Sunday, June 13, 2021

Spiritual Enlightenment, or Enlightened Spirit?

 

He was never what you would call a hippie, never lived in a commune, and never a counterculture figure, but comedian Paul Lynde nevertheless liked to slip on the caftan and love beads while relaxing at home.  The above photo is from 1976, so it might be said that he was a bit behind the times in his choice of attire. Except that culturally, the 1970s was a kind of sequel to the 1960s, that saw many of the accouterments of the counterculture--facial hair, sideburns, tie-die shirts, jean jackets--adopted by the mainstream. That wasn't quite true for the male caftan, but the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi did wear one, and he remained a highly sought-after figure. In fact, as traditional church attendance declined, Eastern philosophy, Eastern religion, and Eastern mysticism continued to make inroads into the middle-class. However, I can't find any evidence that Paul Lynde's interest in the mysterious East went beyond the sartorial. More telling is that glass he's holding in his hand. By almost all accounts, Lynde sought meditative transcendence in alcohol, which he consumed in great quantities. Unfortunately, according to these same accounts (which come from many of his closest friends), he could be a mean drunk, so there was little peace, love, and happiness found there. The alcohol abuse reached its apex with a much-publicized run-in with a cop outside a Salt Lake City gay bar while Lynde was in town to tape The Donny and Marie Show, causing him to not just lose that gig (which, given the brother-sister duo's Mormon upbringing, had been a surprisingly steady one up to that point), but other work as well. Accustomed to a decidedly non-ascetic standard of living (caftan and love beads notwithstanding), and not wanting to give that up, Lynde around 1980 went on the wagon, and stayed on the wagon, until his death two years later at the all-too-young age of 55. Yet his was hardly a wasted life. This being Pride Month, the question must be asked: did Lynde contribute anything to the cause beyond a headline in the National Enquirer? True, there was no public revelation or true confession, no partaking in any post-Stonewall political activity, but by demonstrating that a flamboyantly fey personality and an LGBTQ-laced sense of humor were no impediments to TV stardom, Lynde in his own subversive way helped undermine the Sexual Orientation Establishment of his era. Paul Lynde may not have been a hippie, but neither was he a Hollywood square.




15 comments:

  1. PETER MARSHALL:

    Paul, what do you call
    Twelve drummers drumming, Eleven pipers piping,
    Ten lords a leaping, Nine ladies dancing,
    Eight maids a milking, Seven swans a swimming,
    Six geese a laying, Five golden rings,
    Four calling birds, Three French Hens,
    Two turtle doves and a Partridge in a pear tree?

    PAUL: Foreplay!


    Hi, Kirk!

    Happy 95th birthday in heaven to Paul Lynde, one of my favorite comedians. It's hard for me to believe it will soon be 40 years since Paul was with us cracking off-color jokes. I am not really surprised to learn that he was a mean drunk. Another favorite of mine, Johnny Carson, was said to be one, although I do not believe Johnny was a regular drinker.

    I enjoyed these zingers delivered so well by Paul on Hollywood Squares. I also loved his appearances in the films Send Me No Flowers, Bye Bye Birdie, Beach Blanket Bingo and on other TV series including Patty Duke, The Munsters, I Dream Of Jeannie, Bewitched and many others. Paul also had his own TV series The Paul Lynde Show which became The New Temperatures Rising Show.

    Thank you for remembering Paul Lynde, the Pride of Hollywood Squares! Have a great week, good buddy Kirk!

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    1. Shady, I haven't seen The Paul Lynde Show in almost 50 years, but I recall it being an upscale All in the Family--wait, I'm on the internet, I can look it up......Right, sort of like All in the Family, except Paul played an uptight executive rather than a working-class bigot, and the wife was level-headed rather than scatteredbrained like Edith. However, it did have a counterculturish son-in-law who was married to Paul's daughter. I was only in the fifth grade, but it must have been on before my bedtime, because do remember finding it funny. I'm sure most of the jokes went over my grade-school head, but Lynde's delivery can be funny whether you get the joke or not.

      Johnny Carson also was a favorite of mine--is still a favorite of mine, I enjoy him on these videos I show on this blog--but, yes, he, too, had a reputation as a mean drunk. Also, nobody has ever said Paul Lynde was anything but pleasant when he was sober, whereas Carson irascibility didn't end when the last drop of alcohol departed his bloodstream. By most accounts, he often was on the moody side, and very introverted. That's not to say he was putting on a act when hosting the Tonight Show, only that he saved the most appealing part of his personality for those couple hours he was on every night.

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  2. Interesting. I remember him but not well. You've given me horrible memories by mentioning the Donny and Marie Show. I hate that my brain remembers it by the mention of the name.

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    1. Andrew, you mean to tell me you're not a little bit country, and a little bit rock and roll? Not a little bit Memphis and Nashville, and not a little bit Motown in your soul?

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  3. I loved Paul Lynde on Hollywood Squares when I was a kid!

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    1. Debra, there's no better time to discover Paul Lynde than in childhood.

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  4. Can't say I know him and died relatively young too.

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    1. Aw, Ananka, you must have seen him in SOMETHING. How about Bewitched, where he played the mischievous warlock Uncle Arthur? Or The Munsters, where he was the nearsighted doctor who thought Herman's hand was a small dog? And there's the time he was the IRS agent on I Dream of Jeannie. Ever see the 1970s cartoon version of Charlotte's Web, where he was the voice of Templeton the rat?

      I'm going to keep trying, Ananka. I'll find something you've seen Paul Lynde in. You just wait and see!

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    2. I know all of those shows and watched them as a kid, so I have no doubt seen him! Not see the cartoon version of Charlotte's Web though!

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  5. I loved Paul Lynde. So funny and although he lived in a time where it was impossible to be completely out if he wanted to have a career, he still managed to be who he was without apology. Not an easy thing to do in those days.

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    1. I agree, Mitchell. That it wasn't any easy thing to do no doubt contributed to his drinking, but nonetheless, he was an amazing individual.

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  6. I never watched much television, but for a while Paul Lynde was ubiquitous. We may feel that he was born too soon (he definitely died too soon), but otherwise he might not have developed his unique, snide sense of humor.

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    1. Jim, Paul Lynde tweaked the stereotype, and was able to apply it to some rather some unlikely situations. Remember, he rose to fame playing the father of a teenage daughter in the stage and movie versions of Bye, Bye Birdie. Hard to imagine him being cast in something like that had he been born 20 years later.

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    2. By the way, Jim, here's a curious bit of trivia. In addition to Lynde, the Broadway production also launched the career of Dick Van Dyke. That's not what's curious. You know who was Van Dyke's understudy, and subbed for him for a couple of weeks on stage while he was off in California shooting the pilot for his now-legendary sitcom? An actor Paul Lynde has frequently been compared to, Charles Nelson Reilly. Lynde and Reilly onstage together. I think I'd rob a liquor store to buy a ticket to see THAT!

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