Programming note: Tomorrow, Sunday, I'll be hosting another audio edition of Steyn's Song of the Week on Serenade Radio in the UK at 5.30pm British Summer Time (that's 12.30pm North American Eastern/9.30am Pacific). You can listen from anywhere on the planet by clicking the button in the top right-hand corner here.
~Meanwhile, welcome to Part Twenty-Four of our weekly serialization of a favorite book among Steyn readers, Mark Steyn's Passing Parade. In this weekend's episode, we present contrasting visions of family life - from a prematurely deceased Broadway playwright and a long-lived Utah polygamist:
Born in Idaho, the son of the speaker of the state's House of Representatives, Owen Allred was excommunicated from the Latter-Day Saints in 1942, when he took his second walk down the aisle. By the end he'd married eight wives, fathered twenty-three children, raised another twenty-five stepchildren, and had more than 200 grandchildren...
At eighty-eight he told The New York Times, 'People have the wrong idea that we're old-time kooks who prey on young girls. I suppose I'm guilty of that. My youngest wife is sixty-four. My oldest girl is ninety-three.' He and his wives lived in four houses, lined up side by side, and all eight marriages were till death did them part. At Owen Allred's funeral six of his sons carried his coffin and as many daughters celebrated his memory with a rendition of 'Oh, My Papa'. And given that most of them aren't exactly spring chickens, I doubt that's because he was keeping them chained out in the dog run.
After Owen Allred, we turn our attention to Wendy Wasserstein, who wrote critically acclaimed plays and films about the frustrations of single urban women with amusing gay male friends.
Last weekend's episode prompted the following from Veronica, one of our Kiwi Steyn Clubbers:
Gosh, I haven't heard a recording of Richard Burton in such a long time, that voice of his was truly divine, and he could even sing (a little) too! Such an achingly sweet rendition of 'How To Handle A Woman' that he and Bob Hope gave and 'sweet' is not a word one would normally have associated with either man, and yet that is just what they delivered.
A wonderful performance from two greats and, just as an aside, I wonder how much of the little comedy routine between them would be deemed acceptable nowadays? I would say precisely zero and no doubt the song would be nixed too for being 'sexist' or some such thing.
First Weekend Founding Member Josh Passell was also touched by the song:
The music, as always, was expertly chosen. I even teared up more than a little at the duet between Bob Hope and Richard Burton, 'How to Handle a Woman'. Until, as you pointed out, I remembered that Alan Jay Lerner married eight times, Burton five, and while Hope remained married to the long-suffering Dolores for decades, he handled every woman within reach. Maybe it was just the pollen getting into my eyes.
Not at all, Josh. As Veronica says, it is an "achingly sweet rendition", and Hope in particular is very tender with the song.
On the other hand, Steyn Clubber Lev Shmukler gets right to the heart of last week's episode:
Excellent description of the former Karakalpak ASSR, now Karakalpakistan, a department within Uzbekistan.
Indeed, Lev. Anybody can stay on top of the big stans; it's knowing your way round the sub-stans that counts.
Thank you to all our correspondents - and, if you're new to our Club, do prowl around the archive. If you've a friend who might be partial to our classic fiction outings, we've introduced a special Mark Steyn Club Gift Membership. You'll find more details here.
See you back here next weekend for Part Twenty-Five of Mark Steyn's Passing Parade.