Santa Cruz Good Times

Sunday
May 24th
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

Babes, Ditzes, and Moms

Lisa_JensenWhat I tried not to learn from '60s TV
There we were at Bookshop Santa Cruz, Art Boy, me, and a crowd of fans, listening to my friend and colleague Wallace Baine read from his new book of essays, "Rhymes With Vain." Wallace launched the event with one of his vintage Sentinel columns "Jed Clampett, Molder Of Men," his ode to the male role models provided to impressionable youth on 1960s TV shows.

It's a funny piece. (I was especially delighted at his shout-out to Gomez Addams, the sexiest, most impassioned husband on TV. Even after two children, his ardor for wife Morticia was undimmed. She had only to murmur c'est la vie—or even "hors d'oeuvres"— and Gomez came unglued. "Tish—that's French!" he'd cry, throwing away his pipe, grasping her hand and commencing rubber-stamping her arm with his kisses.)

But even as my inner writer was smacking me upside the head, demanding "Why didn't YOU think of that for a column?" I knew the answer. Female role models on '60s TV? There weren't any. Little boys like Wallace could aspire to the panache of Gomez Addams, the witty irreverence of Hawkeye Pierce, or the smart, rationalistic cool of Mr. Spock. Little girls were taught something entirely different by TV heroines like Jeannie, in her flesh-baring harem costume, whose only desire was to please her "master," the compliant, tabula rasa robot that was My Living Doll, and the backwoods sisters on Petticoat Junction, in their skimpy Daisy Mae outfits.

Men on TV were doctors, lawyers, business execs, detectives, compassionate family men. Women were babes, ditzes, or moms. They had Father Knows Best. We had My Mother The Car.

When I was little, all women on TV were housewives: Lucy, Harriet, Donna Reed, June Cleaver, in their a shirtwaist dresses and pearls, sorting out the problems of their husbands and kids. This was the norm well into the '60s; even Morticia Addams and Lily Munster were stay-at-home moms.

Samantha Stevens of Bewitched, wore the pearls and Barbie-style sheath dresses, but one wrinkle of her pert little nose could unleash magical powers undreamed of by mortal man. Which, freaked her disapproving, amxious husband, Darrin. Instead of harnessing her powers to oppose evil, ease the hardships of loved ones, or even enjoy a little private hedonism now and then, Darrin, the old killjoy, demanded that Sam keep her extraordinary gifts under wraps.

And consider Mona McCluskey, that rare TV woman who actually had a job. She was a famous movie star who earned a ton of moolah in her own right. So, of course, the conceit in the series was that she married a blue-collar guy whose tender ego could only be massaged if she agreed to move into his crummy, walk-up flat with the busted appliances and live on his salary. And she did, because, according to the Tao of '60s TV, it was the first duty of every woman to make her man more secure. (Just ask Samantha.) They never said in the show what Mona did with her own money, but I hope she spent it on assertiveness training.

Laura Petrie, of The Dick Van Dyke Show, had once been a dancer on Broadway, but she gave it up for marriage and motherhood. That Girl Ann Marie was an aspiring actress who was allowed to go out for auditions because she wasn't yet married to her ever-present boyfriend. And while Julia was justifiably hailed as the first black woman to star in her own sitcom, the reason she was allowed to work for a living (as a nurse) was that she was a widow—not divorced or single—with a child to support.

These women provided scant encouragement for little girls whose dreams stretched beyond the kitchen or maternity ward. Still, there were a few refreshing exceptions. Lt. Uhura was the only female officer stationed on the bridge in the original voyages of the Starship Enterprise. Even if her duties as Communications Officer amounted to little more than a glorified secretary, transferring incoming calls to the boss, hey, at least she wasn't the ship's cook. Plus, she got to wear that sexy outfit on the job without losing the respect of her co-workers.

And speaking of dressing for success, what about Emma Peel of The Avengers? Here was a woman to be reckoned with, in her skin-tight, cut-out catsuits, she was an international secret agent who could karate-kick a miscreant  into submission without mussing a hair of her long Mod flip, or losing an atom of her cool and always ready to pop open a bottle of bubbly with her debonair partner, John Steed. He always called her "Mrs. Peel," out of deference to a mysteriously vanished husband, but the very discretion with which they bantered onscreen, while protecting the world from evil, suggested intoxicating possibilities in their private encounters.

But my personal Numero Uno TV role model was Sally Rogers on The Dick Van Dyke Show. She may not have been as glamorous as Mrs. Peel or Uhura, she may have been a little too desperately obsessed with finding a husband, but she was a self-sufficient working woman with what sounded to me like a dream job: comedy writer on a weekly TV show. Laura had to give up her career to keep the home fires burning, but Sally was right there in the office all day, trading wisecracks with the boys. If not for Sally's sterling example, I'd never have realized a woman can get paid to be funny.

Who knew?


Check out "Rhymes With Vain" at a bookstore near you, or visit www.wallacebaine.com. Discuss role models with This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Local songbird Jayme Kelly Curtis was also inspired by Wallace’s column. Listen to her wry, bluesy song, “What Would Jed Do?”

Comments (0)Add Comment

Write comment
smaller | bigger

busy
 

Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share

 

Gate Openers

Up-and-coming artists like Ryan Bingham are a great reason to show up early to the Santa Cruz American Music Festival

 

Gemini Sun, Pentecost, Shavuot—Enlightenment and Gladness

As the sun enters Gemini on Sunday, sign of speaking, communication, thinking, inter-relations, writing and understanding languages, the feast days of Pentecost & Shavuot (Catholic and Jewish festivals) occur. During Pentecost’s 50 days after Easter, tongues of fire appear above the heads of the disciples, providing them with the ability to understand all languages and all feelings hidden in the minds and hearts of humanity. It’s recorded that Pentecost began with a loud noise, which happened in an upper room (signifying the mind). The Christ (World Teacher) told his disciples (after his ascension) when encountering a man at a well carrying a water pot (signs for Age of Aquarius) to follow him to an upper room. There, the Holy Spirit (Ray 3 of Divine Intelligence) would overshadow them, expand their minds, give them courage and enable them to teach throughout the world, speaking all languages and thus able to minister to the true needs of a “seeking” humanity. Pentecost (50 days, pentagram, Ray 5, Venus, concrete and scientific knowledge, the Ray of Aquarius) sounds dramatic, impressive and scary: The loud noise, a thunderous rush of wind and then “tongues of fire” above the heads of each disciple (men and women). Fire has purpose. It purifies, disintegrates, purges, transforms and liberates (frees) us from the past. This was the Holy Spirit (Ray 3, love and wisdom) being received by the disciples, so they would teach in the world and inform humanity of the Messiah (Christ), who initiated the new age (Pisces) and gave humanity the new law (adding to the 10 Commandments of the Aries Age) to Love (Ray 2) one another. Note: Gemini is also Ray 2. Shavuot is the Jewish Festival of Gladness, the First Fruits Festival celebrating the giving of the 10 Commandments to Moses as the Aries Age was initiated. Thus, we have two developmental stages here, Jewish festival of the Old Testament. Pentecost of the New Testament. We have gladness, integrating both.

 

The New Tech Nexus

Community leaders in science and technology unite to form web-based networking program

 

Off Her Meds

Kristin Wiig runs wild—and transcends her sketch comedy roots—as a truly strange character ‘Welcome to Me’
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments

 

Flats Bistro

Pizza with an artisan twist comes to Aptos Beach

 

What’s your take on Santa Cruz locals?

Santa Cruz locals are really friendly once you know them. I think a lot of them have a hard time leaving, and I would too. Ryan Carle, Santa Cruz, Biologist

 

Soquel Vineyards

If Soquel Vineyards partners Peter and Paul Bargetto and Jon Morgan were walking down the street wearing their winning wine competition medals, you’d hear them coming from a mile away. This year was particularly rewarding for the Bargettos and Morgan—they won two Double Gold Medals and five Gold Medals at January’s San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition.

 

Enlightened Flavors

Squash & Blossom’s artisanal alternative-flour delights, beet kvass from Cafe Ivéta, and the Santa Cruz Baroque Festival