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 earn acclaim 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 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 clip is of more recent vintage)
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. 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.
Thirty-five years ago, I was a third-grader and far more interested in late-night horror flicks than music. And I was certainly already well acquainted with Don and steeling myself for him popping up onscreen.
(I’m not sure if Don listened to music or not)
Here are four songs that were on Billboard magazine’s Hot 100 this week in 1977…
ABBA – Dancing Queen
from Thank You For The Music (1994)
I stumbled upon an unopened copy of ABBA’s four-disc box set for six dollars and couldn’t pass it up. Not that I really need that much ABBA.
(few people do other than a buddy who was fanatical about the band long before revisionism and a hit Broadway show made such adoration socially acceptable)
I enjoy the hits from the bell-bottomed, sequined Swedes more dispassionately, but I’d have to offer up S.O.S., The Winner Takes It All, and Dancing Queen as transcendent.
Eagles – New Kid In Town
from Eagles Greatest Hits, Vol. 2 (1982)
My relationship with the Eagles is complicated, but even with little interest in music in 1977, I was familiar with the group. The radio station in our small town was light rock with a bit of pop-leaning country thrown in and the wistful New Kid In Town was a perfect fit.
10cc- The Things We Do For Love
from Super Hits Of The ’70s: Have A Nice Day, Volume 19 (1993)
I know little more of 10cc’s catalog other than a handful or so of songs, but those I do know have impressed me with their musicianship, craftsmanship and quirkiness.
The Things We Do For Love is a breezy and flawless pop song.
Steve Miller Band – Fly Like An Eagle
from Greatest Hits 1974–78 (1978)
I seem to recall hearing Fly Like An Eagle constantly blaring from radios at the pool during the summer of ’77. It struck me as a bit strange and unsettling.
The song still has a trippy vibe though it’s no longer strange and/or unsettling, but I’d have to think the stoners of 1977 were digging the song’s groove.