Raunchy Richard and Clean Gene

I voted for Eugene McCarthy for President. Not in 1968, when his over 42% showing in the New Hampshire Democratic primary toppled a sitting President. I always felt sorry for McCarthy, who unwittingly became the stalking hose for Bobby Kennedy’s run for the nomination. But I was too young to vote.

In 1976, McCarthy was again running for President, but I did not get a chance to vote for him in the Democratic primary in New York, because the supporters of Jimmy Carter got him forced off the ballot. It was probably done legally – New York state election law is quite arcane – but I felt it was so terribly undemocratic.

So when the general election came up, and my choices were Carter, who admitted to having lust in his heart in a Playboy interview (which didn’t offend me as much as it seemed not very savvy) and Gerald Ford, the bumbling-seeming, Nixon-pardoning 25th Amendment President, I decided on a third way. I wrote in the name of the person I thought we most needed in a post-Watergate America, the scrupulous Gene McCarthy. Yeah, it was a quixotic gesture, not the last time I would “throw away” my vote, but I felt good doing so.

Richard Pryor’s 1977 TV series was “appointment television” in my household. That first show with the celebrated nude but emasculated comedian felt like truth, not just in terms of network censors, but also about race in America. Unfortunately, it was a short appointment, as the series was canceled in a couple months.

Peculiarly, my favorite bit on the show, didn’t involve Richard. The Pips were on doing “Midnight Train to Georgia”; no Gladys Knight, just her back-up singers. The camera would pan to an empty mike when Gladys’ part came up, then her brother and cousins did all of their “woo woo” parts, including the steps. I thought it was hysterical.

Subsequently, I also was a big fan of comedy specials by Pryor and Lily Tomlin. It seemed that each was the primary guest in each other’s gigs, and I’d love to see them and the Pyror series again to see how they held up.

I wasn’t always a fan of Richard’s more provocative language. He was very funny clean, and did a wicked impression of Bill Cosby, for one. But I also recognized that he brought truth to light, especially in his “concert” movies.

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