FOLLOWING JACKIE GLEASON
The television movie called Gleason was aired by CBS on 13 October 2002. I watched it eight years later here in Tasmania, Australia.1 The movie took a deeper look into Jackie Gleason's(1916-1987) life; it took liberties with some of the Gleason story; it featured his troubled home life, a side of Gleason that few would previously have known about. I knew nothing of it. Here in Australia he was not as well-known as in North America. Gleason had two daughters by his first wife. They divorced and Gleason endured a brief second marriage before finding a happy union with his third wife, Marilyn Taylor.
Jackie Gleason's first recognition as a significant entertainer came on Broadway when, at the age of 28, he appeared in the hit musical Follow the Girls(1944). I was born that same year in Hamilton Ontario. CBS wooed and won him over to its network in 1952. The year 1952-3 was a big year for my family. It was their first contact with the Baha'i Faith. Gleason took the role of a lead performer in the musical Take Me Along, which ran from 1959 to 1960; he won a Tony Award for Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical. I joined the Baha'i Faith that same year at the age of 15.
In 1962, the year I began travelling and pioneering for the Canadian Baha'i community, Jackie resurrected his variety show with more splashiness and a new hook. The hook was a fictitious general-interest magazine called The American Scene Magazine through whose format Gleason trotted out many of his old characters in new scenarios. He also added another catchphrase to the American vernacular. It was first uttered in the 1963 film Papa's Delicate Condition: "How sweet it is!" The film was released in New York 7 weeks before what the sociologist Max Weber, in his sociology of religion, called the full institutionalization of a charismatic Force---in the Universal House of Justice.
On June 30, 1988, the Sunset Park Bus Depot in Brooklyn was renamed the Jackie Gleason Depot in honor of this native Brooklynite. I had just started teaching in Perth Western Australia in Technical and Further Education, my last full-time job, in one of the most isolated cities on the planet.-Ron Price with thanks to 1 WIN TV, 6 December 2010, 12:20-2:05 a.m.
My life has been so different than yours, Jackie.
It was a miracle you lasted until you were 71!!!
On five packs of cigarettes a day and all that OH
--all that booze and emotional ups-and downs,
all that egomania, all that narcissism, all those
damaged relationships!!! I did not do half as
..but then I did not become even
half as famous and never made all that money.
The perils, eh Jackie, of being famous and rich!
I did enjoy The Honeymooners,1happy memories
from a lifetime ago, before my mother decided to
sell our TV. You lasted a long time, Jackie, and I
had no idea what happened to you. You were just
a character on TV, an image, a simulacrum as Jean
Baudrillard calls the fascinating hyperreality of TV.2
1 The Honeymooners was a TV series that appeared from 1 October 1955 to 22 September 1956. I used to watch this program with my mother and father before they sold out TV which, they thought, was taking too much of my time away from my studies at school.
2 Jean Baudrillard(1929-2007) was a French sociologist, philosopher, cultural theorist, political commentator, and photographer. His work is frequently associated with postmodernism and post-structuralism which I leave to readers to follow-up on should they wish to read his books and essays about simulacra.
6 December 2010