"I Don’t Want To Make Money, Folks…I Just Love To Sell Guns."

April 13, 2008

Recently, Paloma and I caught a late-night showing of a movie called Equinox, a sci-fi flick from the early ’70s which has a cult following due to the fact that it began as a student film by Dennis Muren. Muren would find much success later for his special effects work on numerous films, including the Star Wars series.

Equinox was a familiar feature from my childhood as it seemed to be shown every other week on WTTV’s Science Fiction Theater. Seeing it again also brought back vivid memories of a personal bogeyman spawned by consumerism run rampant…

…Don, erstwhile proprietor and namesake of Don’s Guns.

Don was a regional phenomenon, his advertising reach relegated to central Indiana where his lone storefront/armory was located. His budget allotment for marketing apparently only great enough to purchase face-time in the wee hours on an independent television station, but his leering mug made quite an impression as I have learned from fellow Hoosiers, few of whom seemed to have escaped seeing Don hawking his wares.

His commercials were like an ambush. One minute, I’d be sitting there, a nine-year old in Spiderman pajamas, huddled under a blanket, watching Channel 4 only to have Don practically burst from the screen and into the living room. If Equinox or Night Of The Lepus wasn’t frightening enough, there was Don.

Don epitomized snake-oil salesman, approaching a level of smarm that would be the envy of any elected official and doing it so effortlessly. Perhaps it was his resemblance to an extremely dodgy Kenny Rogers. Possibly, it was the sheer, unadulterated glee with which he made his pitch.

Most likely it was the manner in which he closed every commercial – Don gazing maniacally from the screen, toothy grin flashing as he delivered his mantra, “I don’t want to make money, folks. I just love to sell guns.”. (This linked commercial must be of more recent vintage – note the Spanish subtitle – and puts a twist on his trademark closing quote)

And then he’d be gone. DeForest Kelly would return – battling the bunnies in Night Of The Lepus – but somehow it lacked the punch to follow-up the spectacle of Don.

And where is Don now? Googling him, my computer screen was filled with results, most of which sullied my fond memories of Don as many alluded to numerous alleged improprieties involving his business. In fact, one item feted him as “the nation’s sixth-worst dealer” based on the number of firearms sold that were used in criminal activity.

And all the daffy bastard wanted to do was sell guns. Is that so wrong?

Adrian Belew (with David Bowie) – Gunman
A record store co-worker from years ago lived next door to Belew who was, by their account, a model neighbor. Neighbor-wise, Paloma and I are stuck with a crack dealer, a drunk who considers himself an artist (for his sculptures not his drinking), and an extraordinarily mediocre jam band who insist on mistakenly referring to their sound as “trip-hop.”

Pray For Rain – Money, Guns And Coffee
This track comes from the soundtrack to a movie called Straight To Hell, a bizarre, quasi-Western about a town populated by java junkies and starring Courtney Love, Joe Strummer, Shane MacGowan (and other members of The Pogues), and Elvis Costello.

Warren Zevon – Roland The Headless Thompson Gunner
I once had a dream that Zevon, for some infraction, was sentenced to do community service in which he was to take underprivileged kids camping (for some reason, I was part of this expedition). Instead of communing with nature in the great outdoors, Warren had us spread out our sleeping bags on the floor of some posh hotel suite and, as we all sat around gorging ourselves on room service, he repeatedly bellowed, “We’re roughing it now, aren’t we, kids!”

The Connells – Get A Gun