Friday, January 25, 2008

Bonus Blog

Not really. I just wanted to sound generous. I didn’t intend to post another blog before I went away, but I really wanted to pass this along. It’s about The Lone Ranger. Wait, don’t go! It’s really good. Even if you don’t like cowboys, I promise you, it’s worthwhile. If you do like cowboys, it’s yippee-ki-yo-ki-yay.

Ken Levine (bykenlevine.com) tells me there are ways you can divide your blog into chapters and post them even when you’re away. Give me a break, I can barely do this. If it’s too long, divide it into chapters yourself, by stopping at certain places and then reading some more later. If I were you, I’d read it straight through. I did, and I really enjoyed it.

By the way, do any of you know any trendsetters? Trendsetters, movers and shakers, celebrities in rehab with time on their hands? If you do, I’d love you to tell them about this blog. My being away would be the perfect time for them to catch up, and then, they could tell people under their powerful sway to check me out. If you know any such people, or just people with big mouths, please apprise them of my existence. I’m looking for a groundswell here. A million more of you, and I can sell ads.

Okay, that’s done. And now, saddle up!

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The Lone Ranger was not a real person, but I still felt bad when he died.

How can a fictional character die? He can’t. I mean, he can die fictionally, like when the Cavendish gang comes back and finishes the job they bungled at Bryant’s Gap. (Note: That’s how a wounded survivor became The Lone Ranger.) But fictional characters are fictional. And being fictional, there’s no way they can actually die.

And yet…

For me, the Lone Ranger died with the announcement that Clayton Moore, the actor most closely identified with the role, had passed away. I know he wasn’t really the Lone Ranger; he was just an actor, though, like me but more so, he seemed to have trouble understanding the distinction. Admiring what the Lone Ranger stood for, Clayton Moore took great pride in playing the role. Moore fused with his character so completely that when the job ended, he continued to wear the mask. He just couldn’t let go. When lawyers finally made him stop, Clayton Moore reluctantly took off the mask, replacing it with a pair of giant sunglasses. He looked sad and silly, the Lone Ranger of Malibu.

But I understood. That character was important to him, not just as the role of a lifetime, but because of what it represented. Like me, Moore hated the idea of a world without the Lone Ranger.

Being a truthful sort, I can’t ignore the possibility that maybe it wasn’t the passing of the Lone Ranger that hit me so hard, but the inevitable passing of time. I wonder sometimes if we love the things from our youth less because they were special, than because we were young when we experienced them. Aging is inevitable, and it doesn’t feel altogether great, especially knowing that, in the end, we’ll all end up exactly like the guy who played the Lone Ranger.

No! It was special! It was The Lone Ranger.

Saturday morning. All’s quiet. Suddenly, a staccato trumpet pierces the air:

BUH!

BUHDA-BUH!

BUHDA-BUM-BUM-BUM-BUM BUM-BUM-BUM-BUM

BUM-BUM-BUM-BUM BUM-BUM-BUM-BUM

BUMP-BUHDA-BUMP-BUHDA-BUMP-BUHDA-BUMP-BUHDA-

BUUUUUUUUM…

Shivers. An exhilarating call to arms. If you weren't already in front of your T.V. when you heard it, you cam a-runnin'.

I think about how that stirring theme was selected. I imagine some anonymous "gofer" dispatched to some radio station's music library (The Lone Ranger first appeared on radio) to find something "cowboy." They come back with some music.

“What’d you find, Kid?”

“This thing by Rossini seems okay.”

“Italian! I said cowboy!”

“It’s pretty good.”

“It is, huh? Okay, I’ll listen. But if you’re wasting my time…”

He puts on the record, and waits.

BUH!

BUHDA-BUH!

BUHDA BUM-BUM-BUM-BUM BUM-BUM-BUM-BUM…

BUM-BUM-BUM-BUM BUM-BUM-BUM-BUM…


“…My God! That’s it!!!”

It was perfect, the cowboy-theme equivalent of hitting the motherlode. Then, inspired by the music, or just because that’s what they did on radio, an anonymous scriptwriter sits down and pens this classic narration:

“A fiery horse with the speed of light…”

Whoa, let’s stop for a second. “A fiery horse with the speed of light.” Can you imagine? The speed of sound wasn’t fast enough; this horse had the speed of light. That’s a fast horse!

“…a cloud of dust…”

Of course, a cloud of dust. He’s traveling at the speed of light.

“…and a hearty ‘Hiyo, Silver!’”

Okay, there’s genius. The writer invented a word. “Hiyo.” It could have been “Giddyup, Silver!” or “Ride, Silver!” or “Let’s go, Silver!” No. It needs something better.

“Hiyo, Silver!”

And as if that weren’t enough…

“…Awayyyyyy!”

Music, music, music. The narration continues:

“With his faithful Indian companion, Tonto…”

That’s right, “companion.” Tonto was a functioning associate.

“…this daring and resourceful masked rider of the plains fought for justice in the southwestern United States…”

You see that? Not just “daring”, but “daring” and “resourceful.” Anybody can be daring, that’s just taking chances. But he was resourceful too. He tried things. And if one thing didn’t work, he’d try something else. Sometimes, he’d adopt disguises, his saddlebags holding not just provisions and silver bullets but a “Dude” outfit and a fake beard.

And “daring and resourceful” were the tip of the iceberg. The man had a code. He even wrote it down, not for himself – he already knew it – but to inspire others.

For me, the code filled an enormous hole in my experience. My Dad died when I was six, which means I missed out on important lessons. Dads tell you things, directly and indirectly; piece it together, you got a code. I never had that. So I plugged the gap with the next best thing – a father-surrogate who fought for justice in the southwestern United States. From a code standpoint, at least, the Lone Ranger was my Dad.

Courage, honor, decency, respect for the weak and helpless, impossible to live up to, no question, but it was something to shoot for. Only the Lone Ranger could pull off the whole thing. And he had help from the writers.

“Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear...”

“Yesteryear.” Now there’s a word. What does it mean? It means yesterday, plus a hundred and fifty years. The “days of yesteryear” were exactly as described – “thrilling.” Why were they thrilling? Because…

“The Lone Ranger rides again!”

Not anymore. He died with Clayton Moore. Sure, there are reruns, from when he used to ride again. But that only makes things sadder, your late Uncle Harry, kibitzing at a videotaped picnic.

Over the years, the spirit of the Lone Ranger has faded, his code of honor replaced by the flimsier message of personal fulfillment. For those who remember, all that’s left is the challenge to the best parts of ourselves and the way it made us feel.

Adios, Kemo Sabe.

Goodbye, yesteryear.

Hiyo, Silver.

Away.

7 comments:

Rob said...

Say what you will about those old westerns - guys like Moore, Bob Steele and Roy Rogers were a big influence on my young life - for the good, I hope!

Savage Tan said...

Entertaining stuff. However, if I may interject with a small correction. The "Blog" is the whole site you have here. Each entry is a "post" or "entry" or "update." You get the idea. I know I'm being picky, to take it in the spirit it is offered and do with the input what you will! Keep up the good work!

Barefoot Billy Aloha said...

Tom Straw wrote an episode of Night Court which featured a Clayton Moore/Lone Ranger-like character caught in this world yet forced to function with the moral code from his fantasy TV world. It was sweet, poignant and, of course, funny.

Tom used my name for the evil "suit" who forces the Red Ranger to remove his mask, forever.

I've never been the same since..

(Bill Oxley a.k.a. "Barefoot Billy Ahoha."

rw said...

"Saturday morning. All’s quiet. Suddenly, a staccato trumpet pierces the air:"

I can hear it like it was yesterday. Thanks for the memory, and a great read.

Max Clarke said...

No doubt many of the westerns influenced me as a child, including The Lone Ranger. Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, Yancey Derringer, Have Gun Will Travel, and Maverick all taught lessons about life. Can't leave out Gunsmoke. Some values they passed down to me were not very useful at all. For instance, I really believed you could smash a bad guy's head with a whiskey bottle and the bottle would shatter instantly. And then I turned 30.

On the other hand, the westerns were good about self-reliance, personal honor, courage, and helpfulness. Those are pretty good qualities to pass along to young viewers.

cotton candy said...

You could'a been a cowboy, cuz you lasso so well.

to earl said...

A plain ol' ode...