by David Safier
I watched Hamlet 2
on DVD a few nights ago (I've been into lite movie fare lately). It's pretty funny if you're easy, and funnier still if you're easy and were a teacher. The lead character is as inappropriate as it's possible for a teacher to be, but he's only a few steps away from being embarrassingly familiar.
But that's not what this is about. The film is set in a fictional high school in Tucson, which is the butt of a few jokes scattered throughout the film, but the final scene . . . well, just watch it.
That started me thinking about references to Tucson in film and music. Have we ever gotten any respect?
I know Old Tucson cranked out movies for years, but most of those don't count, because being filmed here isn't the point.
Pocket Money with Paul Newman and Lee Marvin was both partially filmed and set here (Apparently, that's when Marvin bought his Tucson home that was on the market recently). It's set in 1980s Tucson, but the city looks like the last outpost of marginal civilization before you hit the cattle trail, which is what Newman and Marvin do.
As for music, The Beatles had Jojo living in Tucson until he left home for some California grass (I assume the double meaning was intentional). Doesn't exactly make Tucson sound like a great place to live.
Paul Simon goes from Joseph with his face black as night in Under African Skies to a Tucson setting (maybe the comparable sun and heat are the transcontinental segue), with someone praying,
take this child, lord
From Tucson Arizona
Give her the wings to fly through harmony
And she wont bother you no more
Not the kind of lyrics you want to put in a Chamber of Commerce "Visit Tucson" pamphlet.
Then there's Take Me Down to Tucson, by Mel Tillis (I've been wasting time with Google again). The title sounds promising, but the opening line is, "No one wants to go down to Tucson in the summer." The sense of the song is, he's asking his boss to send him to Tucson to get away from his wife, who he loves, but . . .
And there's Tucson, Arizona by Dan Folgelberg, which is positively apocalyptic, with images of a deranged character prowling darkened alleys. "The lonely desert skies reflect/The anger in his eyes." "His soul is like some ugly vacant lot." It gets worse from there.
I think I heard a song on KXCI once about someone going to the Rincon, to get his groove on, or something like that. That's kind of nice.
Tom Danehy wrote a recent column in the Weekly on the topic of films set in Tucson, which may have set this train of thought in motion, though I didn't remember the column until it came up on a Google search. He names Romy and Michele's High School Reunion, Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore and Can't Buy Me Love. Alice is the only one I've seen.
Does Tucson ever get any artistic respect? Anyone?
UPDATE: Commenter Jeremiah Teague confirms my "Rincon/Groove on" memory. It's from a song by Kevin Pakulis, Yeah Yeah Yeah:
outside of tucson
got my groove on
in the shadow of the rincons
me and this desert man we get along
it's hot here
it's hot as hell here
swamp cooler and a cold beer
i ain't sayin' we got it made
but we're gettin' there
Teague also plugs local musicans in general, so let me pass the plug along:
get out there and go see the fine local musicians that live here and write about it…It may exceed all expectations…
John Coinman, Stefan George, Arthur Migliazza, Nancy McCallion, Tom Walbank, Grams and Kreiger, Gerry Glombecki, Neon Prophet, Ice Nine, The Mollys (You'll have to settle for their CD's), John Thompson (Look for his old tapes), The Organ Donors (long gone, look for the CD)…My apologies to the many fine musicians and bands that I neglected to mention.
Listen to KXCI…go to the Folk Festival…
Support your local musicians. [Historical note: I used to see ads on Portland, OR, billboards for Ice Nine (in the 70s?), which I loved, because I was teaching Vonnegut's Cat's Cradle at the time, which is where the term came from. Was that the same group?]