Elsewhere I archived Stephen Serenelli’s early-2000s websites, and wrote some purring words of appreciation about his cancer diary. In so doing I had to slap myself down and force myself to avoid cruel mockery. (Archive link here.)
“A Journey Back to Health,” Stephen Serenelli subtitled it when commencing it in early 2003. This was just before he began a wacko course of naturopathic juice-drinking, in lieu of normal cancer treatments. Eventually his colon was completely blocked, and he had to have a colostomy (or rather, colectomy) anyway. Worse yet, by this point the bowel tumors had grown to the point where they were adhering to his pelvic wall and affecting his bladder. And oh, yes, the metastasis had invaded his liver too.
In his waning days Stephen blamed his naturopath for leading him astray. But this consultant, Ian Shillington, was never giving clinical care. Shillington was just a guy Stephen found on the internet, right after his diagnosis of bowel cancer.
And what a guy! Shillington was two thousand miles away, in Florida. He was a Scientologist, and his medical biases were doubtless influenced by that cult. And his medical management seems to have consisted of nothing more than a few e-mails. Shillington didn’t even bother to read Stephen’s online cancer diary.
How did Stephen Serenelli get into this situation? Obviously he was in a delicate way, a susceptible mood, after his diagnosis. He wanted to seek out some treatment that didn’t involve slicing and burning. We might also consider that he was “in denial”—ready to tell himself that drinking vegetable juice every day was every bit as valid a treatment as cut-burn-poison.
But mainly, I think he knew that he wasn’t long for the world anyway. He bothered with the naturopath nut because his new wife liked the idea and he wanted to keep her happy. Love covers a multitude of sins.
The owner of Stuff Black People Hate apparently thought better of this one, and made it private. But copied from the Google cache, the archive lives forever: http://archive.is/sPGNv . Herewith a sample:
Since you’ve been waiting 45 minutes, you gobble down four of these biscuits and, after drinking two glasses of water, you realize that you’re pretty much full already. Not only are you full, but you feel like shit because your stomach is now filled with a year’s worth of butter and garlic. You’re at Red Lobster, though, and there is no time for weakness. You open up the menu and behold how delicious everything looks – especially the beloved Admiral’s Feast: a breaded, battered, Neptunian heart attack in waiting that could be considered the most humane way to slowly kill a person. The Admiral’s Feast consists of a big ass chunk of fried fish, fried clams, fried shrimp, and fried bay scallops with a side order of your choosing that’s supposed to delude you into thinking you’re eating healthy. There’s nothing more ridiculous than someone ordering the Admiral’s Feast with a side of vegetables, which is akin to asking for a candle and romantic musing while getting raped in prison.
Red Lobster’s owners are aware of their popularity among blacks, but they prefer not to acknowledge it publicly for one reason or another:
Still, it is a well-known “open secret” that the casual dining chain ranks high on the dining-out lists of black people across the nation. Crystal Swiggett, who worked as a server in a suburban Cleveland Red Lobster for two and a half years, noted that black guests kept the joint jumping. The restaurant was located in Beachwood, Ohio, where the population is 87% white and 9% black, but the restaurant’s clientele was a complete flip flop of the town’s racial makeup.
“Ninety percent of guests were black,” Swiggett said. “It was the busiest restaurant I ever worked in. It stayed busy.” Though Swiggett no longer works at Red Lobster, she dines there regularly with her family. She has cut back on fried fish, saying, “Family health issues led me to start thinking more about that.” Her father recently died of congestive heart failure, she said.
A while back Joe Queenan tried to address the awfulness of Red Lobster in his usual wisecracking style, but he refused to take on the racial issue as he really wanted to talk about White Trash. So it was a limp takedown indeed. He even used this piece as the title essay in his next published collection. Significantly, you never see Joe Queenan cited when other people write about the awfulness of Red Lobster.
I avoided Red Lobsters after trying one in San Diego years ago and noticing the preponderance of negroes. I have nothing against negroes, I just don’t wish to be around them when I eat. Call it an eccentricity, or delicate feelings, if you wish. As SD is not a negrified location, this phenomenon came as a surprise.
For low-cost gluttony I thenceforth depended on a buffet restaurant called Soup Plantation, full of happy, plump white families driving down from Del Mar and La Mesa. It was many years before I ever stepped inside a Golden Corral, which has acquired a reputation that might be called Red Lobster squared. A typical description, from an online forum:
Well,here I go,trying to find a nice place to eat on a budget.I work out of town alot and I get tired of microwave dinners and the like….We have a place called Golden Corral around these parts…It’s a really good buffet type place with good food at good prices ($10.00 all you can eat).I found one close by were I’m staying and went in and sat down,making sure that there was not a nigger in sight. I had just gotten my tea and salad when,you guessed it,3 fat she-boons and their 4 niglets came in and sat right beside me…I had already paid for my meal so I hoped for the best..it was not to be…These nigger sows took off on the buffet like Grant took Richmond…add to that the 3 niglets and of course a newborn nigger and the carnage was complete…Golden Corral was niggerfied…..loud talking and cell phones going off and the she-boons bragging about their new cars….Damn,it was totally disgusting….But while I ate I did get to observe the feral nigger close up and so I would like to share some of my field observations…
#1 Golden Corral has a very good selection of food,seafood,roast beef,vegetables and a great steak place where you can order steak, cooked like you like it, straight off the grill..really tasty…Well with this vast selection of food do you know what the niggers got?…That’s right…Fried Chicken….every nigger bitch and the niglets got a big heapin’ order of yard bird…..I guess there is truth in the statement that niggers and chicken go hand in hand…..
#2…every nigger sow had on bright red lipstick and blonde hair….why,if niggers are so much better than us why do they copy everything about us?
#3…Every nigger sow got or made at least 5 phone calls while I was there…what the hell is so important?
#4…Niggers are truely animals…The niglets, after eating began to roam the aisles..being a bother to all of the well behaved white persons and only calming down for a second after a nigger mammy hollars so loud that the whole parking lot can hear..”Dontarius,you get your ass over hears or you ain’t gettin no ice cream!” You could see the whites rolling their eyes at the young nigger thugs…
#5.. Niggers aren’t poor..This meal alone costs the niggers right at $60.00 bucks…and these niggers paid right up…In fact,any time you go out to eat you will see niggers with brand new cars,new designer clothes and loads of cash………courtesy of the “white debil”……..
#6…….Niggers always trying for free stuff….of course before leaving the niggers say to the young Hispanic waitress that “Dey,not be eating all dey food,so dey be wanting “snoop doggy” bags for later”…Golden Corral, being a buffet does not have take-out unless you pay….Naturally a chimpout ensues and the manager has to explain about 10 times to the she-boons why they cannot take food home without paying…..And of course the young waitress doesn’t get a tip even after bringing,I know at least 4 glasses of tea apiece to each of the she-boons and wiping up at least 3 spilled drinks courtesy of the niglets…
#7…..niggers are simply disgusting and every white knows it….I know by the look on the white faces….when these niggers walked in,every white person was secretly wishing…”Please God, Don’t let these niggers sit next to me and my family.”
Well, that was my $10.00 niggerfied Golden Corral dinner…..I try to avoid places were niggers work or eat but,nowadays it seems,especially down here in the south, that you just can’t escape from the feral nigger anywhere…..unless you can eat at the high class places where the rich, nigger-loving liberals go when they want to eat out….niggers don’t like caviar or duck l’orange……
(NOTE: This draft has been lying about in the bin for weeks, but if it’s ever going to achieve near-perfection, it won’t be from fermenting in there. You can see the basic ideas, I just don’t have a hook to hang them on and give them perspective.)
FURTHER TO MY earlier essay about trade advertising in the 1960s and 70s, there was one other magazine whose trade-ad campaigns came at you relentlessly as you strolled through the railway depots and commuter stations, or thumbed through the NYTimes. That was Helen Gurley Brown’s Cosmopolitan, an aggressively low-middlebrow sex-and-makeup rag that came out of the Hearst Building. During its high-water mark of the late 60s, early 70s, its man-catching ethos was at fierce loggerheads with a much fresher and weirder bit of popcult, Women’s Liberation.
Cosmo seldom addressed this pop-culture war in its pages, so far as I know, nor did its trade advertising ever discuss how its sensibility contrasted with that of Women’s Lib. (Ms. magazine wouldn’t really be a thing till early 1972.) Cosmo readers and women’s libbers inhabited two different galaxies altogether and neither one ever acknowledged the other.
This is somewhat paradoxical, because both camps were selling a Career Girl persona that liked to imagine itself as “Fun, Fearless, Female”—to use a 1990s Cosmopolitan slogan. It was a rivalry that went much deeper than the magazines’ public personae. At the root was a culture war that neither could openly discuss.
It made for many amusing ironies. Ms. featured actress Marlo Thomas as a contributor in the early years. Her TV persona in the 1960s “That Girl” sitcom—chic clothes, flip-hairdo, man-hungry and marriage-focused—was basically the Cosmo Girl.
And Cosmo definitely leveraged off the Women’s Lib movement—though mainly in the same crude and clownish way that Virginia Slims cigarettes did (“You’ve come a long way, baby!”). For cigarette advertising, “women’s rights” meant that dames could now smoke 100mm cigarettes in public. For Cosmopolitan, it was all about young women being actively sexual—we’ve got the Sexual Revolution now, baby, and the Pill! This was supposed to put them on a par with men.
Sex equality, thus = sexual equality. There’s too much to unpack in that equation; we leave it for another date.
The split between the Cosmo camp and Ms. faction was essentially a political war between Women’s Libbers, one so deep and ideological that neither side even acknowledged the other’s existence. One was deeply rooted in the 1950s and 60s culture of working girls who used sexual wiles to gain power. The other was rooted in journalism, academia, and abstruse theorizing about social dynamics. The first was loud and sometimes coarse, the second was snobbish and priggish.
Of course didn’t take much snobbishness to sneer at Cosmopolitan. Its cat-in-heat crudeness was all over the place, then as now. Even in the 1970s it was giving its readers tips ‘n’ tricks on sex foreplay. Its raunch wasn’t quite at the level of Penthouse’s Forum, but it was extraordinary for a magazine aimed at the same approximate demographic as Mademoiselle and Glamour. Cosmo called it being sexually “frank,” but it was widely perceived as being merely lowlife and lurid, and as abjectly unintellectual as its cosmetics advertisements and decolletage covers.
This social and cultural divide that could never be breached. Many a teenage girl of this era affected a distaste for fine clothes and grooming, lest she be mistaken for a dim-bulb Cosmo reader. No doubt the horrors of Cosmo propelled others into disheveled lesbianism, or at least priggish spinsterhood. Better to die single and childless, the middle-class, educated young woman mused, than to hunt for a man like a JAP or a Cosmo floozy.
I would argue that Cosmopolitan did far more to ruin relations between the sexes than Ms. or Feminism ever did. It made the heterosexual dating game tawdry and distasteful. It made catching a spouse (and seeking a home and family) something anyone should sneer at, if her ambitions were anything above the level of stewardess or cocktail waitress. A whole generation of women were born and raised under this pervasive yet unnatural mindset.
I recall, in the 80s, being asked by strangers if I were seeking a husband or looking forward to raising a family. I would go into an absolute cringe. What did they think I was? The sort of bimbo who read Cosmopolitan?
A seldom-remembered detail of the commuter-railroad experience back in the 60s is the prevalence of ‘trade advertising.’ These were posters and car-cards and billboards that you passed but barely noticed in the train car and on the platform. They didn’t advertise a product per se; they advertised advertising space where you could sell your product.
Catching the train in Bronxville or Cos Cob or New Haven you’d see these ads, often mystifying and surrealistic, lining the station platform alongside the enticements to Broadway plays and musicals:
Gilroy IS Here! The Subject Was Roses. Pulitzer Prize Something.
What? You Haven’t Seen Man of La Mancha (“The Impossible Dream”) Even Once?
Now, those theatrical posters were straightforward. They were clearly selling something, and you knew what they were selling. But unless you were in the business, you might not know what a trade ad was up to. If it was plugging WNEW Radio, you’d probably vaguely imagine it was telling you to listen to WNEW Radio . . . but actually it was telling ad buyers to buy time at WNEW Radio.
One baffling but long-lived trade series was a Young & Rubicam campaign for Time magazine. There might be eight or ten of these in a single location. Imagine you’re walking down a long station platform or concourse, and every few yards you see a mockup of a Time magazine cover. There’s a stark, simple image, and one short line of copy mentioning a Time advertiser.For example, you might see the arm of a chalk-stripe suit surrounded by the Time branding, and the copy would go: “TIME / Where Brooks Brothers buttonholes the upscale Madison Ave. man.”
That example is made up; I don’t think Brooks Bros. advertised in Time anyway, and they weren’t featured in this series. In fact I can’t remember any specific copy from Y&R’s trade campaign for Time. This forgettability was sort of intentional. The agency was trying to get Mr Advertising Man to buy space in Time right now, this week, in 1969 . . . they weren’t hoping consumers would go around mouthing a brilliant tagline for the next fifty years.
Because that would be tragic. Nothing fails worse than a clever campaign that doesn’t hit the right target. “You don’t have to be Jewish . . . to love Levy’s . . .Real Jewish Rye” is the Y&R line from the era everyone remembers now, though almost no one today has ever eaten Levy’s rye bread. Do they even make it anymore?
I suspect the Levy’s campaign was like the cartoon ads for Piel’s Beer a decade before, appealing mainly to people who wouldn’t ever buy the product.
But while we may remember the Levy’s ads, the Y&R trade series do not stick in the public imagination at all. In fact they’ve essentially been dropped down the memory hole. I’ve been Googling and otherwise researching Advertising Age and Young & Rubicam histories to see if there’s any mention, any image of the Time campaign. No luck.
I can’t even find online photographs of station platforms where these ads appeared. I guess no amateur archivist ever thought to snap them. It’s almost impossible even to find photos of Broadway posters online. That’s why I show a Playbill above instead of the actual 1964 theatrical poster for The Subject Was Roses.
What does stick in my recollection is that the Time campaign was resolutely upscale. A place to advertise hi-class products for hi-class readers, was the subtext. That may sound laughable today, when Time is reputed always to have been a middlebrow rag. Time now survives in a scrawny print edition that is filled with ugly pharma advertising and is read mostly by 80-year-olds, probably because they got in the habit of reading it in the 1960s, back when Time ran real news and half its full-page insertions were for gin and scotch.
But however nasty it may be now, in advertising demographics Time was the class act for decades, far outshining the ad-stuffed Life and Look, which were perceived as picture books that subscribers thumbed through. Readers read Time.
Trade campaigns for other magazines imitated the Time model to a certain extent—e.g., the endless variants of “Forbes: Capitalist Tool,” which made a subtle pitch to the advertisers by flattering the readers. This series of ads, which ran in and around commuter trains in the 1970s and 80s, almost looked like a subscription promotion aimed at ambitious young commuters. Actually the ads were reminding posh advertisers on the train that if they bought space in Forbes they could reach those ambitious young commuters. (The kind of people who read Forbes do not need a train ad to tell them to read Forbes.)
The most pervasive and long-lived of the trade-ad campaigns was probably for the downscale, big-circulation Sunday supplement called Parade. “Parade is the Sunday Giant!” went the slogan, generally on a poster or car-card showing a line-drawing cartoon of a towering figure looming over lilliputian Sunday rags (NY Times Magazine, perhaps?).
Having mass nationwide circulation was and is basically Parade’s only selling point, but advertisers needed to be reminded of this because Parade was easy to overlook. It was and is a one-of-a-kind publication: a bland, friendly downmarket supplement, with content kept so generic it can never seem out of place in Salt Lake City, Sarasota, or St. Louis. This is a difficult trick, and Parade’s done it for, whatever, 70 years? (Look it up!)
Back in the 60s and 70s, every town worth mentioning had at least a couple of big Sunday newspapers, and one of them—generally the one with the better funnies and the shorter editorials—carried Parade. In such locales you’d actually see people in stores and newsstands on weekends, thumbing through the hefty Sunday paper to make sure the sports section and Parade were there! The same way parishioners of St. Catherine of Siena in Greenwich might head for the newsstand after Mass, full of beady-eyed intent to ensure that their Herald-Tribune or New York Times wasn’t missing its Book Review section.
Parade emphasized its mass-market, downscale orientation in a dozen ways. In the 50s and 60s, when newspapers boasted of their sturdy newsprint stock and excellent rotogravure processes, Parade went in the other direction and made itself as shoddy as it possibly could. Tabloid-sized and unstapled, its pages were all different sizes, some with rag edges, others cut sharp or with extra dog-ear flaps at the corner. Even on the cover, their color printing was often somehow out of registration, like a 3-D comic book. (It’s neater today, like most color reproduction.)
Parade left a spot on its nameplate where the local newspaper could print its name or logo, and this just added to the cheap feel, since the newspaper’s name was usually printed crooked or looked like a rubber stamp.
The “editorial matter” was mostly filler dealing with celebrities and fads, the kind of stuff any of us could write off the top of our heads, so long as the words aren’t too big, and the sentences aren’t too long, and the attitude is relentlessly chipper.
The main rule, though, was that if you mentioned a celebrity, it had to be someone recognizable to 95% of the population. That was the secret of “Walter Scott’s Personality Parade,” an inside-cover feature that started around 1971 and still runs today, although Walter Scott himself apparently has no more actual personality than Betty Crocker.
It was a brilliant addition to Parade, because it ensured that there would be at least one feature that everyone would read. It’s still the first thing you see on the inside: pithy queries and answers about stars and politicians that everybody’s heard of, usually with very upbeat, anodyne answers.
(One I remember from circa 1974: “Does Elton John always wear a hat because he’s ‘bisexual’? No, actually he just likes hats! Also he’s having hair transplants!“)
Parade’s own advertising mechanism I never figured out. The rag’s low-budget, rec-room-floor style would never have been a good fit for most advertisers. (Toothpaste, yes; Tanqueray, no.) And since the same edition was distributed across the country, there was no way it could pick up lavish display ads from retailers or car dealers.
Maybe they did try local-market ‘spot advertising’ at one point, but if so I never noticed it. The logistics of the thing would have been extremely complicated, and probably would have required a drastic upgrade in format and a more specialized, target audience. No more Sunday Giant. So mainly Parade survived on cheesy, cheerful national ads for things like two-dollar muumuus, and anti-itch powder for dogs.
Their perennial full-page advertisers mostly sold stuff you might never see advertised anywhere else, or at least outside a Sunday supplement. There was Zoysia grass, a magical kind of turf that evidently never needed watering or weeding, and then there was an amphetamine-laced weight-loss candy that had the merry name of Ayds. The latter’s ads were always disguised to look like editorial matter and invariably consisted of a first-person narrative by a former fat-lady, “As told to Ruth L. McCarthy.”
One hears sometimes that Parade is a family-run, closely held, business. I find that easy to believe. There’s just enough work here, and just enough money, to support one extended family.
Begins here a list of memory lapses, items I reach for mentally before drawing a blank. I am not counting things I forget because I was incapacitated. (E.g., stuff I buy on Amazon when drunk or sleepwalking.) I put an asterisk after anything I actually went and Googled, or otherwise hunted around for.
Now, I’ve been collecting some at random for a couple of months and not putting them in here. But these are some of the best.
Our colleague over at mmetroland.wordpress.com has a draft critique of the ongoing Jane Austen/Alt Right controversy, which should shortly be published elsewhere. While the article is exhaustive, not to say tiresome, I’ve noticed that a few press references from March 20-26 escaped MMetroland’s eye.
Most of these are little more than copypastas of what appeared in the New York Times and Chronicle of Higher Education, but each has its own little quirk. The Huffington Post gives the kicker “She’s the Pepe of Regency-Era Fiction,” which is strangely witty for HuffPo, just as the writeup, by Claire Fallon, is unusually fair-and-balanced (though she sinks to using the 1950s Daily Worker/Civil Rights Congress expression, “white supremacist” to indicate anybody right-of-left-of-center).
Contrariwise, the formerly witty and balanced Independent (London) is now lost forever to the fever-swamp Left. “Jane Austen has alt-right fans who have clearly never read her work properly, scholar suggests,” goes the Indy’s hed, but the story describes no such scholar, nor in fact anyone else, making such a statement. The Daily Telegraph (London) isn’t much better, basing its writeup entirely on the original Chronicle story and its expansive endorsement by Jennifer Schuessler in the New York Times.
The Times’s (London) coverage, picked up in The Australian (Sydney), is even worse. Hack Ben Hoyle arranged his sensationalist bilge to showcase an old throwaway remark from Andrew Anglin that does not all pertain to the issue at hand. No doubt the fact that it’s a quote from America’s highly entertaining “top hater” made it irresistible:
In a post for The Daily Stormer, which has been called the “top hate site in America” by The Southern Poverty Law Centre, a white-supremacist approvingly described pop star Taylor Swift as “a secret Nazi”, whom he imagined “sitting at home with her cat reading Jane Austen”, while her contemporaries indulged in loose sexual behaviour “with coloured gentlemen”.
Following the local style-book to spell “Southern Poverty Law Centre,” though it’s a proper name, is also a funny touch, as is the respelling of “coloured” which should not be Briticized since it’s in a direct quote.
The Guardian’s Danuta Kean, despite her piece’s Commie jargon, is breathtakingly original by comparison. She actually did a little research on this one, and got some entertaining quotes:
Fellow Austen scholar Bharat Tandon, who edited the Harvard University Press edition of Emma, is sceptical that Austen’s fans on the far right have actually read her books. Citing Ayn Rand, another of the far right’s favourite female writers, he said: “[Austen] would have had Rand for breakfast. That rootsy post-Randian demagoguery that they all follow would have been completely alien to the society Austen chronicled.”
According to Tandon, the only character in Austen’s work who could possibly have voted for Donald Trump would be Mrs Norris, Fanny Price’s cruel and snobbish aunt in Mansfield Park. “She’s a nasty, greedy and abusive piece of work,” says Tandon. “Trump would speak to her.”
Claire Tomalin, whose biography, Jane Austen: A Life, revealed a woman more radical in her roots than her popular image allows, doubts the writer would find anything in common with white supremacists. “[Austen] loved the poetry of William Cowper, who was opposed to hunting and shooting,” she says.