Thursday, September 17, 2009

It Could Only Happen In America. Or Philadelphia.

Summer vacation means an annual screening of the great Mr Hobbs Takes a Vacation, a movie starring James Stewart, Maureen O'Hara and a host of others from 1962. There's a great scene in which Hobbs is trying to find a suitable date for his daughter, who is suspected of having lockjaw but is actually just refusing to unclench her lips, lest someone see that she is wearing braces on her chompers. Hobbs leans into a crowd of guys and hollers, "Hey, Joe!" and Fabian turns around to answer love's call, even though he doesn't know it yet. Later on, after Mrs Hobbs figures out that her hubby is shelling out finskys to these young men to get them to dance with his daughter, she decries his method of finding the dudes, and Hobbs says "I just called 'Hey, Joe!' There's one in every crowd." What we moderns can learn from this is, that's a great way to find a vice-presidential running mate or an NFL quarterback, but not so great if you need a plumber.

But the story of Fabian
could only happen here. Born Fabiano Anthony Forte in Philly in 1943, 14-year-old Fabian was feeling rather glum one day in 1957. His dad, a Philadelphia cop, had just been taken to the hospital, suffering a heart attack, and the family was upset. There he sat on the front steps in South Philly when a couple of record-biz hot shots drove by, and in one of those Pygmalion moments that dot our culture like dandelions on an April lawn, they said, "There's a good-looking kid - bet we can make him a star." And danged if they didn't.

He had a run of hit records, appeared in 30 movies, and then slid into that silver-lined oblivion that entertainers always veer toward. Nowadays, he appears in oldies revival shows and probably earns a pretty dollar for doing so. And it all started because he took to the porch in a disconsolate moment.

Oh yeah - almost forgot this - speaking of oblivion - in the coverage of the Over Three Dozen March on Washington last weekend, I saw one of our wiser citizens making the claim to a TV reporter that "Obama is going to take us all the way to Bolivian." Yeah man!

But we all make mistakes. I remember reading about the Fabian Society in high school and thinking it was pretty cool that the singer of "This Friendly World"
had an entire political movement named for him - in England, no less. When it turned out that the Fabians were lazy Socialists named for a Roman general who employed a strategy of winning by basically annoying the other side to death, I was disappointed. It was not to be the last time for that, either. But this Fabian song always un-disappoints me, even if I have to go to Bolivia!

In this friendly, friendly world with each day so full of joy
Why should any heart be lonely?
In this friendly, friendly world with each night so full of dreams
Why should any heart be afraid?
The world is such a wonderful place to wander through
When you've got someone you love to wander along with you
With the skies so full of stars and the river so full of song
Every heart should be so thankful
Thankful for this friendly, friendly world.

1 comment:

Peggy said...

Such an uplifting song! Thanks for sharing it!