Friday, October 19, 2007

Joey Bye-Bye

Don’t fault me, don’t blame me, and don’t worry about me, but I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time looking at showbiz photos, pop cult paraphernalia, movie stills, album covers, and the like. As I’ve teetered towards 50 and beyond I’ve become particularly fascinated with all things Rat Packian, and I can’t help myself from gazing deep into any group photo of the Clan, the Boys, the Hotshots, the Showbiz Devils, and losing myself, contemplating their lives, their times, their pleasures their sins, their regrets; simultaneously examining each photo like an ancient artifact, delving beyond the surface in a fervent attempt to discern what lies beyond, drawing interpretations from gesture, posture, spatial positioning, and visually perceivable interaction. Check out any random Rat Pack photo and what do you see—Frank, angular and jaunty, self-anointed royalty, a Kingpin with one fancy foot dipping into the back alleys of New Jersey. Dino, self-satisfied and smug, a glorified con man who could conjure up a pinch of his prodigious talent whenever needed for the next skin game, and a strangely empty man holding council with only himself in a self-created inner universe. Sammy, all out all the time, blazing with gumption, artistic abilities, a deep need for acceptance and approval, a black man atop a white persons world, a proverbial stranger in a strange land. Peter, a chappie with an adolescent lust for success, women and the good life, a none-too-bright overachiever with matinee looks and a dick that did his thinking, a glorified errand boy with a B-movie resume, caught between the buddy-buddy machinations of the Kennedy brethren and the showbiz blood brothers. Finally, Joey, the Bishop, the Jester, the well-heeled regular shmoe, the shorty, the sidekick, the Jewish Tonto, the guy with a quip in place of an act, the schlemiel as straight man. Yet Joey (born Joseph Gottlieb in the Bronx) managed to be way more than a certified member of the Rat Pack—he had a talk show on ABC from 1987-69, a sitcom from 1961-65, starred in nightclubs, had movie roles, guested on dozen off TV shows, made the most of whatever indeterminate talent he had. The biggest, longest, and indisputably final joke? He outlasted them all-Big Time Frankie, Inscrutable Dino, Sweet Sweet Sammy, and Sad Sack Peter. Joey went the distance, baby. RIP Joey Bishop, 1918-2007.

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