation's president when I was born on September 25, 1975. In fact, there was an attempt on Ford's life that week. Ford wasn't hurt in either attempt, so the incidents aren't mentioned —and I wouldn’t know about it if I hadn’t looked at an old issue of Time at the University of Georgia library in 1996—but in September of '75 two different women tried to assassinate President Ford. Now, Nixon I can understand, but Ford? The attempt on Ford’s life on September 5 by Lynette "Squeaky" Fromme of the infamous Manson family was followed by another attempt on the 22nd by a disturbed housewife-slash-FBI informant named Sara Jane Moore.

Ford wasn’t elected to the office of president, of course, but he wasn’t elected vice-president either. In both positions he replaced a disgraced leader. What a sweet deal—none of the work, all of the reward! I’m kidding, of course, but it is an interesting piece of historical trivia; Ford's greatest political ambition was to become speaker of the house, not president. I just heard on CNN that in 1980 Ronald Reagan almost asked Ford to run for vice-president instead of George Bush, but both men—and their advisers—realized it wouldn’t work. Maybe Reagan’s handlers figured it was about time Ford got elected to one of the top two offices in the government.

Ford was our last balding president. Al Gore could’ve been our next balding president, but he forgot Antonin Scalia’s birthday in 2000, which made Antonin mad, so George W. Bush became president instead. Since then, everything’s been awesome.

So goodbye, Mr. President. You weren't in office for long, but you did your job well while you were there. I'm proud to have been born under your accidental watch.

The Godfather of Soul died on Christmas Day. As Jesse Jackson noted, the Hardest-Working Man in Show Business upstaged Santa. (Santa jokingly responded, "I won't forget this, Soul Brother #1. You're a dead man! I'm kidding, of course, seeing as how you're already dead ... Sorry, that was in poor taste, wasn't it? Please enjoy your presents, and I'll see you again next year.") James Brown—yes, he was more than just a bunch of boastful nicknames—was born in Augusta, Ga., but he spent some of his formative years in Macon, where I grew up. There's even a legend that Little Richard's manager sent Brown on the road as Little Richard sometimes, hoping no one in the audience would know the difference. That's one way to double your ten-percent take of your client's income, I guess.

When Brown died, I read how some people were shocked by the news. Shocked? Really? I doubt Brown lead the healthiest lifestyle, and I'm not even talking about drug use. Plus when you're the self-proclaimed hardest-working man in showbiz, your body's bound to give out at some point. Brown was in his 70s. And remember, he'd beaten a lot of his wives. That takes energy, y'all.

Oh, I'm sorry, was that a rude thing to say? And is it rude to post this mug shot of Brown from the day before my 13th birthday? (If it's any consolation, James, it was a bad week for me too.) We like to remember our heroes only for their good deeds, don't we? When I die, do I want people talking about how I used to purposely bleed on strangers in public when they're delivering my eulogy? (Okay, so I still do that.) Of course not! Remember me for my work with children in foreign countries. (I never missed a $21 payment to that Christian kids' charity, except for most of 1999, 2001, and 2005.) Remember me for my tutoring of mentally handicapped adults in reading and writing. (But don't mention that mysterious bus crash that killed all of them on the way to the Harold Washington Library after we had a heated argument about the safety of public transportation versus the safety of a stretch Hummer limo. No, I didn't offer to pay for the limo, but seriously, how cool would it be to see a Hummer limo pull up in front of a library? Those guys would've looked like rock stars!) Finally, remember me for my kindness and soft-spoken nature. (Please don't remember the chainsaw-throwing incident at the Rainbow Coalition meeting in November of '03.)

It's strange to me when people say things like "Ever since that Michael Richards incident I find it hard to watch Seinfeld reruns" or "I'll never listen to a Michael Jackson song the same way again" or "I'll never rent another car from Hertz without thinking about O.J. decapitating his wife." Please do shut up. You can still like Kramer's krazy antiks and you can still sing along to "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'" and you can still laugh at the Naked Gun movies (at least O.J.'s constantly getting hurt in them, if that helps you sleep better) and you can still love songs like "Super Bad," "(Get Up I Feel Like Being a) Sex Machine," and "Get on the Good Foot." Remember James Brown for his lasting contributions to music and the black pride movement, not his questionable personal behavior, but don't whitewash the personal behavior either.

So goodbye, Mr. Hard-Working Soul Godfather #1. You're a music legend, and your legacy will endure. I'm just not sure I would've wanted to be around you when you were pissed off or high on PCP.

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