Death took no holiday
"Our long national nightmare is over," President Gerald Ford said upon taking office after Richard Nixon resigned. Little did he realize the words would also describe the 2006-'07 holiday season punctuated by his own death and marathon funeral ri...
"Our long national nightmare is over," President Gerald Ford said upon taking office after Richard Nixon resigned. Little did he realize the words would also describe the 2006-'07 holiday season punctuated by his own death and marathon funeral rites, and those of others.
The hanging -- some would say lynching -- of Saddam Hussein was in there, too, and, for lovers of the music genre called "soul," so was the death of its "godfather," James Brown.
Not to mourn the death of Saddam (clearly high on the list of evil men of the last, oh, I don't know, 1,000 years), the methods employed in eliminating him nevertheless did not add to the seasonal cheer. I found myself glancing away from the TV at our Christmas tree when the grainy film of his last moments was shown.
I suppose it's unseemly to link the deaths of a respected former U.S. president, a despotic dictator and a beloved entertainer in the same train of thought, but they were linked by the timing of their deaths, and especially by their ends coming together during the holiday season.
Not that the passing of these noted people likely spoiled the Christmas of anybody we know. But like the "Little Drummer Boy" passing in the night, there they were thrum-thrum-thrumming in the background, pa-rum-pum-pum-pumming into our consciousness. "Happy New Year" vs. "Go to Hell" Saddam Hussein. Plop. Piddly-pum-piddly-pum.
Have I neglected James Brown? Didn't mean to dis this entertainer -- "The Hardest Working Man in Show Business" -- beloved by all who loved his music, of which I am not one. But, hey, I didn't care for Jerry Garcia and the Grateful Dead either, although I'm not grateful that he's dead.
It seemed to me that Mr. Brown had a fitting sendoff, his fans celebrating his life and art right up to the end.
Which brings us to President Ford, a good and maybe great man, who received a sendoff fit for a president or a king or a potentate. Ford's rites reminded me once again of what we in our family call MGM.
Use of the term in that sense is exclusive to my immediate family and is based on the history of the old Hollywood studio system. Of all the old studios, MGM was known for putting on the most lavish productions, hiring the most luminous stars, spending the most money on production values. It was the monarch among studios, and had the king of the beasts as its symbol.
So through the years, whenever we have encountered something that goes beyond the ordinary into the spectacular, we call it MGM. It could be a particularly beautiful sunset or a lovely wedding or anything that strikes you as extraordinary, the result of great pains taken by nature or man.
Gerald Ford's funeral rites were MGM, and their coverage on TV never seemed to end. The Tuesday funeral at the National Cathedral was inspirational, with beautiful music and stirring tributes from the great. Finally, on Wednesday, he was laid to rest -- another long national nightmare over. And it was MGM all the way.
Old Hollywood was good, but nobody does MGM like the government when it buries a president.
JIM HEFFERNAN'S e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org . For past columns, go to www.duluthnewstribune.com .