We get no respect

by David Safier

Tucson_respect
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.

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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?]

0 responses to “We get no respect

  1. OK, I’ll play Tucson trivia.

    There was a 1986 film entitled “Murphy’s Romance” starring James Garner and Sally Field that was set in and filmed in Tucson. You would like this enjoyable film.

    There was a 1978 television detective series “The Eddie Capra Mysteries” starring Vincent Bagetta that was about an LA attorney turned detective, but his office scenes were filmed here in Tucson. In fact, the logo is still on the door of a law office downtown that I almost rented a number of years ago.

    The sitcom “Greetings from Tucson” about a Mexican-American family in Tucson aired briefly on the WB network 2002-03.

    In music, I have a couple you missed. “Thumbelina” by The Pretenders: “hush little baby/don’t you cry/when we get to Tucson/you’ll see why/we left the snowstorms/and the thunder and rain/for the desert sun/we’re gonna be born again”

    Longtime Tucson residents may remember a country western song from the early 70’s “The Lights of Tucson” by Jim Campbell: “I can’t wait to be there with her/high in the Catalinas/the lights of Tucson shining in her eyes/I’ll never be alone-a/way out in Arizona/painted desert regionous sky/(refrain) gotta see the lights of Tucson/we’re comin’ back/c’mon get a move-on…” (I still have the 45 rpm).

    One of the local TV stations used to run a promo a number of years ago featuring the song “Tucson” that was so popular they made it available as a single.

    Tucson’s own Linda Ronstadt references Tucson in some of her song lyrics.

    I’m sure I could think of many more references to Tucson if I had more time.

  2. Jeremiah Teague

    If you wish to hear excellent songs about Tucson, listen to local musicians. You mentioned Kevin Pakulis’s “Yeah, Yeah, Yeah”.

    Better yet, 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…

  3. Tucson’s only intellectual claim to fame is as the birthplace and childhood home of Susan Sontag, who was smart enough to leave as soon as she could and rarely, if ever, speak about her experiences there.

  4. Marianna is right. Sheapenny is Dwight.

    Marianna must have been a detective in a past life.

  5. If you remember the film version of Stephen King’s “Carrie” (with Sissy Spacek in the title role), you might remember the scene where the kids go out to get pig’s blood.
    They get it at the Farmer John’s over on Grant.

  6. David Safier

    Sheapenny, whoever you are, that’s a great bit of Tucson lore. You can keep your philosophy, but it’s a terrific story.

  7. sheapenny IS Dwight!

  8. Mr. David;

    Movies in Tucson were a history going back to the building of Old Tucson as a movie set by the film makers not a Rio Nuevo project tax payer backed program,something Tucson today can’t understand.

    The movie makers liked Tucson because of its friendly nature .

    I knew John Wayne in the 1940’s 1950’s and 1960’s and lived next to the home Lee Marvin RENTED from the movie producer Spangler; he did not own it until his wife inherited it from him ; that was given to Marvin as a gift from Spangler.

    The $6 million dollar figure is for 18 acres of land that goes with it.

    As a neighbor we had to fight at the time Tucson General Hospital who bought the property and built Doctors Offices along the frontage Road with Ina; because the wanted to build a 300 bed hospital on the land and tear down the house and tennis courts.

    I fought the hospital who told us if we did not agree to build on that site they would put a “PIG FARM” and the site. That pissed me off and anyone who knows me you don’t piss me off!

    The Hospital lost its hold on Spanglers land and went bankrupt!

    thus the widow of Marvin is trying to sell it and will NOT be able to at that price because she can’t sub-devide it because of me!

    Wayne gave me his famous 30-30 Rifle with the large circled handle under the barrel.

    I also knew the Nelson Family and family members dated Rickey Nelson when he was in town for a shoot.

    My family business gave limousines free of charge for the stars to use when they were in town.

    Alot of this came from Howard Hughes involvement in Tucson also and him being involved with Hollywood.

    So the moral of this story is ;” you can fool some of the people some of the time; but you can’t fool all the people all the time!”

    Something Obama has not yet learned at age 47!

  9. Wasn’t there a Sitcom with Tucson in the title? Greetings from Tucson or something like that?