Friday, July 4, 2014

Happy Birthday America: The 10 Grooviest American Icons That Are Not the All Too Obvious Choice of Captain America

Well kids, it's the 4th of July once again, and that means another nonsensical patriotic (and very possibly politically offensive) top ten list of some sort. So what would be a good top ten for the USofA's Independence Day? Howzabout all those great American icons we love so much? You know, like the bald eagle and Old Glory and the Statue of Liberty and the Liberty Be...yeah, okay, maybe not. Now don't get me wrong, I'm as patriotic a mofo as the next person, but let's not get all corny about it. Anyone can sit here and praise Mount Rushmore or the Star Spangled Banner. Yawn. Not me, baby. Not me. Instead I am going for the less obvious American icons, but American icons nonetheless. And speaking of those all too obvious American icons...there will be no Captain America here folks. I suppose that was already itself all too obvious from reading the title, but it still begs to be repeated here. So yeah, any self respecting list of American icons will inevitably include that classic star spangled super soldier - and most likely in the number one spot. So, everyone knows that Captain America is THE American icon, and therefore there is no real need to include the guy here. He's above number one actually. Above it all. And, speaking of that number one spot, I am going to go out on a very short limb, and say that many people will be quite upset, downright angry even, at my number one choice. But no peeking. This is a countdown, and thus should be done in the proper way. So go ahead and do the countdown in order. And speaking of that countdown, let's get to it.

And awaaaaaaay we go...

10. Love, American Style

Running for five seasons, from 1969 to 1974 (and being part of ABC's vaunted Friday Night Line-up for two of those seasons, playing side-by-side with shows like The Brady Bunch and The Partridge Family), this anthology series was a show ahead of its time. Considered quite risque for the time (it seems rather tame by today's standards), Love, American Style was full of love/sex type stories, all with a comedic bent, and often done in a burlesque, albeit in a cotton candy light (as the fine folks over at Wikipedia have put it) style, and (mostly) played by a regular ensemble of actors. It played out as a sort of Everything You've Always Wanted to Know About Sex kinda way, but with a lot less chances being taken. The show's most important contribution to the medium (and the reason it is on this American Icon list) is that it was where the show Happy Days (how All-American can ya get?) had its humble beginnings.

9. Trout Fishing in America

Trout Fishing in America was the first novel ever written by counter-cultural icon Richard Brautigan, although it was actually his second published novel. The book is about nothing and everything. It is an allegory, a metaphor, and just a plain simple, down-home American story. Brautigan was one of the fringe-dwellers of the Beat movement, and this 1961 novel (novella, really), much like Kerouac's On the Road and Salinger's Catcher in the Rye, has become a literary essential for someone growing into adulthood. And as for the title, it is used as many things in the book, including being the name of a hotel and a character (in a famous 1994 news story, Peter Eastman, Jr. legally changed his name to Trout Fishing in America) and is about the state of America at the time of it's writing. Thomas Jefferson, one of the finest patriots to ever live, once said (at least I think it was Jefferson) that we must always question our government, so in turn, Brautigan's screed against American society is one of the most patriotic things one can do. Go America!!

8. A Horse With No Name

Ya know, if I was riding through the desert (for several days according to the song) I would probably have given that damn horse a name of some sort. Yeah, there was probably a lot to see (plants, and birds, and rocks, and things) but come on America, why the hell didn't you give that poor horse a name. What about George or Walter, or maybe Bessie Smith. I can think of hundreds of great horse names. Rosie, Beatrice, Horse-Face McGee, or Buckskin Jack. What about Howard Cunningham or Zazu Pitts. You could have named that horse something like Mary Jane (which you were probably smoking while riding around that desert) or maybe Sunday, Bloody Horsey-Horse. What about Throat Wrangler Mongrove? Or maybe Mr. Sunshine Big-Hat. See, lots of great names, America. Name your damn horse!! Other suggestions are: Gomer, Fractel Exactitude, Manny Ramirez, Stud Muffin, Edmund T. Peepee-Head, Stately Buck Mulligan, Les Nessman, Francine P. Mudder, Leopard Toes, and Butterhead Jones. Pick one dammit!!

7. Sam Eagle

No self-respecting, red-blooded American boy can make a list of Groovy American Icons, without including that most patriotic of all The Muppets - Sam Eagle. With his powerful patriotic beak and proud blue feathers, Sam Eagle has been a part of the Muppet crew since 1975 (just in time for the Bicentennial) and is the show's voice of unwavering xenophobic, jingoistic pomposity. Just like any proud American should be!? Wait, what? Um, yeah, Sam is quite the asshole - a rigid tea-party-esque know-it-all. Why is he on this list again? Probably because we need to show the ugly side of American political beliefs, and Sam's ultra-conservative rants surely showcase such an attitude. America! Fuck yeah!!

6. Amerigo Vespucci

Come on! The damn place is named after this guy. How could he not be on here!?Italian explorer Amerigo Vespucci came to the so-called New Wolrd in 1499, and for the next three years checked out much of what would later become known as South America. Yeah, America, as in Amerigo (or technically Americus, the Latin version of his name). Amerigo Fucking Vespucci!! Forget Columbus man! What did he know!? He was trying to find India and got lost. Hence why Native Americans are called Indians. Thanks a lot loser. Columbus knew shit, man! Vespucci was where it was at. He didn't get lost. He knew what he was doing. He was trying to prove that the Americas (not yet called that, of course) were not Asia or India or whatever Columbus thought they were, but a whole new world instead. A thing he proved in spades. Amerigo! Fuck yeah!!

5. Bicentennial Pez Dispensers

Anyone who knows me, knows I collect Pez dispensers. Anyone who has ever been to my house has seen the collection of nearly 2500 Pez dispensers (and 300+ other sundry Pez items) amassed by my lovely wife and I, lo these past sixteen+ years. Heck, our collection was even spotlighted in several different publications over the years. So, with all that happening, how could I not include the 1976 Bicentennial series of Pez dispensers that are so so desirable on the Pezzy collecting market. Including Uncle Sam, Betsy Ross, Paul Revere, Daniel Boone, a pair of token Indians (thanks for the name Columbus!) and even a wounded Revolutionary War soldier, complete with bloody head bandage. Now, I must admit that none of these Bicentennial Pez dispensers are part of that aforementioned nearly 2500 (and counting) collection, for they are a bit out of my price range. Pretty rare, these vintage dispensers will someday make great additions to our already great Pez collection.

4. Keep America Beautiful Ad

Back in the day, and by the day, I mean my childhood of the 1970's, and by my childhood of the 1970's, I actually mean 1971. You see, 1971 was the year that those great Keep America Beautiful ads began airing on TV. You know the ones. Well, at least those of a certain age know the ones I'm talking about. These were the commercial where the Indian chief travels from his woodland home, to the highways of America, and then sheds a tear at the litter being tossed out the windows of passing cars. Yeah, sure, the so-called Indian in these ads, a guy who went by the regal (and possibly ironic) name of Iron Eyes Cody, was actually Espera Oscar de Corti, a first generation Italian-American. Cody made somewhat of a name for himself playing Indians in many Hollywood westerns (both on the big and the small screens) and would attain pop culture cult status as the "crying Indian" in these 1970's ads. Hows that for the American dream?

3. Miss America Comics

Back around the time Wonder Woman was first hitting comic book shelves, there was also Miss America. Part of Timely (later Marvel) Comics' array of brand new superheroes arriving on the bootheels of DC's new Superman and Batman characters (you've probably heard of them). Actually, back in the early days of the Golden Age of Comics, there were many strong and exciting female superheroes. That is until the post war days that sent the strong, exciting woman back into the kitchen, and the superheroines back to subservient roles in the comics. Anyhoo, after a coupla appearances in Marvel Mystery Comics, the great lady received her own title - Miss America Comics #1 in 1944. Of course, times being what they were, the format of the comic was changed with issue two. Miss America was now a subservient character in her own comic book, playing second fiddle to teen romance tales that were beginning to become popular. This is where the character of Patsy Walker came into being. Still though, Miss America was a member of the All-Winners Squad, fighting alongside the likes of the Human Torch, Namor, and that all-too obvious American icon, Captain America. Another great thing about Madeline Joyce, aka Miss America, is that she was sometimes portrayed wearing glasses, and I don't care what Dorothy Parker said, I prefer girls with glasses. Eventually, Marvel would create a new Miss America, for a new modern age (she's Latino AND a lesbian) but more on her some other time.

2. Mary Pickford, America's Sweetheart

Okay, technically, Miss Mary Pickford was born in Canada, but that didn't stop her from becoming known as America's Sweetheart back in the hey day of silent Hollywood. One of the biggest stars of her day (basically from the mid teens through the advent of sound in the late twenties) and probably the richest non royal woman in the world, Mary Pickford was THE movie star of old old Hollywood. Along with her husband of the time, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. (their stately Hollywood mansion was famously known as Pickfair), and friends Charlie Chaplin and D.W. Griffith, Pickford started United Artists in 1919, making her a big wig in the business world as well. Famous mostly for playing little girls (well into her late twenties), Pickford retired from acting in the 1930's, but her Canadian birthplace notwithstanding, she will always be known as America's Sweetheart.

1. Hillary in 2016

That's right kids, Hillary Clinton in 2016!! All your right-wing, hate-mongers who want to send us back to the proverbial dark ages, can just shut your big fat America-hatin' (yeah, that's right!) mouths, and go somewhere else if ya don't like it. So there! Yeah, there is a whole slew of people out there who simply hate Hillary Clinton. I mean really hate the lady. Of course this is mainly due to her being a strong and powerful woman, and the fact that many people are afraid of such a thing. On a man, her attitude would seem rugged and tough. On a woman, society sees her ballsy attitude as just her being a bitch. Then again, there are those right wing nutjobs that just hate anyone or anything that does not agree with their Neanderthalic beliefs. But enough of all this "in defense of" stuff. The right wing nutjobs can just go suck it. How's that for some witty political repartee? Anyhoo, this guy is most certainly ready for Hillary in 2016. I still miss Bill Clinton (why the hell, couldn't he have a third term, dammit!?) and now I am giddily anticipating Hillary in 2016. I voted for her in the 2008 primaries (though I do like the job President Obama has done) and I will vote for her again in two years. Madame President, your time is coming. America, let's make this happen.

That's it gang. See ya 'round the web.


  1. I'm Baaaack-Loved the Jimmy Stewart museum and his hometown and Lucille ball's. Your top 10 rocks-Glad to see Love American Style as I watched it when i was a kid. I say Zasu for the Horse name. Canada Rocks since they are considered american actors(poor Florence Lawrence). I remember the ad well and wish i could vote for Hillary as we have shit up here

  2. Glad to have ya back! I keep meaning to get to that Jimmy Stewart Museum, especially since I only live a few hours away. I'll try to vote for her twice, to help out. See ya 'round the web.

  3. Wow! Your top three are all women. Way to grow. Ha ha! And you best be voting for Hillary in 2016.