- Ward Cleaver's Prozac Fever

hair today, kong tomorrow

We swept up a mountain of human hair

and drew straws to see who would wear it.

Joe Franzolini, the Italian gentleman

who'd been the corner barber in our

town for well over 100 years,

wasn't quite sure WHAT to make of our request.

"You wanna WHAT??" he sputtered in a pidgin

Romano English, wrapping a wheezing old Slovak

patron's face in steaming hot towels.

His English was as broken as his DeSoto.

"We want all your hair, sir."



"Now sit down an-a read-a da comic book."

We weren't ever really sure if

Mr. Franzolini could not hear us,

did not understand quite enough English,

or if he was simply operating on a

plane far different from that which

one might consider to be the norm.

Mr. F. took the boat over from the

old country fleeing Mussolini and his weenies,

and brought to our revered shores an innate

marketing sense and a sharp business acumen.

He had a million gross of black

unbreakable Ace pocket combs

(still in broad circulation today),

printed with his own name and phone

number along with a strategic slogan:


And cut it he did. All the men-heads

in our sad little slice of suburbia

were touched by Joe's scissors. He

had a broad repertoire of haircut styles:

bowl and business.

Every now and then he'd pull out his

jughead special for those math geeks

among us whose hair was predisposed to

standing up in a fright-take

Sergeant Carter bristle.

But we weren't there to be shorn.

This was show biz.

"Mr. Franzolini, we don't WANT a haircut,

"we want to sweep up all the hair on the floor and take it."



figuring he might understand me if I tried on a

bogus Italiano inflection.

"And we'll sweep it for FREE if you

"give us all the hair."

It was a deal. At the end of the day

our recently-pubescent gang left Joe's

in cracking, cackling hysterics,

with a lifetime of WWII stories from

the ceaseless parade of shaggy grizzled patrons,

and most importantly, several shopping bags

full of all shades and hues of human hair,

cigarette and cigar ash and

the general detritus that made up

Joe Franzolini's floor.

This is the way Spielberg must have started.

But the end of his story is far better

bankrolled than ours, as

you might well imagine, dear dads.

We were a stoopid bunch; generally

less concerned about school than we

were with Black Sabbath, Grand Funk Railroad

and other bands with thumpy dopey bass guitars

to which you could do a wicked and histrionic

air guitar long long before Tom Cruise

ruined the whole air guitar scene

and made it a tired cliché.

Of course the acne onslaught was another

constant action item.

And while the idea of dating was still as

foreign as France, one of the guys

started having a "special feeling" whenever

the subject of Joe Franzolini's daughter came up.

Years later they would marry and engage

in a cataclysmic divorce.

For the time being, the fact that our

little band of hoodlums was flunking honors

English in the ninth grade was

front and center in our troglodyte teen medullas.

We were thrown a bone by our tired teacher,

who was less concerned with our lackadaisical

approach to school than with the threat

of confrontational parent-teacher conferencing.

"Make a movie.

"Get your parents to loan you their movie cameras.

"300 extra credit points."

Now, back in the paleolithic age,

it wasn't as easy as firing up the VHS-C, young pups.

(I know what my demos are out there, faithful readers!)

It wasn't quite the age of Lumiere, but

it was dang close. Then, our work was

cutting-edge stuff --- filming in the

technologically advanced "Super-8" format.

It was a major advance over regular

old 8 millimeter in that the sprocket holes

running the film through the clanky

projectors were smaller, so you wound up

with all this fabulous expanded image

area onto which the budding auteur

could paint their celluloid vision.

Ours was nothing less ambitious than a

re-make of Merian C. Cooper's 1933 classic,

"King Kong."

But our telling of the classic beauty

and the beast tale would have none of

the pathos, none of the redemptive plot points,

none of the inspiration, talent or

competence of even the crappy, yappy Japanese

Kong versus Godzilla classic shoot-out.

Our vision was a malevolent Kong,

hell-bent on nothing less than

the complete annihilation of the universe.

Jim S______, our unfortunate "actor,"

was a kid who gained his entrée

into our little droogie clique

with a monster air guitar/lip sync

rendition of Leslie West's "Mississippi Queen."


But Jim drew the short straw, and wound up

laying a patina of Elmer's glue all over

his torso, arms and shins in

readiness for the wretched fuzzy spoils

collected from Joe Franzolini's floor.

We laid great clumpy gobs of hair

--- coarse and fine; salt and pepper;

straight and curly; foul and defiled

--- onto the Elmer's to create our Kong.

Very convincing, he was, particularly with

his rolled-up khaki bellbottoms and

horn-rimmed glasses. A fearsome and

fire-breathing primate, was Jim.

But his travails were only beginning.

When you are wearing a quilt of gluey

human hair affixed directly to your skin,

the mad urge to scratch scratch scratch

like a Labrador in the throes of itchy

lunacy had our hairy thespian bouncing off the walls.

Now, as any of you ever involved in

any sort of film or video production shoot

can well attest, a shoot can drag on and on

forever and ever because of bad lighting,

bad blocking, bad egos or even bad catering.

That long-ago afternoon, as you can well imagine,

was the most insufferably long afternoon

in poor Jim's short little life.

And now it was time for the

special effects shooting sequence.

In my compulsive Poindexter planning

for the shoot, I signed out a

Bookmobile book explaining the A-B-C's

of movie making; and I picked up a

useful tidbit for a stunning special

effect --- now our teeny

production crew was set to operationalize

the technique in a punishing adaptation

for our extree credit flick.

The scene was admittedly derivative.

Kong leaps atop a skyscraper,

is strafed with ammo --- the sad

death scene redux follows.

In the land-o-suburbia, the closest

we could get was the garage roof, from

which we had leaped time and again into

an algae-infested 36-inch pool the summer before.

We had tested the jump stunt and were

ready to commit its adaptation

to the ages on celluloid.

The special effect, after crafty

post-production editing, would show

Kong/Jim leaping from the ground to

the top of the skyscraper

(i.e. attached 2-car aluminum-sided garage)

to vanquish the enemy

The technique was simple.

"Climb up on that roof and jump off backwards,"

we nonchalantly directed our shaggy friend.

Our hirsute thespian made the tenuous

backward jump eight feet straight

down over three takes, until the

crew was sufficiently happy that he

had landed square on his haunches,

freezing in a leering, snarly,

statue-esque pose on the Kentucky blue.

We shot it from a low angle

to heighten the dramatic effect, 'natch.

The segment, once developed after

a nail-biting week's wait, was

removed with a razor blade and

physically flipped around and

spliced back in to the 3-minute reel,

and when projected, voila! Kong

appears snarling on the suburban lawn,

and with superhuman (superprimate?) strength,

leaps up onto the asphalt-shingled

garage roof in his mad bristly bid

to conquer the universe.

The effect worked like a charm.

And along with other scenes showing

Kong stomping out entire platoons

of the sort of little green soldiers

again made desirable by "Toy Story",

along with a summer-of-love Kong

close-up of his hairy mitts symbolically

crushing a teeny-tiny paper American flag

plucked from one of his dad's daily

Mai Tais along with a little paper parasol,

the film, which we dubbed "I Am Curious (Fuschia)"

was a wild success.

The extra credit, naturally, was cinched.

We all went our separate ways,

and I never heard from Jim S______ again.

Last I heard from the grapevine, he was

somewhere out California way, his dad

opening a Greek bistro and Jim probably out

there at Schwab's touting his filmic

experience in a bid for superstardom.

All I can impart for certain, dear dads,

is that Jim's dad had to pay handsomely

for a plumber to come snake the hair-stuffed J-trap

under the family shower stall in that

little white suburban bungalow,

and boy, was he torqued.

Many years later,

I had Fotomat transfer the film to video

when VCRs became available on the consumer market.

The splice with the Kong leap,

expertly executed with Scotch invisible tape,

had become yellowy and brittle

and simply fell out of the film.

The award-winning effect, alas,

had gone the way of Abel Gance's missing

"Napoleon" triptych, lost forever.

Farewell, Dieudonné!

I put a goofy soundtrack under the silent epic

(Sparks' "Everybody's Stupid" really adds

the necessary ambiance), and drag it out every

now and then out so my own brood can hoot

and chortle over my vertically-striped

bellbottoms, and yuck it up over

King Kong (ten times as big as a man).

I sit back and watch the flickery images

play out --- the tricycle knock-off

of "Laugh-In;" a Halloween Superman

costume getting a second life in a

corner telephone booth schtick ---

there we all are ---

forever fourteen.

We all had the invincibility of Kong back then;

and to be honest, we all thought we

were lucky that Jim S______ lost the

draw and was the only one among us

forced to spend his day doing dangerous acrobatics

with a rug of dead human hair

glued all over his crawling skin.

But if somehow I could re-convene

that little group in a dadly cappuccino

(or, more likely, Coors or Killian's) klatsch,

we would all readily admit to you our

acceptance of the inevitable

sad mortality of dads;

and agree that Jim S_______ blazed a trail,

as we all wind up wearing

a hair shirt of penitence for our

unfulfilled dreams in life,

which Fate,

for whatever reason,

refused to let us realize.

Last "dads"
Past "dads"

©2003 Arhythmiacs

Thanks to my long-suffering wife for the hairy idea.

Special thanks for the bandwidth
to the fine folks @