A Grief Interlude

It seems so strange to interrupt an ongoing tribute to a now deceased famous person who affected my life significantly…to talk about recent deaths of similarly significant celebrities. And yet here I am, writing this post rather than writing one of my Cravenous reviews as I continue to make my way (very slowly) through Wes Craven’s oeuvre.

There have been several deaths recently within the celebrity circuit. It’s rather alarming, actually, how many famous people have departed the realm in the past month or so—and not celebrities who we might have anticipated leaving us. It’s one thing when someone tips the scales into the upper 80s or even 90s and then leaves us still wanting more but grateful that they were there to inspire and entertain us for as long as they were.

No. These have been wholly unexpected (at least by the general public) and wholly depressing. These have been the deaths of people still active in their crafts, be it music or acting or writing or art. These were early deaths. Painful deaths from an illness far too prevalent among us all. For me personally, I find that the recent deaths of David Bowie and Alan Rickman have been almost as upsetting as Craven’s unexpected death in August of last year. Both were 69 years old. Both succumbed after lengthy yet quiet battles against cancer.

For Bowie, I confess that I didn’t start actively getting into his music until a few years ago. To me, he was first Jareth the Goblin King.

jareth

I’ve already written about the significance of Jim Henson and his Muppets to my early years. Make no mistake that I consider Bowie to be a crucial part of that significance. His performance as the Goblin King to Jennifer Connelly’s Sarah is what made Labyrinth as captivating and memorable as it was. Plus, Bowie wrote all the music for the movie, which he of course performed.

It was his appearance as Jareth that I found most compelling, with the whimsical (though slightly lewd) costumes, the magnificent hair, and the most stunning makeup, made all the more ethereal by his one eye with the forever-dilated pupil. He was beautiful. It wasn’t until later that I realized that it wasn’t just Jareth who was beautiful. It was Bowie himself. Androgynous, feather-light, stick-thin, snaggle-toothed, and stunning. Whether as Major Tom, Ziggy Stardust, the Thin White Duke, any of his movie roles (several of which are standouts among my beloved genre fiction, such as The Hunger or The Man Who Fell to Earth, which seems as though it was written with Bowie in mind), or simply Bowie, he was always gorgeous.

David Bowie (Photo by Ron Galella/WireImage)
David Bowie (Photo by Ron Galella/WireImage)

(Also, from the look of this photo, Tilda Swinton owes him significantly as well…do you think she knows? Oh. Yeah, I think she does.)

As I learned more about his career, I realized that Bowie also was one of the most influential artists within the rock world to which I was first introduced. Even when I didn’t realize his impact, I was feeling it. Every time I turned on a Culture Club video and swooned at the sight of Boy George in all his early gorgeous glory or fell under the spell of similarly androgy-gorgeous Eurythmics-era Annie Lennox, I was reaping the benefit of Bowie’s influence. Any time I fell in love with an artist for being unabashedly, defiantly unique, what I was really falling in love with was how Bowie burst through the doors that continued to remain open for all these subsequent acts who fell within the purview of my growing attention to music. Bowie showed that it was all right to be different. It was okay to be flamboyant, to be a “Space Oddity” and not fit in. He showed the way for so many artists who walked the peculiar path whose bricks Bowie helped lay.

Even when I had no idea who or what Ziggy Stardust was, I was enjoying his short existence that continued to benefit all of us who were, just as he was, delightfully left of left of center. And even in my nascent naivete toward music and musicians, I was grooving to songs laid down by the Thin White Duke. I didn’t know who sang the songs (I predate the ease of holding up a smartphone to a radio and having the ghost in the machine tell me what I’m listening to), but I knew I liked them.

I liked David Bowie. His creativity was immense (almost as immense as Jareth’s cod piece) and left an indelible mark upon the creative spaces of sound and image. His influence shaped the musical landscape to which I arrived in all my unknowing glory and continues to enthrall and influence even now.

Many of these same sentiments can extend to how I feel about Alan Rickman’s equally unexpected passing. Rickman, with that striking singular voice. That voice will always, to me, be the Voice of the One True God (beware, NSFW for language):

Whether he was telling you to “shoot ze glass” or threatening to carve your heart out with a spoon or trying to teach you a new spell to protect you from the Dark Lord, Rickman’s dulcet timbre was always captivating and instantly recognizable. His performances were always satisfying, his range always astounding. By Grabthar’s hammer, he could bring gravitas and pathos to any character he played. He also breathed life into some of the most momentous genre fiction characters we’ve had the pleasure to meet on screen, be they Metatron, Dr. Lazarus, the Sheriff of Nottingham, or that most infamous Death Eater of all, Professor Severus Snape.

severus_snape

For me, while it was all about these larger-than-life roles (of which, I do believe the Metatron was my favorite) to some degree, I think I loved Rickman most of all in a couple of his quieter, lesser-known roles: Dr. Alfred Blalock in Something the Lord Made and Alex in Snow Cake, which paired him once more with Sigourney Weaver.

Regardless of his role, Rickman was always watchable (or listenable, if it were one of his voice-only roles). His talent made many a movie more enjoyable and it will be sorely missed. He will be sorely missed as well, for his humor, his kindness, his depth of care and compassion for other actors. From what I have gleaned from recent words of kindness spoken of him and Bowie, both men were exceptionally generous with their time, attention, and advice. They were solid, solicitous souls who brought light to all they did. Both he and Bowie have left irreparable holes in the fabric of creativity as well as in the hearts of many a fan, including this humble and sorrowful wolf.

Flashback Friday: Mac Tonight

Time to revisit Loba’s obsession with bizarre company mascots from her youth, thanks to a lovely reminder from one of my favorite ImagiFriendsTM (although we’re friends IRL, so I guess I can’t really refer to him in this way…but I love the classification so very much).

In addition to Spuds MacKenzie trying to convince me that I should like his diluted horse pee beer and Chester Cheetah coercing me to have perpetually stained fingers, or all those kooky kids’ cereal mascots luring me toward their sugary dentally damaging delights, there was this, er, lunatic:

mactonight

Get it? Lun…never mind. Denizens, may I introduce you to Mac Tonight, from that ever-trippy corps of crazy McDonald’s ad campaigns. As I remember it (and that wonderful oracle of truth Wikipedia kind of confirms), our silver sliver-headed songster came about as a means to let us all know that McDonald’s was a really swingin’ dinner-time kinda of lounge, hep cats. Apparently, Ronald was a little too garish for that evening rush that McDonald’s was hoping to drum up. The Golden Arches wanted less red, more blue. Less clown, more…moon?

I get it…night time is the right time (to clog your arteries and succumb to grease-induced zit attacks), so when the Man in the Moon starts to serenade you about when it’s time to head for golden lights, you listen, you dig? Especially when he’s twirling around on a cloud that’s strangely solid enough to hold the weight of a baby grand piano and him, but still light enough to float through the city streets to spread his snappy tune.

[Loba Tangent: Apparently, I wasn’t the only one to notice how silly it was to have a cloud holding up a piano…TPTB quickly replaced the cloud with…a twirling Big Mac. You know, for the realism.]

I snark now about Mac Tonight, but the truth is that I loved this guy when he debuted. That’s the whole point of these wacky mascots, right? Be so ___________ that impressionable people can’t get enough of you or the product you’re shilling? Sadly, though, he wasn’t cool enough to convince me that I should eat Big Macs, which are actually my least favorite McDonald’s offering of all. I’d even choose one of those mystery fish cinder-block burgers before I would order a Big Mac with that disgusting “special sauce” (there is nothing “special” about ruining mayonnaise with ketchup and relish, dammit).

However, he was cool enough to earn his own amazing cavalcade of merchandise, including T-shirts, cups, jackets, belt buckles, toys, hats…I even remember getting my pudgy little paws on a pair of Mac Tonight sunglasses, exactly like this pair:

mtglasses

I loved these sunglasses and wore them for years…long after the little Mac Tonight logo wore off and there was no evidence that they were anything more than a pair of Ray Charles-esque RayBan ripoffs. But that’s okay, considering that Mac Tonight was nothing more than a corporate ripoff of a Bobby Darrin song called “Mac the Knife.” Get it? Yeah, Mac Tonight’s themes were even nothing more than (marginally) reworked lyrics set to the same Darrin tune. It was so blatant (and so very unapproved) that Darrin’s family finally sued McDonald’s, thus bringing an end to Mac Tonight’s night-time TV ad reign…at least here in the States. Apparently, Mac was revived (and CGIed) in 2007 for new commercials for overseas markets in several Asian countries and South Africa. Here’s what the computer-rendered Mac Tonight looks like:

mtcgi

Gone is the Darrin ripoff song and the baby grand. Now, he plays a saxophone and sings a nondescript tune, like this:

https://www.youtube-nocookie.com/embed/mOlLIP9-vlQ

Meh. Not nearly as groovy as the live action Mac…who was consequently played by Doug Jones. Name not ringing a bell? Don’t worry, denizens, his real face wouldn’t probably ring a bell either. He’s made quite a name for himself in Hollywood, however, for playing amazingly intricate prosthetically disguised characters, including this freakishly disturbing character from Pan’s Labyrinth:

pans-labyrinth

He was also the faun in this movie as well as Abe Sapien in the Hellboy movies. He was also one of the Gentlemen in one of my favorite episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer:

buffygentleman

Ah, “Hush.” The episode that introduced Tara Maclay into the Buffyverse. Also, one of the most unnerving hours of television ever filmed.

How the hell did I get from a singing moon to Tara Maclay? It’s a good time for the great taste of the healthy helping of WTFery always ready to be served here at the lair, denizens.

I leave you now with this compilation of Mac Tonight commercials that prompted this whole Flashback. Check the Simpsons cameo. You know you’ve hit the big times when the Simpsons dredge you up! Or, conversely, you know you’ve been on air too long when you have to dredge so deep to the bottom of the pop culture barrel that you reference Mac Tonight (types the wolf who just wrote an entire Flashback Friday on said character…).

https://www.youtube-nocookie.com/embed/IrIg18Uby4E