Sometime in the 2011-2012 academic year, I’ll come up for tenure. Until then, if you should ever see me posting more than once in a day (or writing any single post of more than 750 words), please feel free to comment and tell me to get back to work.
Aside from a break on inauguration day, I’ve been busy working the past few weeks, primarily finishing an article and continuing revisions on my book-in-progress. So-called “scholarly work” takes a buttload of time, what with all the footnoting and substantiation of my claims. Both will someday be published and, if I’m lucky, be read by about the same amount of people who visit this blog in a month. (In case you are not following, I ain’t bragging about my blog’s traffic.)
Long story longer, that’s why the posts have been a little slim of late. So to catch up, here’s a “three-fer,” as they say in the world of classic rock radio. These are three anniversaries I would have written about more substantively had I had the time (is that write?).
Oooo, double grammar joke.
“Happy Days” premieres on television (January 15, 1974)
This month marked the 35th anniversary of the premiere of “Happy Days.” I’m not sure the show makes many critic’s top ten lists, but it surely stands as one of the more popular shows of the 1970s. For us genX types, it just might be one of those culturally binding artifacts. (Who doesn’t remember Fonzie water skiing in his leather jacket and jumping over a shark?) Growing up, the syndicated reruns were far more significant than the first-run shows, at least for me. Like “I Love Lucy” and “Gilligan’s Island,” it required no great effort to watch them on Los Angeles pre-cable TV. More importantly, as a kid I remember thinking “Happy Days” was my window into what white people were like. Here’s a clip from the first episode (notice the diner is called “Arthur’s” in the pilot).
Hulkamania is born (January 23, 1984)
Last week was the 25th anniversary of Hulk Hogan’s victory over the Iron Shiek, making him WWF heavy-weight champion. I didn’t start watching wrestling until a few months after this match, so I don’t have any memory of seeing it. Still, this budding historian had done his research and took notes when dates were mentioned on the weekly WWF telecast or in the monthly WWF magazine (of which I was a subscriber–still have all my issues, too). Every year, when the calendar showed January 23, it ws the first thing my young mind thought of. Here’s the match, thanks to the beauty of YouTube, with full color commentary by the great Gorilla Monsoon (“it’s pandemonium”) and Bruno Sammartino.
If you hadn’t seen a Hulk Hogan match before, the above is the script used in almost all of them: HH comes out like a tornado of power; he gets caught by his opponent who tries to end him with a “submission hold” of some kind; HH is miraculously “recharged” by his adoring fans; HH regains, gets the upper hand, goes to the ropes, and with a big leg to the face and some sort of follow-up, gets the pin. Pure magic.
Freddie Prinze shoots himself (January 28, 1977)
It’s not a particularly momentous anniversary, but 32 years ago the Latino star of the hit television show “Chico and the Man”–Freddie Prinze–shot himself. He died two days later. At the time of his death, Prinze was a big deal in Chicano LA. Though he was half Puerto-Rican and half Hungarian (one of his jokes was that he was a “Hungarican”), the former stand-up phenom endeared himself to many Chicanos via his role as Chico Rodriguez. While the show enraged Chicano activists (for its lack of Mexican American involvement), it shot up to #1 in the ratings by its second week (beating out “Rhoda”). It never left the top ten.
Prinze died at 22. While he may not have been Chicano, the show took place in East LA and made “politically correct” attempts to represent barrio life and concerns. While problematic in so many ways, it was the first Latino-themed show in TV history. It is may also be the first time the word “Chicano” was used in a primetime series.
However trite and superficial, the show brought brown faces into American homes on a weekly basis. Check out the pilot episode here.
[NOTE: Reflecting the base of its viewership, a week after Prinze died a 13-year-old girl committed suicide out of unconsolable grief.]