November 05, 2013 Slideshows » Opinion

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A Dozen Reasons Why Memphis Actor Chris Ellis is the Greatest Thing that Ever Happened 

Chris Ellis
September 21: Unhappy German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer, who almost never had anything to smile about, shared much of the same lifespan as Abraham Lincoln, but none of the perkiness. Unlike Lincoln, he missed the American Civil War, having plotzed on this day in 1860 while petting a cat. Fifty years earlier his father died, whereupon Mama Schopenhauer, whose hair had turned quite gold from grief, lit out for Weimar and started writing trashy romance novels and dating Prussian cavalrymen. Young Arthur Schopenhauer lit out for Frankfurt and became a philosopher, as ardent young German men occasionally did back then. In addition to philosophizing he kept a perpetual brace of standard poodles named Otto and Adolph. Whenever one died, he would get another and name it after its predecessor. One May morning Schopenhauer was in his rooms doing whatever it is that philosophers do while the noisome Teutonic cleaning lady was in the hallway babbling inanities volubly. Being a German, Schopenhauer stepped outside and shoved her down the stairs like Richard Widmark, and was compelled to pay her a lifelong monthly spidend. When she died twenty years later he wrote on a copy of her death certificate, OBIT ANUS, ABIT ONUS ("The bitch is dead, the burden is lifted"). A word about philosophy might be included here, but I really don't know much about that phenomenology mess.
Chris Ellis
Oct. 27 Doo-doo-doo-doo-tadoo Doo-doo-doo-doo-tadoo Dooooooooooooooooooo
Chris Ellis
October 15 Herman Goering's name came up a couple of days ago when we were talking about Robert E Lee, but it might have come up when we were talking about Elvis Presley, if Elvis had been not only a bloated drug addict, but the #Zwei Nazi and a transvestite as well. Goering's steady diet of morphine and peanut butter and banana sandwiches deep fried in butter would have finished him off in good time had not he been captured by the Americans in 1945. At the time of his arrest, he was 350 pounds of capacious muumuu and pink fuzzy bunny slippers. He was wearing eyeshadow, pancake make-up and lip gloss, and his nails were lacquered blood red, peradventure with human blood. He kept them so during his confinement until some downer of an Allied gaoler confiscated not only his nail polish, but his entire Clinique line. EXCEPT FOR HIS MOISTURIZER. Now there's hard time and then there's Nuremberg, but I think we all agree that not even genocidal war criminals ought to be separated from their skin cream. It was in this vouchsafed tin of Jergen's lotion that he had secreted the Nazi sine qua non, one last capsule of cyanide, just in case. Hours before he was set to swing, on October 15, 1946, he swallowed the cyanide capsule, thereby eluding the hangman. But his skin was so soft.
Chris Ellis
Oct 12: Robert E Lee personally was opposed to slavery and war, yet he spent four years and hundreds of thousands of lives prosecuting a war dedicated entirely to the preservation of slavery. Most of us never have to face moral dilemmas more taxing than the insoluble Elvis versus Beatles quandary, and are at pains completely to empathize with a man whose soul rotted half a grain a day because he chose the wrong side of history. Yet you might find sympathy for the man if you stop thinking about Negroes for a moment and just imagine the Lord God Jehovah asking you to choose right this minute between, say, You Saw Me Crying In The Chapel and Eleanor Rigby. See? On this day in 1870, a sweet chariot swung low and carried Lee home to Virginia heaven, where happy darkie house angels dressed in livery attend upon his every whim throughout eternity. [Cue: God's Trombones]
Chris Ellis
Oct 22 Soupy Sales, née Mandenstam Fishbein, who died in the Bronx on October 22, 2009, edged out some tough competition for today's moment of silence. There might have been theologian Paul Tillich; Tillich's good friend Rollo May (the Rod McKuen of humanistic psychology); Paul Cezanne, who looked like a violent criminal; Cleavon Little; or Kingsley Amis. That's a tough room, but none equal to Soupy. Here in memoriam is Soupy Getting Creamed in frames 102 and 105 of the Abraham Zapruder home movie of the same name.
Chris Ellis
Theda Bera died on this day 51 years ago, my brother's 3rd birthday, and Bill Givens' 55th birthday. I don't know what she did for a living except to dress up like Cleopatra all the time, revealing as much of her titties as the law would allow - possibly to deflect attention from her manly physique and a menacing glare that could open an oyster at twenty paces.
Chris Ellis
JUly 29 Sun Records and Sun Recording Studios founder Sam Cornelius Phillips was a record producer who gave the world Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, Roy Orbison, WHER (the world's first all girl radio station), Elvis Presley, and Rock & Roll. Here is where we are supposed to say how pure and superb were the Sun sessions of Elvis, and how from his first days at RCA the dissolution had begun. Not I. No, if you will take the word of a man who will not deceive you, not Chris Jr. Give me the Lieber and Stoller Elvis, the RCA Elvis: your Jailhouse Rocks, your Treat Me Nices, your Teddy Bears, and to a lesser extent, your King Creoles. Yet however much we note the mark of Cain and the real estate swindle of Jacob, under the rubric of giving credit where credit is due, we acknowledge God who started it all with rouach, the breath of life in Adam. Similarly, we acknowledge Sam Cornelius Phillips, first because he discovered Elvis, then because of a full name that sounds like a carney barker, and finally because I happened to have this drawing already at hand and was too busy to draw Buffalo Bob Smith, host of the Howdy Doody string puppet TV show from 1956 to 1958.
Chris Ellis
March 25 On this day in 1918, Claude Debussy was taken from our midst. Cause of death: cancer of the butthole. On this day in 2006, Buck Owens died. Owens did not have cancer of the butthole, he just was a butthole. (Actually, it's just the pixie in me saying that. For all I know Owens was a refined gentleman who owned oil paintings and a grand piano and only starred in a TV show named after the sound a jackass makes because the money was very good.) Debussy has been called the Marcel Proust of impressionist music. Here is how creative and influential Buck Owens was: Life Magazine once called him the Buck Owens of country music. What a butthole.
Chris Ellis
Oct 20 Harken to words of praise for a 20th century Republican. Wealthy mining engineer turned US President Herbert Hoover was the only President to sit for an official portrait while laughing his ass off. At the end of WWI he almost singlehandedly, and with much of his own money, coordinated famine relief in Europe that saved 10 million people from starvation. He became the darling of the western world, and the British government offered him the office of Prime Minister and a steady diet of British food. Instead, he returned to the US and became the president into whose lap the great depression fell. He tried to ameliorate the damage of the Wall Street collapse by raising the top tax rate from 25% to 63%, raising corporate tax rates, and by advocating a number of policies that laid the foundation for the recovery for which most credit is given to FDR and WWII. He expanded civil service and national parks, and advocated child protective services, civil rights initiatives and a $50/month pension for everyone over 65, which made him one universal health care proposal away from a socialist. Republican my foot. He lived just long enough - until October 20, 1964 - to see Barry Goldwater gut the last progressive impulse from his own party. Goldwater's lunacy, a wasting illness, and being 90 years old probably killed him.
Chris Ellis
August 20 Elmore Leonard, 87 years old, today he drops dead like that from nothing. When the film based on his novel Get Shorty opened, his buddy Dustin Hoffman, who had not bothered to read the book, called Leonard to say he had just seen a screening of the movie and was the Danny DeVito character based on him? Leonard answered, "Dustin, aren't most things based on you?" When we all finish catching up on Hermann Hesse and Honoré de Balzac, let's all read a Leonard novel in loving memory of one heck of a guy.
Oct 30: John Houseman was an actor who enjoyed a remarkable career playing John Houseman on Broadway, in film and on television. He died on this day in 1988 from cancer of the spine which he got from the strain of holding his nose up in the air for 86 years. American audiences enjoy listening to actors who speak with a mid-Atlantic dialect, especially, as with Houseman, when the actor not only sounds, but looks and acts pompous as well, and even when the actor is playing a quintessentially American role, like the US Navy Admiral Houseman played in Seven Days In May, or the meddling, rural Aunt Bea played by Frances Xavier on The Andy Griffith Show. Houseman was also a director, producer and long time working partner of Orson Welles who taught Houseman everything he ever knew about acting pompous. I met Houseman at a party in 1977 and looked up his nostrils all night long. The next day I tried to assume that supercilious posture, but it made my neck hurt, and I didn't want to catch cancer of the spine, so I went back to being humble, which is a more fitting demeanor for anyone named after a vine that grows wild along the Loosahatchie River bottoms.
Chris Ellis
Valorous Civil War General Nathan Bedford Forrest, who departed this life in faith and fear and consummate self approval at 57 years of age on October 29, 1877, is enshrined above his bones in the bronze beauty of his holiness in Memphis, Tennessee's Nathan Bedford Forrest Park, just as Hermann Goerring is enshrined in bronze above his tomb in a municipal Berlin park, or would be if Germans established monuments to the warriors who brought the greatest degradation and human misery onto that nation, which they do not. Forrest was a celebrated war criminal who famously allowed his underlings to torture and kill black Union prisoners of war at the battle of Fort Pillow in west Tennessee and oh, just anywhere else too. Before the war he had made his considerable fortune in slave trading, so after the war he was forced to look for other employments which first involved taking in boarders, then taking in ironing and then moving in with better off relations. During this process of post war depreciation he continued serving his nation as Grand Dragon of the newly formed Ku Klux Klan, in which capacity he participated in the torture, terrorizing and murder of former slaves and hopeful voters. During the 1950s, in the shadow of his 18' tall bronze likeness there was a warbling fountain surrounded by an ample wading pool for the free refreshment of white Memphis children throughout every summer. When the 1964 Civil Rights Bill was passed ordaining the unrestricted use of such municipal entertainments, the pool was closed and filled in with concrete in accordance with the Scriptures.
6/13
Chris Ellis
Theda Bera died on this day 51 years ago, my brother's 3rd birthday, and Bill Givens' 55th birthday. I don't know what she did for a living except to dress up like Cleopatra all the time, revealing as much of her titties as the law would allow - possibly to deflect attention from her manly physique and a menacing glare that could open an oyster at twenty paces.
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