Friday, October 24, 2008


Professor M, a longtime colleague, had seen the movie Naughty Marietta 126 times, at last count. And this record was achieved before one could buy or rent tapes or DVD's of major movies. M's recent viewings of the Nelson Eddy-Jeanette MacDonald extravaganza had surely been on television; but for the most part, he had seen those ten dozen reprises by walking into a theater and plunking down his money, whether that ticket cost a dime or a dollar or ten. It was the passion of decades of his life.

Among my acquaintances, M holds the record for seeing a single movie the most often. But in the early Sixties in France,when I worked there, a man returned to seeWest Side Story at the (rather expensive) George V cinema 500 times. When he showed up for #500, the management gave him a large bottle of champagne and a free ticket. (Pikers, in my opinion; they could at least have arranged a dinner date with Rita Moreno!) And in Wales, a little later, Mrs. Alwyn Evans saw The Sound of Music800 times.

This way madness lies, right?

When I first heard about the giddy Gallic movie-goer, and about Alwyn("I just fancy that Julie Andrews!")Evans, I certainly thought they were nutsy. But I never considered my enamored colleague, Professor M., to have more than the ordinary number of screws loose. And therein lies the core of What I Learned in the School of Life Today. It exemplifies the old gibe: "I am charmingly eccentric; you are sometimes quite strange; HE is certifiable." In other words, what's close at hand, what we are familiar with, is acceptable to an amazing degree.

Let me ask you: do you ever watch the MASH reruns? Occasionally? Fairly often? Every night of the world? (Hand raised here.) But WHY?
Is there a plot line you don't know perfectly? A corny joke you couldn't recite in your sleep? A wrinkle on Col. Potter's lovable face you can't identify from ten yards out? No, no, and no, says I.

Yet I watch MASH every night, as surely as I let the dog out or brush my teeth. Surely I have seen each episode as many times as Prof. M saw Eddy woodenly woo the marvelous "Marietta."

But again, why? Anyone?