Pure and simple as a hammer to the forebrain

     
 

"Mr. Clean" and the porn film
2002-01-03 20:51:52


Viva La Musica
 
If your 87 year old Aunt Edna all of a sudden started handing out fresh tabs of acid, would you complain about how embarrasing and un-hip Edna is with her rocking chair and Alzheimers n' all, or would you just shut up and enjoy this unexpected bounty...
-- Patient Joab

 

You're a Republican running for Lieutenant Governor of California. Your opponent whips out a porn film for which you wrote the friggin' music.

"It's not a porn film," you stammer, but your opponent persists. The lesbian bath tub scene? You're singing in it off-camera in an obscene falsetto!

"I know Richard Nixon!!!!" you shout. "Me and my brand of squeaky-clean singers sang in the White House! We were back-up singers on Candy Man by Sammy Davis Jr!" But suddenly the state Republican party's "Mr. Clean" has a controversy on his hands that will haunt him for years to come.

Of course I'm talking about Mike Curb's run for the Republican nomination in 1978. It's lovingly documented at the Radical Films site -- along with trippy images from the 1966 movie. See, before That 70s Election, Mike Curb was a tuned-in twenty-something writing scores for mod Hollywood movies. There's a biker exploitation film starring Bruce Dern and Peter Fonda. ("Their creed is VIOLENCE! Their God is HATE!") He's also credited as a composer on "Th e Billy Jack collection."

But later the gonzo musician sold out to the other side of the counter-culture. "Mike Curb eventually had more teen idol successes in the seventies with Donny & Marie Osmond, Shaun Cassidy, and Leif Garrett," remembers one singer's site. Mike Curb discographies show white-bread muzak takes on Walt Disney's Greatest Hits and Greatest Inspirational Crossover Songs. "Up With People" was probably too jarring for him.

Across the net surfers discover the flotsam of a career. A fan of The Band is actually glad he's never heard the cover of "The Night They Drove Ol' Dixie Down" that appears on The Mike Curb Congregation Sing Their Hits from the Glen Campbell Show. In an interview this November Merle Haggard blamed Curb's record company for side-lining him during the 90s. "If any promoter out there would like to see a cowboy kick a guy like Mike Curb's ass, let's promote it and get it done."

And then there's the French Ministry of Information's proclamation about that alleged porn film from 1966. "The film...presents an apology for a certain number of perversities, including drugs and homosexuality, and constitutes a danger to the mental health of the public." Boy, that's gotta hurt when you're running for the Republican nomination for Lieutenant Governor twelve years later.

Er, maybe not. After the charges were publicized, Curb suddenly pulled ahead in California polls, drawing a whopping 75% of voters under the age of 25! After Curb admitted that he had, in fact, sung in the lesbian bath tub scene, he won the nomination and won the election, serving in the administration of Governor Jerry "Moonbeam" Brown from 1978 to 1982.

Curb went on to run for the Governor nomination himself in 1982, the Radical Films site notes -- and he lost by less than a single percentage point. His political energies then were applied to re-electing Ronald Reagan for a second term -- and by 1986, Curb was back with his party's nomination for a second term as Lieutenant Governor.

But this time he'd deny that he ever sang in a lesbian bath tub scene....

NBC News was determined to get to the bottom of this, so they brought in the director of the film. Curb had sung on the soundtrack, he'd said. So why was Mr. Clean changing his story? "[Curb] will say or do whatever he thinks will get him elected." Game over, man. California's voters dropped him like a Tiny Tim CD in the bargain bin. Michael Curb's political career was toast.

Lost in this tale of Hollywood politik is a morality play about a rich and powerful man paying the ultimate price for abandoning his happy hippy film-making friends. Now relegated to long nights in Nashville, does Mike Curb look back over the decades, remembering the one good song he ever recorded. It was the theme to Kelley's Heroes. Remember Kelley's Heroes -- the anti-establishment World War II comedy where Clint Eastwood and Donald Sutherland loot Nazi gold with an AWOL tank? Timothy McVeigh watched it on death row. Some music critics suggest Mike Curb wrote the lyrics as a warning to the youth of America not to rebel against the social mores of the Nixon administration. But in a fitting irony, the lyrics could almost be a requiem for Mike Curb's career.

Years have passed and I keep thinking what else could have been.
I look back into the past and think of way back then.
I know I lost everything I thought that I could win.
I guess I should've listened to my friends.

All the Burning Bridges are a burnin' after me.
All the lonely feelings and a burning memory.
Everyone I left behind each time I closed the door....

Burning Bridges, gone forevermore.

Over.  End of Story.  Go home now.

punchbowl@pigdog.org


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