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.
~Welcome to Part Twenty-Seven of Mark Steyn's Passing Parade. In this week's episode we recall Slipper of the Yard, the last London detective to be so styled, and his dogged pursuit of Great Train Robber Ronnie Biggs. After that it's on to Arthur Miller, sometime husband of Marilyn Monroe and a playwright not above exploiting her on stage, albeit totally ineptly:
Attention must be paid. That's the line. And if you missed it this last week, well, you weren't paying attention. It was the headline in The Christian Science Monitor, and The New York Times: 'Attention Must Be Paid.' California's Contra Costa Times went with: '"Attention Must Be Paid" To Playwright'. And The Chicago Tribune saved it for the slow-motion elephantine punchline of its opening paragraph: 'The man who wrote Death of a Salesman died Thursday. And attention must be paid...'
If there were other memorable lines in the Miller oeuvre, his obituarists seemed disinclined to wander over to the dictionary of quotations and look them up. And in fairness the ubiquitous send-off did capture, in its relentless hectoring, something of the essence of the man and his writing. The other word was 'moralist': He was the 'Moral Voice of the American Stage' (the New York Times headline) with 'A Morality that Stared Down Sanctimony' (another New York Times headline: you can never run enough Arthur Miller appreciations). 'Moralist' in this instance is code for 'leftie'. For some reason editors and critics were a little touchy about the suggestion that there might be any partisan political characterisation to his decade-in decade-out unchanging 'indictment of the sad, hollow centre of the American Dream' (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution).
That, by the way, would be a better name for the University of East Anglia's Arthur Miller Centre for the Advancement of American Studies: the Arthur Miller Sad Hollow Centre of the American Dream
Thank you for your kind comments about this audio version of what's been a favorite book of readers. Of last week's episode, Gareth Roberts, a First Weekend Founding Member of The Mark Steyn Club from the West of England, writes:
This brought back memories of listening to 'California Dreaming' while driving to work at 7 am in the UK - pitch dark, cold and raining. It does seem odd that they sacked Michelle Philips for doing what every hippie was expected to do...
Lowell Walker, a First Week Founding Member from Florida, found himself suffused with the same regrets as Denny Doherty:
I loved the Mamas and Papas. I remember reading about them, to include Mama Cass's short lived life. We all have regrets. I regret not marrying Marian from Toronto. Don't know if she thinks of me but she crosses my thoughts every day. Great episode, Mark.
If Marian is reading this in Toronto, drop us a line (if you feel similarly, that is). Veronica, a Kiwi Steyn Clubber from Auckland, felt for Paula Yates, and continues the Hughie Green family tree down through the generations:
Two very melancholy and drug-addled obits today and, though I know very little about Denny Doherty, the depressingly sad saga of Paula Yates and her daughters used to be a staple of the British celebrity press but hardly gets a mention nowadays as the surviving ones seem to have largely shunned fame, and who could blame them!
Paula took a fatal overdose of heroin on her daughter Pixie's 10th birthday and her body was discovered by the youngest girl, Tiger Lily, the one whose feelings she had tried to spare by insisting that her dad, Michael Hutchence, had died from an act of sexual masochism rather than plain old suicide. About a decade later the middle daughter, Peaches, also succumbed to drugs, overdosing on heroin so pure it was described as 'importation level quality', so not something the local street dealer could've provided. The police looked into the case but, of course, never arrested the person, probably very well-connected one would assume, who sold the deadly batch to Peaches.
She was quite a good writer actually, and seemed bright and pretty like her mother, but was clearly desperately unhappy, also like her mother. What is the cause of that level of despair I wonder? Perhaps Freud had it right and it all goes back to childhood, and so the antics of Hughie and Elaine led on to the antics of Paula and the rockstars and on it went. Sins of the mother and all that. Let's hope the remaining daughters have broken the cycle at last.
"What is the cause of that level of despair?" I don't know, Veronica, but it seems to have spread far beyond the celebrity class.
Stick with SteynOnline through the weekend: we have Rick McGinnis's movie date, another edition of The Hundred Years Ago Show, and our Sunday Song of the Week. If you're minded to join us in The Mark Steyn Club, you're more than welcome. You can find more information here. And, if you have a chum you think might enjoy Tales for Our Time (so far, we've covered Conan Doyle, H G Wells, Conrad, Kipling, Kafka, Louisa May Alcott, George Orwell and more), we've introduced a special Gift Membership that lets you sign up a pal for the Steyn Club. You'll find more details here.
See you next weekend for another instalment of Mark Steyn's Passing Parade.