Looking at Match Game ‘7x, Part 2: Passing Through the Future

Not surprisingly, the official $500 response for:

Match Game Super Match: Diamond __________

was “Diamond Ring,” an evergreen answer if there ever was one. According to Gemnation and a couple of other sources, the De Beers catchphrase, “A diamond is forever,” has been around since Frances Gerety of ad agency N.W. Ayer & Son launched it in 1947. That was 65 years ago, which means that only about 13 percent[1] of all Americans had been born before the campaign hit the media – and most of that minority were young enough at the time to have absorbed that slogan as some sort of commandment.

The $250 answer was Diamond Jim Brady, a relic from the Gilded Age famous for collecting millions of dollars worth of diamonds (hence, the name) and for being a gregarious glutton whose stomach could hold six times that of a normal person.

Diamond Jim Brady

Today, you don’t hear much about him unless you happen to be studying that era in U.S. history or go to Lawry’s and consider ordering the Diamond Jim Brady Cut of prime rib, which is about two inches thick and includes the rib bone.

The Diamond Jim Brady Cut at Lawry's

But back in the 1970s, the American Gilded Age and Wild West of the late 1800s and early 1900s was a major cultural meme (am I using this word correctly?).

I don’t know what generated the fascination with this era. It could have been movies like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, The Sting (I mean what piano student didn’t learn some version of The Maple Leaf Rag back then?), Clint Eastwood westerns like The Outlaw Josey Wales – and, of course, Blazing Saddles, the first R-rated movie I ever saw in a theater![2]

Maybe the (mostly Caucasian) men back then were fantasizing they could vault off the roofs of their sedans onto a galloping mustang, spurning the lines at their corner gas stations:

Maybe the women were hot for Paul Newman and Robert Redford in their black hats and newsboy caps.

The Sting, starring Paul Newman & Robert Redford

Maybe the emphasis on the outlaw rather than the lawman dovetailed with the hippie movement, which led to people on opposite ends of the political spectrum donning fringed suede jackets and Charlie Tweddle hats.

Representative Charlie Tweddle Hat

Maybe it was all about Cher. She had the hippie credentials, the fringe, the outsider quality of being a “Half Breed,” roaming with “Gypsies, Tramps & Thieves,” singing “Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down).” [3]

Kids of my era often mimicked their parents’ obsession with that time period. We celebrated our birthdays at Farrell’s, with its penny candy and red velvet wallpaper:

Robyn wearing 'T-Shirt' at Farrell's

bought our Bat Mitzvah dresses at The Gibson Girl in Encino and posed for fake daguerrotypes in rented “Gay (18)90s” or Little House on the Prairie-style costume:

My Camp Counselor's 'Prairie' Family Fake Daguerrotype Photo

 

Then there’s the old-fashioned soda fountain strawberry milkshake candle, in “The Saloon” glass, no less:

Milkshake Candle in 'The Saloon' Glass (The Saloon was an L.A.-area restaurant of the era)

I bought into it as much as anyone. It seemingly let me merge with that past, which was less than 100 years ago. Remnants from the period were still extant. My dad was really into the Old West, and so my family got to visit deserted homesteads and even the “Hole in the Wall Gang” hideout, though it was mostly loose boards and packed ground.

And some of those people were still alive, even if they were old and ill-attuned to a kid’s needs. I crossed paths with a few of them, and their wrinkles, the catch in their voices, their musty smells – it was like walking through an dilapidated Victorian house but better because they talked!

In the early ’70s, Dad hired an old carpenter named “Tex” (that seems cliché, but clichés develop for a reason, I guess) to build a cherry wood credenza.

I hung around Tex as he was assembling the finished parts in the family living room. He talked about riding horses and rustling cattle, no doubt embellishing it to entertain a small girl.

And he was 75-years-old, a full 70 years older than I was! I don’t know what prompted it, but I asked him, “Where do you think you’ll be in the year … 2000!”

“I’ll be six feet under!” he said.

And the future became at once more clear and less clear, if that makes sense…


  1. This, according to the CIA World Factbook   &#8617
  2. Mel Brooks has been the master at nailing cultural tics in his movies, never more so than here, IMHO…   &#8617
  3. I mean, Cher was influential on so many levels! Without her, we’d have no Creed!   &#8617

Comments

  1. Love this post. You need to make your Match Game quiz available to the masses!

Trackbacks

  1. […] friend Damien Bona, the only player to answer Jim Brady […]

Speak Your Mind

*