Tuesday, June 21, 2005

MH - Out of the Past, Part II

Terry Teachout links to today’s Lileks post on last night’s What’s My Line? episode on GSN. (Paraphrasing Tom Joad, if there’s a WML post, I’ll be there.) Apropos my TV Guide post below, this is one of the most charming elements of WML – the chance to see famous people before they became famous, and seeing the once-famous after they’ve stopped being famous:

Last night on “What's My Line,” the guest was a young man who signed in as “Tom
Eagleton.” Could it be? It was. His line was “District Attorney for St. Louis,” and he was 27. (The episode aired in 1957, I think.) Right from the Jack Webb line of lawmen, too—square head, flat hair, G-man stare, thin tie, a smile that was rare but genuine. He was followed by Mamie Van Doren, a breathy va-va-va-voomer who performed the odd facial alphabet of the 50s sex siren—the moue, the wink, the coquettish smile, the wide eyes, the teasing glance. And she ran through the sequence again and again, a performance completely disconnected from the questions. It was like watching a prototype Sexbot stuck in an programming loop. She really was from another era—a time when the sex stars had hips like oven doors, hair the color of astronaut suits, brains the size of ant thoraxes, and a life of giddy leisure that revolved around small, portable dogs, beefy Pepsodent morons, pink convertibles, and the purchase of ceramic cat statuary with long necks. A bratwurst to Paris Hilton's Slim Jim….

As I keep saying, it brings cultural history to another level to see these things in context, rather than in the sometimes dry pages of a history book. Of course, that presupposes you youngsters out there remember who Tom Eagleton was. (I’ve no doubt you won’t have any problem remembering Mamie Van Doren…)

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