Friday, July 24, 2009

La Dolce Gilda

My friend Mark and I were on the phone forever the other night hysterical reminiscing about Gilda Radner's classic character Patty Caldwell, whose commercial for her album "Stretch Marks" ranks as one of the funniest moments in the history of television. ("Me and Me Against the World," "You Call Me Bitch One More Time I'll Scratch Your Eyes Out," "I Used to Be Quite Interesting, Really"!)

Even all these years later I'm not exactly sure why, but I had a deep, deep affection for Gilda from the first time I watched her on television. Like nearly everyone, I thought she was hilarious (Emily Litella, "Goodbye, Saccharin," Baba Wawa, "Jewess Jeans"!) -- and by far the most talented Not Ready for Prime Time Player.

I absolutely adored her Broadway show (I remember watching it over and over on HBO) and still think "Honey, Touch Me With My Clothes On" is truly the most romantic song of all time. I played the ""Gilda Radner: Live From New York" soundtrack incessantly, and as a kid loved getting to swear during "Let's Talk Dirty to the Animals" (hey, I'm just singing along!) and I still find myself breaking into "I Love to Be Unhappy" from time to time.

Oh, and I even had the Gilda Radner paper dolls (Christmas present from Mom, of course). But there was something more to it all. I'll never forget that afternoon in 1980 when my brothers and I were helping our stepdad do yardwork and news came over the radio outside that Gilda Radner had gotten married. I was stunned and felt like someone had punched me in the stomach. Without hesitation, I slipped out of sight from everyone and burst into tears. Was this what it meant to have a "crush"? Or was I worried that the guy wouldn't be good enough for her? I honestly don't know. Whatever the case, though, I think I sensed her vulnerability (which would only become knowledge many years later) and felt protective of her, perhaps in the same way my predecessors cared for Judy Garland. I think about that moment often as I later realized the man she married (and quickly divorced) was "SNL" band leader G.E. Smith, who I see on the street all the time because lives around the corner from me. (So far I haven't even ask for a photo let alone mentioned it!) As I started to write this, I was stunned to see that it's been 20 years since Gilda died, and shaken to realize she was only 42, the same age I am now. Still, it's moments like the other night when Mark and I relived the magic that was Gilda that assure me that while she is gone, she is truly one who will not be forgotten.

Sadly, the "Stretch Marks" clip was removed from YouTube (thanks, a lot). But for those of you who remember the skit the transcript below will be all you need to get you going. I did find another classic (the Jewess Jean commercial), which will also make you smile.

UPDATE: I see DailyMotion has it now!

"Stretch Marks" by Patty Caldwell

Announcer: Now, at last, an album for career women in their late 30s -- featuring the expressive, the moody, the 38-year-old Patty Caldwell. Finally reaching maturity with her new LP release, "Stretch Marks"

Patty Caldwell: [ singing ]
"Stretch Marks. Stretch Marks.
Footprints of time on my skin.."

Announcer: Patty Caldwell reaches back into her own experiences, to bring back to life tunes like "I Used to Be Quite Interesting, Really", "F-U-L-L-F-I-L-L-M-E-N-T".

Patty Caldwell: [ singing ]
That's what this boy does to me.
F-U-L-L-F-I-L-L-M-E-N-T. That's what life means to me."

Announcer: "I Feel Sorry For People in Love". "My Songs Are My Children".

Patty Caldwell: [ singing ]
"I'm married to music.
My songs are my children.
I'm married to music.
My songs are my kids.
I'm married to music.."

Announcer: "Bad Child". "Cats". "You Call Me Bitch One More Time I'll Scratch Your Eyes Out". Patty shares her lonely moments with you, in songs like "You'll Be Sorry Someday".

Patty Caldwell: [ singing ]
"You'll be sorry someday..
when she begins to look like me.
Is that your car..?"

Announcer: "Kids -- It's Academic Now (Too Risky)". "Me and Me Against the World". "Yesterday's Dreams". "Droopin'". "Vantage Blues".

Patty Caldwell: [ singing ]
"Fifty bucks in the ashtray.
I've got those Vantage blues again..""

Announcer: "My Niece Is Such a Drag". "Man's World Without Men". Patty Caldwell lets it all hang out, with her new "Stretch Marks." This album is not available in record stores. Send your check or money order to: "Stretch Marks," Grand Central Station, Box 202. Only $8.75 for the record album, or $11.15 for 8-track cassette.

Patty Caldwell: [ singing ]
"Stretch Marks. Stretch Marks.
Footprints of time on my skin.."

Announcer: Hurry. She's getting older.


Unknown said...

awww...very nice.

Bart said...

It's hard to believe it's been 20 years our beloved Gilda passed away. I was 10 when SNL premiered on NBC in October 1975 and I always looked forward to seeing her as Emily Litella, Baba Wawa or Roseanne Roseannadana. I still have the PEOPLE issue that chronicled her passing. She was a true comedienna and is still missed by this fan.

PS - I still know all the lyrics to "Let's Talk Diry to the Animals"!

Marc Lallanilla said...

Agreed -- she was the funniest comic out of a very talented cast (back when SNL was truly groundbreaking) and was always a thrill to watch. I think of her as the Madeleine Kahn of television. Tina Fey should pray every night that someday she will be half as funny.

FD said...

Your posts today are exceptional. The more you write, the more I see we have so much in common. I, too, had a teenage crush on Gilda. Every Monday, my geeky friends and I would recount her Saturday night antics during lunch at high school. Her passing was a tremendous loss for all of us. Not fair.