Oh, Say Can You See
July 26, 2015
There are stories all around us.
Just this morning I opened my San Diego Union-Tribune to the front page of the Sports section, and there was a picture of Roseanne Barr. She wore an extra large men’s white pullover. Her hair was cropped short, and her mouth was open. So, what else is new? Well, the photo wasn’t. It was taken twenty-five years ago when Barr sang the national anthem during a Reds-Padres double-header in Cincinnati.
Do you remember what is considered the worst performance ever? Barr didn’t just sing off-key, she screeched. She put her fingers in her ears to block out the crowd: they were booing. When she finished singing, if you can call it that, she grabbed her crotch in imitation of a ball player. When she walked away from the microphone, she made an obscene gesture and spit.
Pundits called her rendition the “Barr-Mangled Banner.” Fans were outraged. Patriots were offended. Players were embarrassed. How could this have happened? Well, the backstory is interesting.
Producer Tom Werner and a group of investors had purchased the Padres the month before. Werner, co-founder of the Carsey-Werner Company and responsible for many hits, such as Mork & Mindy, Bosom Buddies, 3rd Rock from the Sun, was executive producer of Roseanne, then the most watched television show in the country. Either wanting to promote his program or endear himself to its star, who was notoriously difficult, he suggested Barr’s appearance to his colleagues.
There was some pushback. The Padres’ vice president of public relations first worried whether Barr could sing. “Don’t worry about it,” he was told. He suggested that she sing ”Take Me Out to the Ballgame,” figuring no harm, no foul balls. Nope, Roseanne wanted to sing the national anthem, and what Roseanne wanted….
After the fiasco Roseanne was asked if she had any regrets about her performance. As befits a comedic queen, she’s quoted as responding, “Do I regret that the next day all of my projects were canceled and I had to have LAPD stand on my roof and protect me and my kids for two years?” On and on she went. Not quite as amusing, especially to Werner, was the drop from twenty-one million to less than seventeen million viewers the following season of Roseanne.
Barr, wanting a second chance, took singing lessons. Years later she showed how it should be done by performing the national anthem at a girls softball game near her home in Hawaii. It was recorded for her Lifetime reality show Roseanne’s Nuts.
It just goes to show it’s never too late to make amends.
© 2015 Susan Marg – All Rights Reserved
Going to Town
July 4, 2015
Looking for a rousing Fourth of July? Watch Yankee Doodle Dandy. This 1942 biopic based on the life of George M. Cohan will have you singing and dancing and feeling downright patriotic.
Cohan, known as “The Man Who Owns Broadway,” was a singer, dancer, composer, lyrist, playwright, and producer. His story, told as a flashback, began on the vaudeville stage with his parents and sister. He always closed the act by saying, “My mother thanks you. My father thanks you. My sister thanks you, and I thank you.”
Near the end of his career, President Franklin D. Roosevelt presented him with the Congressional Gold Medal for his contribution to morale during World War I, the first entertainer to be so honored.
Do you know “You’re a Grand Old Flag”? That’s one of Cohan’s songs.
What about “Over There”? That’s another.
So is the song “Yankee Doodle Boy,” which harks back to the Revolutionary War days:
Yankee Doodle went to town
A-riding on a pony,
Stuck a feather in his cap
And called it macaroni’.
Yankee Doodle keep it up,
Yankee Doodle dandy,
Mind the music and the step,
And with the girls be handy.
But Cohan made the song his, too:
I’m a Yankee Doodle Dandy,
A Yankee Doodle, do or die;
A real live nephew of my Uncle Sam’s,
Born on the Fourth of July.
I’ve got a Yankee Doodle sweetheart,
She’s my Yankee Doodle joy.
Yankee Doodle came to London,
Just to ride the ponies,
I am the Yankee Doodle Boy.
James Cagney won an Academy Award for Best Actor for his portrayal of Cohan. He was a natural. “Once a song and dance man, always a song and dance man,” Cagney said of himself. “Those few words tell as much about me professionally as there is to tell.”
Cagney made Cohan proud and, in turn, makes us proud. So put on your marching boots and join the parade.
To put you in the mood this Fourth of July: