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Saturday, June 4, 2022
I have always been fascinated with the difference between reality and cinema life, and sometimes it is challenging to tell the difference between the two worlds. I had a very sheltered life, and my exposure to the outside world was watching TV - but mostly shows that were on early in the morning and on Saturdays. I became obsessed with a film series starring The Bowery Boys, who were a gang that hung out at Louie’s Sweet Shop at 3rd and Canal in Manhattan. Before the Bowery Boys, they were the Dead End Kids, who got their start in a Broadway play, “Dead End.” Samuel Goldwyn brought the kids to Hollywood and soon regrets it due to the physical damage they caused his studio. Boys will be boys, as they say, but as a young tot myself, I was impressed with being a part of a gang, and for me, that gang was the Bowery Boys.
I was mainly impressed with the actor (and real street punk) Leo Gorcey because he led these gangs of New York misfits into numerous adventures. His fictional name, Terrence Aloysius "Slip" Mahoney, or “Slip,” had a nice ring to it, and as a young boy interested in words and phrases, I found a hero of sorts. He was famed for his consistent use of malapropisms, which Is using an incorrect word in place of a comment with a similar sound. For instance, he would say “a clever seduction” for “a clever deduction” and “I depreciate it! (“I appreciate it!”), “I regurgitate” (“I reiterate”), and “optical delusion” (“optical illusion”). What endears me about this character is that I have the same problem with the English language. I have consistently used malapropisms throughout my life (and still do) due to either a speech impairment or thinking too fast for my pronunciation. I had a friend who always liked to comment in front of other people while I was talking when I did use the wrong word. Publicly I laughed it off, but in reality, it was excruciating for me to have him make fun of me in front of other friends or a crowd, which made me feel closer to Leo (“Slip”) than my real friend.
Due to my speech impairment, I felt I had a choice of being withdrawn from people or, better yet, utilizing my imperfections and magnifying them to a remarkable degree. Therefore you will stand out against any crowd or audience. I decided to use the shame I felt and focused on that as almost a seductive tool. I always imagined myself as a Sidney Falco trying to make it in the world. But also memory plays a part, in that one imagines themselves more miserable than they were. Like wandering through the hallways of a noble house in Marienbad, one is never sure if looking at your life is correct or not. When I look back to my past, I imagine it as a film, and I have done this for so long now that I can’t recall what happened or my film version of history.
I know there are the Bowery Boys, but also, around the same time, there were the zoot-suit riots in Los Angeles. When I walk down Main Street, Downtown, I try to imagine what it must have been like at that time or night when the violence took place between members of the military (mostly white men) and the teenage or young male Mexican-Americans who wore zoot suits. To wear such beautiful clothing and be hunted down on the streets of Los Angeles for having style and a specific culture is not natural to me. The photographs I have seen of the riots always seem like a depression-era Warner Brothers movie to me - even though the action takes place in World War II-era downtown Los Angeles.
To this very day, I try to make sense of what I think is my history, but I can only recall the representatives of that narrative, and that, I believe, was only a film I once saw many years ago.