Saturday, March 14, 2015

Weekend Semi-Open Thread: A Lovable Eccentric and Genius. A Fond Goodbye to New Haven, Connecticut's Bob 'The Movie Man' Paglia

As is our habit and tradition, please do consider this our semi-open weekend thread.

[And thanks to the folks who listened to and shared the last podcast episode on Star Trek, race, sexuality, and gender. The Chauncey DeVega Show is hovering at 30 or so in the Itunes "new and noteworthy" chart. If you could subscribe to and/or review the show in Itunes that would help to push it to the top 20...and the front page of Itunes.]

I loathe the insufferable "Think Different" ad campaign for Apple computer products because it suggests that buying a computer from a huge international corporation as being a type of radical act.

Homo Politicus is not the necessarily the same as Homo Economicus.

The ad campaign from Red Bull is equally absurd: one does not gain the courage and skill to parachute from a near Earth orbit, climb Mount Everest, or swim the deepest part of the sea by drinking a can full of poison.

The marketing of fake individualism through consumer behavior debases and mocks true individuality.

Pseudo individuality, what is in practice mass conformity, is one of the great successes of the dream merchants of the late 20th and early 21st centuries.

However, I will concede that the narration for Apple's "Think Different" campaign was/is genius: the "crazy ones", "the misfits", "the troublemakers" and those who think outside of the box are in many ways the best of us...even while they are shunned, mocked, punished, and sometimes even killed for their unorthodox ways.

As I return to often, we are all made by other people, the products of their contributions, love, investment in us, time, and yes, sometimes even harshness and meanness towards us.

Bob "The Movie Man" Paglia was and is a great and wonderful eccentric.

He was also a very smart and generous and kind person.

Mr. Bob Paglia recently passed away.

The New Haven Register offered a profile about his life and work:
Paglia had told me that when he was a boy in Hamden, he often walked four miles to New Haven’s downtown movie theaters to feast on cowboy fare and his favorite horror films. In addition to the original “Dracula,” starring Bela Lugosi, these included “King Kong” and “Frankenstein.”

In 1977, he answered an ad placed by WELI Radio: “Wanted: movie critic.”

He got the job and became “The Movie Man.” After reviewing movies on WELI for nearly 20 years, he was forced to leave because of a corporate changeover. But he landed another volunteer movie gig at Citizens Television, the New Haven-based public access cable station. He continued to do reviews there up until his death.

Maybe you saw him on TV. Once you did, you could never forget it. He always wore a big black gaucho hat (even indoors) and leather or black denim clothes. During his show he kept in front of him mascot dolls, including the Count from “Sesame Street.”

Every film he reviewed was rated on a precise scale. For instance, when he evaluated “Last Vegas” in 2013, he said, “You’ll laugh and you’ll be emotionally moved. I give it 3 1/2 Paglia paw prints of approval.”
Paglia was also a fun character and a bit of a scamp and rogue:
That wasn’t all he did on CTV. For a Halloween special, he dressed as Dracula, with a black cape and fangs. He stalked the CTV hallways, cornering a woman and biting her neck.

For one of his specials, entitled “The Movie Man Meets the Son of Howard Hughes,” he did a lengthy telephone interview with an odd individual who claimed to be Douglas Hughes, long-lost son of the wealthy tycoon aviator. He said a family member had swindled him out of his inheritance.

Paglia also had a CTV show called “Somatology,” which he defined as “a philosophical specialty that focuses on anatomy as a source of all our belief systems and values.” (Paglia was very philosophical; he taught that subject at Gateway Community College.)

For many of his “Somatology” shows, Paglia would choose one of his Gateway students, always a woman, to serve as a subject while he demonstrated “the ancient knowledge system of reflexology.” Then he touched and massaged her feet.

Walt Bradley, the CTV production manager, said Paglia “was definitely an interesting cat. He was known here on State Street as ‘the Count’ or ‘the Professor.’”

“He considered himself ‘the poet warrior,’” Bradley noted. “He carried with him Ayn Rand’s ‘Atlas Shrugged’ and books by (the German philosopher) Friedrich Nietzsche and ‘TV Guide.’ He kept everything in duplicate. He was beyond a pack rat.” 
I was fortunate to have had him as a substitute teacher while in high school. He was a weirdo--I mean that as a complement. Yes, he wore a cloak to class, carried around puppets, and road a bike while in full regalia during the hottest days of summer. I also remember how Mr. Paglia always talked to his students as though they were intelligent and had something to offer him. He did not dismiss our youthful curiosity and ignorance: he saw the former as something to be encouraged and the latter as a hole to be filled with knowledge.

I consider myself lucky to have been able to say that while in high school I "debated" philosophy with a man who was a genius (and I don't use that language in a casual way). Paglia never made me feel stupid. He was always emphasizing the importance of "elocution" and "proper speech" to his students. I would like to believe that I took his lessons to heart in some small way. He also had a swag bag full of movie posters and other goodies to share with us.

Bob Paglia was a living legend. Rumors held that he lived a Grey Gardens lifestyle in a dilapidated mansion that was an eyesore for the rich people on the "good side" of time. The mother of a friend apparently knew more things about him: she explained how Bob had a PhD from Stanford in Philosophy, but had an estranged relationship with his family and subsequently suffered a breakdown of sorts.

Who knows what really happened to Mr. Bob Paglia? I just want The Movie Man to know that he will be missed. I also would like Mr. Paglia to know that he meant a great deal to many people. He also helped me to realize that movies were not just flickering images on a screen. and that "film" is not the same as a "movie".

Thank you Mr. Movie Man.

You were a lovable eccentric and weirdo...and I mean that as the highest form of respect.

Do you have an wonderful eccentrics in your life, folks who taught you much even while they were misunderstood by others?


OldPolarBear said...

A lot going on. I meant to post this over the weekend, but kept putting it off. Anyway, I wonder if you heard about and/or had any thoughts about the Rodner Figueroa (where he basically said that Michelle Obama looks like an ape). There is some more detail about the comments <a href=">here</a>.

On the one hand, it's kind of like "just one more example" of stupid racism. On the other, it's kind of seriously weird and interesting (besides, of course, being disgustingly racist). People from Latin American countries always like to assure everyone that there is no racism in Latin America. White people, that is, and yes, there are a lot of white people in Latin America. "White Hispanic" is a real thing, not just something made up for George Zimmerman. The hosts of that show, Raul Molina and Lili Estefan, are essentially white by just about any definition. Figueroa says he is of "mixed race" himself. To complicate things, Univision is owned and dominated by Cuban-Americans, so they reflexively hate the Obamas (and almost any Democrat). This guy may have gotten the message that slamming the Obamas would be regarded favorably in some way or he thought it would earn him creds from the Cuban-American audience. However, he didn't know they would react this way if it was racially based.

chauncey devega said...

We can't forget white Cubans earning their whiteness through anti-black racism. Old story. How are you? What have you been up to?

OldPolarBear said...

I am OK. Glad that winter is getting over, although now it is worrisomely dry. Some personal issues were going on during the winter; they seem to be resolved now. Should have some things coming soon to plant in the garden. Spring!