by Kaz Johnson
A short time ago, we lost the man that I thought was the funniest/saddest man who ever lived, Robin Williams. In many ways, Robin wouldn’t have been Robin if there hadn’t been a man called Jerry Lewis first.
Jerry Lewis died at 91, today. In his latter years, Jerry said some things that were not appropriate but apart from that, his life was a great joy to all of us who grew up with him, particularly his golden years with Dean Martin. Some of the best days of my youth were spent watching Jerry and Dino in their movies – Dean with his handsome looks, beautiful voice and the straight man role and Jerry with his goofy facial expressions, roll in the isles slapstick and clever mimicking made one of the best screen duos of all time.
Jerry’s solo career was just as big, but my generation and the generation before me, felt a little sad that Jerry and Dino weren’t together anymore. After a big split, they made up in later years, thanks to Frank Sinatra. The media blew their relationship out of proportion as usual.
I remember laughing myself silly at The Disorderly Orderly, Rock-A Bye Baby and The Geisha Boy, in particular, in his solo efforts. His scene with Shirley MacLaine in Artists and Models always cracks me up – it is also some of Shirley and Jerry’s best physical comedy work as they do a comic version of a straight Dino love song. The typewriter scene from Who’s Minding The Store is an absolute classic.
From their first movie together “My Friend Irma” where Seymour (Jerry) got his fingers caught in the orange juicer to “You’re Never Too Young” where he posed as a young boy, to “Pardners” where Jerry and Dean went West, Jerry and Dean brought much joy to us kids.
The truth was that Dino was an amazing comic too, to play such a straight man to Jerry’s sometimes unpredictable antics would have been so difficult, but he carried it off superbly.
Jerry Lewis went on to become a film maker, individual stand up comedian and worked tirelessly for charities, being the creator of the telethon and raising huge amounts of money for Muscular Dystrophy.
The beauty of the stars that we lose is that we don’t lose their work. We can pop in a dvd, check out things on Youtube, read books about them and the imagery will always be there.
Jerry was a colourful character on screen and off. He learned from masters and he paid that forward, with actors like Jim Carrey and the aforementioned Robin Williams, taking on many of his traits, as well as Billy Crystal and many others.
He also proved himself to be a serious actor, most notably in The King of Comedy with Robert De Niro.
Jerry and Dean are probably figuring out a reunion tour up in Heaven, right now. It is a shame that we won’t get to see that footage.
Thank you Jerry.
It would not be a surprise to many who know me, that most of the books that I love the most have been turned into movies. My favourite book is To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee. I saw the movie when I was about 8 and when I read the novel at school as a teenager, I even loved it more than the movie that I had seen about 20 times up to that point. Loving a book more than Gregory Peck is a pretty big deal! The rest of the books that I love – and I am talking novels here….non fiction is another day don’t fall into any particular order. I love Nevil Shute’s A Town Like Alice. I read it after I saw the mini series with Helen Morse and Bryan Brown but before I saw the original movie with Peter Finch and Virginia McKenna. I have read the book so many times that I have to put it under the lounge to flatten the pages. The Great Gatsby is also a big favourite. I read it in high school and I loved it. F. Scott Fitzgerald always did more for me that the old Boys’ Own author, Ernest Hemingway. I never found a movie version that matched the book. As much as I worship the ground that Redford walks on, I could never truly accept his version of Jay Gatsby. Alan Ladd’s version or Leo’s version weren’t anywhere near as good as the book. One day, the might get it right, but I doubt it. I also read To Sir With Love in high school, and this time, I think that my second favourite actor of all time, Sidney Poitier, did a great job in the movie. I have read the book and watched the movie about the same amount of times. I love them both. They differ slightly in plot but the basic ingredients are there. E.R. Braithwaite did a wonderful job. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott is an obvious choice as is Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery. I relate very much to Jo and Anne, so they are givens. I have a unique interest in American History, particular their wars, which is strange, because I am a 60’s Aquarian Hippy Child who hates conflict. I think that the curiosity about the wars, considering that they were insular wars in many ways, sparks interest. One of my favourites is Brave Enemies by Robert Morgan. Gap Creek is also a great book of his but of a different subject. Brave Enemies deals with the American Revolution, or more importantly with a unique love story between two unlikely people. I love Jack Kerouac’s On The Road, John Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath and Bobbie Ann Mason’s In Country. Fannie Flagg’s Fried Green Tomatoes At The Whistle Stop Cafe, Pat Conroy’s Prince of Tides and Western Classics like The Open Range Men by Lauran Paine and Owen Wister’s The Virginian are well thumbed. Marilynne Robinson’s Housekeeping and anything by Irwin Shaw (Especially Rich Man, Poor Man) and Sara Donati are favourites. Usually anything that involves history or something a little bit left of centre appeal to me. I love Carson McCullers stuff, Colleen McCullough is a regular read, especially Tim. Stephen Crane’s Red Badge of Courage was something that I read in American Literature at University and I adored it. Yes, there are English books too. High on my list from England are Thomas Hardy’s Tess, Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights and I love the Heartbeat Books by Nicholas Rhea. A Kind of Loving by Stan Barstow is a soft spot book. My high school librarian gave it to me to read with a proviso that I check with Mum first. I remember Mum saying that “of course you can, dear, just don’t show Dad.” It was a bit risque at the time, really extremely mild these days but for a 14 year old in the seventies, it might have been a bit of a worry. Of course, my favourite books from England are The Poldark Books by Winston Graham. I still think that the 1970’s mini series with Robin Ellis is more loyal to them than the current series, but I guess it is a matter of taste. I love Deborah Challinor books from New Zealand and Katherine Mansfield’s Garden Party is just perfect. There are books by Lillian Hellman and Helene Hanff etc that I won’t include in this lot because they are essentially autobiographical. I also want to put people like Lavyrle Spencer, Debbie Macomber, etc in a separate category. These in many ways are works of literature. It is only part one. I think that you will observe that these are mainly classics. There are more to come, just a sample! I am a librarian after all!
By Kaz Johnson
The one thing that I rarely talk about, on or off Facebook are my up close and personal relationships. Sure, I talk about my family, friends, country music family (ad-nauseum) and colleagues (to a point) but I rarely talk about my relationship status, which is listed on Facebook as It’s complicated.
At a time when relationships seem to be in the limelight, I need to point a few things out about myself. I have been a hopeless romantic since the day that I was born. I was in love with Elvis Presley, Ringo Starr, Bruce Barry (I know), Terence Donovan and Herman Munster and Batman from a very young age. I even wrote a Love Book (an exercise book full of all of the guys that I loved from boys at school to the butcher, the baker and the Tollgate Man, to actors, singers and sportsmen). My sister and I had a giggle over it years later then it was lost in the flood at Tamworth. Mum reckoned that I was in love with a different bloke every day. Redford came along and that was the end of the story. Nobody could possibly match Redford, not even Elvis or Keith Potger, who I had a crush on.
After many unrequited loves, I still did not lose hope. I watched matinee movies and musicals with my mum, westerns with my dad and swooned over singers and cowboys. I wrote really bad romance stories and named my matchbox cars after guys that I liked at school and future children. I think that I wanted to be Shirley Partridge (with a husband) and 8 children instead of 5. Then I realised that maybe that was too much and thought about 6, then 4.
I was never good at the love thing. Even when I had a couple of boyfriends later on, I was either too pushy or not pushy enough. When I found out in my early twenties that I couldn’t have kids ( I had 12 confirmations), I thought well, maybe I will meet a guy with kids or maybe we could adopt or foster. I have always loved children. I am a big kid myself. I honestly have a shocking track record with men. I tried hard, or maybe too hard. There were a few that I told, don’t have a relationship with me, it will be a disaster. When my best friend had her first child in 1988, (I had just broken up with someone and I thought lots of things – none of them good), a light bulb went off. I would go back to school and work in an area that I love, hopefully with children and books and do some travelling. It was a real turning point. So, I did. At University, I found myself in many ways and I realised that I was not such a dumb blonde after all and I was back in the country. I also found love, which could have been bigger but the timing sucked – for both of us – he was 10 years younger than me and he was the first guy who actually really understood me. I broke off the burgeoning relationship because I thought that it was best for him and I had a lot on my plate. He transferred Universities and that was that. Sometimes I have regrets, but I think it was best for him.
I have had a few relationships since but none of them have ended well. I have left whatever I have to my 10 unofficial children, who have been the lights of my life, even though I don’t get to see them very often. I am worth more dead than alive, but don’t get any ideas, kids.
I haven’t given up hope. I am still hoping that one day, my prince will come along. He just has to be kind and funny and a good listener and hopefully like movies, books and country music. If he goes for the Roosters and Carlton, then that will be the cherry on the top.
If it doesn’t happen, then that is okay too. I have had an interesting and full life. I have worked in a Chocolate factory in London where I was the only person who spoke English (and Australian English at that). I have had some of my best times when I have been sitting at a table where I am the only white person there but you would never know, because I was treated just the same as the others. I have travelled, studied, had a life full of love and laughter as well as the sad and tough times. It has never been boring or dull.
Now to the point. Relationships come in many forms. If I have learned only two lessons in my 54 years, they are that life is short and that love is a rare and beautiful thing. People spend so much time these days venting their hatred for things and other people. This blog is about things that I love, people that I love. What the world needs now is more love, not more hate.
If you can find love these days, you should be able to celebrate it in any fashion that you see fit. It is a precious commodity and it should be treasured, not ridiculed, not be denigrated.
When I went to Sunday School when I was a kid, I loved two things, the songs and the stories. In one song that I learned, the words went: Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world, red and yellow, black and white, all the children in his sight, Jesus loves the little children of the world.
A favourite hymn of my Aunty’s is Love One Another.
It shouldn’t matter about the colour of your skin, whether you are big or small, hairy or bald, boy and boy, girl and girl or whoever, everybody has the right to love and be loved.
Most of my friends and family are in relationships or are married, mostly with kids. Sometimes, I am the only single person in the room or at the table and I don’t feel like the odd one out. Maybe sometimes they feel strange about it but they don’t express it. I go to movies and dinner by myself and I am fine with that. I travel alone but never end up alone. I go to gigs alone and I usually bump into friends. That’s all okay too. A family member asked me recently….or it was more of a statement… “You are okay being alone, you like your own company?”. I am fine with it. It is my lot and instead of dwelling on it, I make the most of my situation and sometimes when I look around, I think that I am better off alone….but never, ever, lonely. If Mr Right comes knocking at the door, then awesome, but I am not going to dwell on it.
There are a lot of awful things happening in this world right now. Let us find some gold at the end of that rainbow.
I have a broad mind and an open heart. Neither are in perfect working order but both mean well. So folks, love a bit more, hate a bit less and just be happy. Appreciate other people’s differences and just let it be.
Hello all, welcome to my new blog. People say that I carry on a lot, so I thought that I would make it official. I hope that you enjoy all of my ramblings. Mostly, I will be sharing some fun stuff, news and reviews on some of my favourite things and people and not in that order, probably! It may go under a few constructions before it goes totally wild, but I hope that you get something out of it. My A Country Hattitude site is still out there, and I will put a link to it, but sadly, I can’t get into it anymore for some strange reason. I will be covering all sorts of music on here, including my much loved country music.