Life sometimes offers tableaux of quirky juxtapositions if we look. Take last nite’s crushingly dull GOP primary debate. Serendipity turned a rote debate into a biting mashup with campy social commentary.
We bailed on the debate 10 minutes in. Scanning cable, the universe began to speak. A previously ignored channel (Movieplex? Plexamovie? Realplex?) ran the 1967 classic “Valley of the Dolls” (“dolls” referring to barbiturates). The movie (and underlying book) follow 3 single women in post-war New York showbiz from innocent enthusiasm, staggering quantities of alcohol, the aforementioned ‘dolls’ to swinging Hollywood and . . . nobody really comes to a good end. Perfect for the debate.
We switched back and forth between the two. “Dolls” is widely celebrated as so awful it might be surreal art. The Republican debate as backing track gave it a certain gravitas, too. For example, one of the 3 women, “Neely” (played by Patty Duke (who used to have her own show for kids who don’t remember B&W TV) and said loosely to be based on Judy Garland) is undeniably gifted. But also fantastically self-destructive, grandiose, destructive, untruthful, unfaithful and manipulative.
Did we mention destructive? So basically Newt. Oh universe, it’s as if you were watching CNN, too.
When Neely began a scene of drug-fuelled lunacy (including a spell in the pre-Betty Ford celeb rehab ‘sanitarium’) time to watch the debate for Newtisms. Sadly, Newt couldn’t match Patty Duke’s scenery chewing firepower. Not that we’d suggest anyone debate nationally on drugs, alcohol and grandiosity. Although at least one of them worked for Newt before.
One of Neely’s friends, Anne, proper, from New England and money, tried to fit in. Swing with the show business thing. She barely saves her life by fleeing Hollywood and embracing New ENgland home, family and friends. Her screen time? Cue to check in on Mitt.
Romney’s expectations are now so low that simply showing some signs of life makes people grant him a round. (Bachmann’s debate coach, written up on the WaPo as the “Candidate Whisperer” during her rise and despised deeply by her staff and inner circle also got alot of perhaps undeserved credit – what can 2 days on the job really do?). Still, Romney exposed Newt as the Pander Bear, a new port for South Carolina, a new ‘moon colony’ for the space coast.
Finally, the lovely Sharon Tate is Jennifer, the third friend in the triumvirate. We exclude her from this exercise with the heartbreaking knowledge we all have of what was to come shortly. Especially given the character’s tragic end.
Switching channels – while not instant – created strange sentence hand offs – A “Dolls” character begins to rant against ‘show business’ which segues naturally on CNN into media denunciation. Declarations of “I am not going to apologize for my talent!” are a smooth handover to “I am proud to have made money with LBOs”, etc. When Neely becomes particularly drug dependent and screaming for help, her agent’s prescription for tough love cued up Ron Paul, albeit less avuncular – Neely just needs to shut down the Federal Reserve.
The nite’s best line may belong to the Concierge of the Situation Room to Ron Paul: “What do you do when Raoul Castro calls?” “Ask him why he’s calling.”
With just a little work on the beats, it was almost Clouseau-level: “Does your dewg bite?” “No” GGGGGRRRRRRRRRRR “I thought you said your dewg does not bite!” “That’s not my dog.”
What’s the best way you’ve ever watched a debate?