Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Traipse of Roth

Roth and Rat
You know what I really feel sad about?  It's the saddening fact that we are all bound for that same sorrowful destination, that place where our hopes and dreams all wind up, heaven's waiting room....the court system.
Everything winds up as a big fight in front of a judge or mediator these days.  The most recent example that came to my mind was the fact that Ed "Big Daddy" Roth had to go to court before he died to settle down all the hue and cry ("Hugh and cry" as I saw it in a magazine not long ago) over the rights to his beloved artwork.

Ed "Big Daddy" Roth?  you ask yourself.  Is he a Dadaist, a Cubist, a Neo-Impressionist, a Primitive, a pre-Raphaelite?  Well, he is certainly a pre-Rafaelite, in that he was famous before Rafael Palmeiro was, but we remember Ed for his hot rods and his beloved "Rat Fink" character which came to be seen like a rodent version of Dino Flintstone, gigantic head sticking out of a car, holding a 6-foot long stick shift and roaring off in a supercharged car.  There were Rat Fink decals on almost every notebook in my junior high school, and plenty t-shirts too, being proudly worn by the same guys who toted those notebooks. 

I re-read Tom Wolfe's "The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby" at least once every year, amazed that a book of essays from the early 1960's is still relevant today. (One of the pieces, "The First Tycoon of Teen," is about Phil Spector, and we were just talking about his Christmas music and Darlene Love last week.)  The title essay in the book centers on the "Kustom Kulture" of highly-stylized cars created by guys like Roth and George Barris in Southern California, and how the car culture was so predominant in those waning days of the American 1950's (which ended on November 22, 1963.)  Wolfe refers to Roth as the Salvador Dali of the hot rod world, and that implies a timelessness to his art (although without a drippy melting clock to tell the time.)

Dali's "The Persistence of Memory"
But, according to the Los Angeles Times, all this happiness and mirth came crashing down with the sound of legal briefs being filed and decisions being handed down.  To think of a jury sitting around deciding who would get the rights to "Sick But Happy" t-shirts or "Grim Reaper" decals is cause for a head shake.  

My will will be a simple will, and I will will my few belongings to those who I feel will care for them well.  One of you will come into possession of several thousand 45-rpm records and as many LPs.  If I'm up on my cloud somewhere playing a harp and I hear that people are down here in a courtroom arguing over ownership of Jerry Lee Lewis's classic album "The Greatest Live Show on Earth" I will smite you mightily, so don't be a rat fink!

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