Monday, May 18, 2009

"I'm Shocked, Shocked to Find That Gambling Is Going on in Here!"

Don Rickles shocked me last night. He really did. 

And you know, after watching a man make a traffic cone disappear with a little Crisco, a perfect squat and a look on his face when he reached the bottom that seemed to say, "Is that all there is?," I didn't think that I could be shocked anymore. And I was wrong.

It wasn't anything that Rickles said. That was all truly brilliant and wildly funny...

Like when the man sitting near the back of the theatre yelled out something like, "You're the greatest, Don!" and Rickles immediately replied, "Sorry about your seats," followed by, "I've got one fan here and he's in the back facing the wall!"

Or when a women with a high pitched voice squealed, "I love you, Don!" and Don said, "Did someone lose a puppet?" Genius. True genius.

No, it wasn't what Rickles said that shocked me, it was what he sang.

Now, I have watched Mr. Warmth: The Don Rickles Project many times, so I knew that Don would sing, "I'm a Nice Guy." I knew he would sing the ballad, "Laughter for Love." And I knew he would do his Jimmy Cagney imitation by singing "Yankee Doodle Dandy."

Don't judge. Remember, this was in a theatre in a casino, folks. In Indiana, for God's sake. But I'm just a redneck who's more Lorna Luft than Lady Gaga anyway, so I loved it!

The song I didn't expect was the song he chose to close the evening - - "I Am What I Am" from La Cage Aux Folles

Not only is this song closely identified with coming out of the closet and GLBT rights, it's also arguably the gayest Jerry Herman song ever written. 

Gayer than Mame's "Bosom Buddies." 

It's THAT friggin' gay!

And Don Rickles sings it at the end of his show. Shocking. I was shocked. So much so that I did a double take to my friend Michael. A big, wacky, sitcom double take. Which, combined with the "What the fuck?!?" look on my face, made the people around me start to snicker. Not that I cared. I was too busy trying to figure out why Don Rickles was singing this uber-queer song?

But, after looking up the phrase "I Am What I Am," I've come to the realization that, even though Jerry Herman stuck a big, rainbow colored flag in those words when he wrote that song for La Cage, we gay people don't really own that particular phrase. So, when Don sings it, it doesn't mean he's gay. It could mean any number of things.

Perhaps Don sang "I Am What I Am" because that phrase is in the Bible. It's a translation of the response God gave when Moses asked for His name.

Or maybe Rickles just really loves the George Jones album, "I Am What I Am." 

The first track on that album is "He Stopped Loving Her Today," and what's not to love about that?!?

Or maybe Don's got a thing for Popeye.  If so, we're back to the gay thing...

But regardless, that song was the last thing I expected to hear coming out of Rickle's mouth last night. 

And other than Don having absolutely no idea what measure he was in or what the tempo was, I loved every second of it.


Anonymous said...

If he followed it with "A Little More Mascara" then maybe gay, maybe. Or he could be going for the Emo crowd.

Lance Noe said...

That George Jones outfit, is SHOCKING!

Loves me that shirt though, CHECK OUT THE COLLAR!

Java said...

George Jones looks pretty gay on that album cover.

What a hoot!! Wish I could have been there. I would like to have seen and heard Rickles, but even more so, I would love to have seen the look on your face when he sang that song.

Prospero said...

Eeew! That picture of George Jones makes me thinnk of "Funny Uncles" and "bad touches." I bet he needs to report his residence to someone, somewhere...

I sang "I Am What I Am" as part of a singing waiters revue back in the day. Depending on the age of the crowd on any given night, it was applauded wildly, applauded warmly or met by a chorus of crickets.