Friday, June 1, 2012

Richard Dawson is gone, and I was just thinking of the man yesterday


Earlier tonight I heard that Richard Dawson died.  (He was 79, and died of complications from esophageal cancer; I almost didn’t recognize the recent photo of him.)   Rest in peace, Mr. Dawson.

I don’t mean or want to make light of this man’s passing, but can I share something strange here?  I’m serious, this is a weird coincidence.  I wasn’t exactly a fan of the guy; I never enjoyed ‘Hogans Heroes’ (I know, I know—what’s not to love about inept Nazis) and never got into his long-running gameshow ‘Family Feud’ either; so he didn’t exactly strike a chord with me.

So why did I spend early yesterday watching almost TWO HOURS of Richard Dawson clips??  Well, it started out as something else before things morphed into a Saturday morning ‘Dawson-thon’.   A couple weeks ago, after creating that silly video for my niece Sophia (a couple blogs before) I posted it on YouTube with the caption “Once upon a time there was a bored princess & her mildly retarded uncle…”  and a day or so after it was online, my sister wrote me and asked “Would you mind changing that?  Everytime I see that caption with the word retarded I cringe.”   Not wanting to offend anyone, I went back & bleeped out the “mildly retarded uncle” portion;  but in the days that followed, I couldn’t get this out of my craw.  Why was it so wrong?  

I know, I know—people with Down syndrome (or learning disabled, or mentally challenged people) find the word offensive.  In fact, some doctors & teachers are asking what to use now in place of ‘mentally retarded’ to describe a student or patient that is… well, that.  As for me, I just see a world of difference between shouting “HEY RETARD!” at someone versus using “mildly retarded” to describe myself.  I still feel that way, too.

Maybe it’s just another sign I’m growing old; I think I was more ‘socially aware’ when I was younger.  I remember many years ago, my dad would do this bit where he squinted his eyes, jut out his top teeth and go “Ah so… Confucius say… suki yaki!”  One time as I sat there shaking my head in mock disapproval (I admit—I enjoyed it)  he said “You no rikee my China-man?”  I said “Geez Dad!” and he said “What’d I say now?”   I’m starting to feel that way too.

A short time back, I was telling a couple people I work with about my new neighbor, I said “This African American woman moved into the apartment down the hall from me, I think she just may be the hottest chick I’ve ever seen” and a younger coworker said “Doug!” and I said “what, what?” and she said “Did you have to say African-American?!”  I said “Sorry, should I have said black?  Afro-American?” and she replied “You shouldn’t have specified her race at all!” 

 And just a few weeks ago a gay coworker was showing me his new pinky ring (the guy wears a lot of bling) and I made the mistake of saying “Man, that’s pretty gay”; he let me know right away, it’s a big no-no to use the word gay to describe something that’s “gay stereotypical”.   Dammit, I feel like Archie Bunker here!

Okay, okay--so how does this all tie back to Richard Dawson?  Well, yesterday morning I started a blog about my losing battle with political correctness, and was trying to come up with some examples of what once ‘flew’ in my own lifetime, and wouldn’t get off the ground today, and this old ‘Match Game’ show from the early ‘70s came to mind.  I couldn’t have been older than 11-12 when it aired but it stuck with me thru the years; I think because of the Batman & Robin reference (I owned about a zillion Batman comics at the time). 

Anyway—to be honest I was taken aback.  (I didn’t remember it being quite this bad, I guess a lot HAS changed.)  But as crass as it was, Charles Nelson Reilly & Richard Dawson’s answers still made me laugh out loud—and the next thing I know I’m watching YouTube clips of this show for the rest of the morning.

Sorry for the long ramble—and sorry to anyone I’ve offended, past, present & future.   But in all truthfulness, I wish we could all lighten up a bit!

And rest in peace, Richard.  You’ll be missed. 

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