Puttin' Out the Bone

He's Still Paying the Buffalo's Bill

May 28, 2003 at 2:06 pm

Who the hell are you making fun of? You making fun of me? No, don't turn away from me. You're making fun of me, aren't you, big-time Christopher Guest, Mr. Mockumentary Man, Mr. Let's Get Millions of People Into Movie Theaters Across America and Make Fun of the Jene Galvins of the World Because They Once Performed in Folk Groups.

I went to see A Mighty Wind the other night and I was dumb enough to take my wife, Bonnie, with me. I've got enough trouble keeping her interested in me over a lifetime without having a Left Coast movie mogul begging her for laughs at my expense.

I squirmed. I went to the bathroom three times. I got in the longest popcorn line. I struck up a conversation with an usher about when he thought the Cracker Barrel across the parking lot might get in a shipment of rockers with the rush seats.

I did everything I could to avoid the obvious: Mighty Wind was about my friends and me in 1968, and it was cutting me with razors. If you didn't see Jene Galvin's blood on the floor of that Milford movie house, you're blind.

Don't patronize me. Mighty Wind isn't a celebration of the movement music that shaped my politics, my profession, even my wardrobe.

It's a snide rip on my membership in the Meryl Dwimph Trio in the late 1960s here in Cincinnati. I was the tenor who played the four-string guitar and sang lead on "Ain't No More Cane on the Brazos."

Hell, it was me who got the Dwimph Trio the gig at the Alpine Ski Resort in Morrow, right before it became a cow pasture. I'm the one who cracked the jokes between "Don't Think Twice, It's All Right" and "Green Back Dollar" at Leo Coffee House in the old YMCA building at the University of Cincinnati on Sunday nights.

Hell, if you'd been there, you'd have seen me standing most of the night just to the left of John Denver at the private party after the Mitchell Trio sang at Xavier University's Fieldhouse. That was the same party where the Trio jammed until daybreak, singing the songs commercial audiences wouldn't tolerate, edgy ones like "The Banks of Marble."

My God, don't you people understand? Jene Galvin is the one who stood up in the balcony of Music Hall and shouted out the best verse of the night when the Limelighters did their famous, "Hey, Liley": "I know a guy named Buffalo Bill. He won't do it, but his buffalo will." The place went crazy. The Limelighters smiled up at me. Look it up. Dale Stevens, the music critic for The Cincinnati Post, mentioned the verse in his review of the concert.

So when you crack your little jokes about Jene Galvin, when you make your cuts, realize you're hitting bone. There's a man screaming. There's a man who knows, as Fred Willard might say, "Wha happened?"

You see, I might not be as smart as John Fox or Greg Flannery or Maria Rogers. But this isn't the first time Christopher Guest has pimped me. A few years back he got a piece of me in the movie, Waiting for Guffman.

Damn straight. Instead of revering my work in 1969 as the lead in The Potting Shed, by Graham Greene, he mocked me and my brothers and sisters of community theater. He made us look lame just because we chose to work day jobs that we hated so we could bring live theater (I'm sorry, that's theatre) to America's smaller towns.

You think I was dying to wear that skimpy toga in Tiger at the Gates? No. But I did it because the Mariemont Players had the courage to do classical theatre in a town with no diversity. And I did Tea and Sympathy because the Beechmont Players were willing to throw down philosophically with the diamond-studded rednecks of Anderson Township.

Go on. Do another movie. Finish me off. Make millions at my expense one more time. Take the final breath that I suck through wheezes of your own making. Do it. Make a movie about local politicians.

Instead of praising those of us who bust our butts making our communities safer, funner (that's right, funner) and cleaner, paint your little pictures of hypocrisy, arrogance and incompetence.

Go ahead. You've taken my creativity. Now take my soul. I haven't been on the boards of live theatre since I was a walk-on replacement in Incident at Vichy at Playhouse in the Park, starring Henry Winkler. Jene Galvin no longer does a driving rendition of "Coal Tattoo" as an encore before a group larger than his family.

So now mock Jene Galvin the small-town politico. Do your little scene of Jene standing in front of the Pierce Township water-pumping station in 1983 holding a news conference covered only by The Clermont County Review. The one where he charged that poor planning by the incumbent Republican commissioners caused the people of Loveland to have to boil their water. The one where Jene Galvin said he should be elected county commissioner even though he was a Democrat in a sea of Republicans. Then show your little file footage of a dejected Jene Galvin getting 39 percent of the vote on election night.

Have your fun. Hurt me. Hurt Chris Monzel. Show his stupid "Here's my kid, the campaign manager" commercial. Yeah. Show that news footage of Jim Tarbell leaning on a parking meter in his Over-the-Rhine neighborhood, telling a frustrated African-American neighbor that through the trauma of unrest, what bonds them together is that they live side by side.

"We don't want you in our neighborhood," she says bluntly. "We don't like you. Get out of here."

So there you have it. The expose of the so-called mockumentary genre of the great Christopher Guest. You think we don't get it just because we live in a town that puts painted pigs on street corners. We get it. We know who's being zoomed.

One day the worm will turn. And when that happens, your ass is mine.

PUTTIN' OUT THE BONE appears monthly.