Tuesday, August 2, 2022

"Broads Behind Bars" and "The Spinach Song"

The things you find noodling around the internet. It began by looking up the actress /strongwoman Hope Emerson—best known for lifting Spencer Tracy off the ground in court in the 1949 movie Adam's Ribafter I watched her exclaim "Smokin' Oakum!" throughout Westward the Women (1952). Oakum is the short fibers of hemp; generally it is not smoked.  (It's possible she was saying, "smoke and oakum.")

Emerson, who made her Broadway debut playing an Amazon woman in Lysistrata in 1930, was nominated for an Oscar for her role as a sadistic matron at a women's prison in Caged (1950), for which the author Virginia Kellogg served time in four American prisons under false charges, as research. 

Caged and anti-marijuana propaganda films were parodied in the 1977 SCTV skit, "Broads Behind Bars," in which Catherine O'Hara and Eugene Levy of TV's "Schitt's Creek" smoke pot, leading to her imprisonment and defiant downfall "from just one small stick of the stuff." Emerson's role was handled by John Candy in drag in the skit, which a title card mockingly says was "produced in cooperation with the anti-marijuana league of North America."

Next, reminded that it was Robin Williams's birthday this week, I looked up Popeye, a role he played that is associated with marijuana, "spinach" being slag for it in the 1930s.  I discovered a connection in "The Spinach Song (I Didn't Like It the First Time)" by Julie Lee and her Boyfriends, who also had a hit with "Lotus Blossom" (Sweet Marihuana)."

I found the song on YouTube, where a radio guy named Tom Lisella commented that, "This song had been banned at the American Forces Radio Network, (AFN) Europe. In 1975 I sat on a panel that lifted the ban. As a matter of fact, when we heard the song, we had quite a chuckle and decided that the ban was silly and that nobody would play it, anyway. I played it - that night - on my show!"

This lead me to recall that after 9/11, songs that were banned on ClearChannel inexplicably and ridiculously included:
Alanis Morissette - Ironic (ain't it?)
Bangles - Walk Like an Egyptian (because of Middle Eastern theme) 
Carole King - I Feel the Earth Move 
Pretenders - My City Was Gone 
Steve Miller - Jet Airliner 
Boston - Smokin’ 
The Beatles - Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds 
John Lennon - Imagine 
Cat Stevens - Peace Train 
Louis Armstrong - What A Wonderful World 
Peter Paul and Mary - Blowin’ in the Wind 
Simon And Garfunkel - Bridge Over Troubled Water 
Youngbloods - Get Together (written by Chet Powers aka Dino Valenti, who had to sell the rights to it to pay for a lawyer after he was busted for marijuana).  

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