As a small boy, I reacted with apprehension upon my introduction to Eddie Cantor. He was so unusual and so unreal that he frightened me much like a child is frightened seeing a clown for the first time. I have the memory of Cantor, in the midst of singing "If You Knew Susie Like I Know Susie," excitedly hopping around, rolling his eyes, and pressing his palms together while clapping his hands. He stared with giddy lust at the camera, his eyes penetrating and bulging. That big tease Susie has gotten this poor guy so worked up that he looked like he was ready to burst.
Cantor always seemed worked up about a girl. He suggestively rolled his eyes while singing about making out, what he termed "billing and cooing," in songs like "Ain't She Sweet," "Oh Gee! Oh Gosh! Oh Golly I'm In Love," "Making Whoopee" and "Yes, Sir, That's My Baby." Let me see, how does that one song go again? Oh, yeah, I know. "Ain't she sweet? See her walking down that street. Yes I ask you very confidentially, ain't she sweet?" Yeah, she's so sweet that he's got his tongue hanging out of his mouth and he is raring to grab himself a taste. He's like a combination of Pee Wee Herman and Rick James. That, my friend, is a dangerous combination. Pee Wee alter ego Paul Reubens was arrested for indecent exposure while masturbating in a porno theater. James was arrested for kidnapping a woman, tying her up and forcing her to perform sexual acts. Ain't that sweet?
All these years later, "Ma! She's Making Eyes at Me" still makes me break out in a cold sweat. Cantor sang, "Ma, she's making eyes at me. Ma, she's awful nice to me." How "awful nice" was she being to get him jumping around like that? I do not even want to begin to tell you about the nightmare I had where bulgy-eyed monsters attacked me singing "My Baby Just Cares For Me."
Singers of that era employed disturbingly strange gimmicks, including blackface and megaphones. Al Jolson liked to drop down on his knees during the climax of a song. I wonder how these guys would do today appearing on American Idol.
I can imagine Cantor singing James' "Give It to Me Baby." It wouldn't be too much of a stretch for Cantor to sing, "Give me your stuff, that funk, that sweet, that funky stuff. I betcha I'll make you holler you've had enough." Even better, Cantor could pull off a fabulous rendition of The Commodores' "Brick House." Cantor, hopping around, could sing, "Ma! The lady's stacked and that's a fact, ain't holding nothing back. Shake it down, Susie, shake it down now."
Rudy Vallee, a popular megaphone singer, had a big hit with "Deep Night." The opening lyrics were:
Deep night, stars in the sky above
Moonlight, lighting our place of love
Night winds seem to have gone to rest
Two eyes, brightly with love are gleaming
Come to my arms, my darling, my sweetheart, my own
Vow that you'll love me always, be mine alone
Boy, those as some horny lyrics, too. "Deep Night" is a pretty good song but it would probably be too soft and slow for the American Idol crowd. I would recommend Vallee sing a more modern tune about moonlight lovemaking - the Rolling Stones' "Let's Spend the Night Together." Vallee could croon into his megaphone: "I'll satisfy your every need. And I now know you will satisfy me."
No one today can imagine how huge Jolson was in his day. Jolson, more than singing love songs to women, sang love songs to his mother ("My Mammy"), his son ("Sonny Boy"), his best friend ("My Buddy"), New York City ("Give My Regards to Broadway"), California ("California, Here I Come"), and the Swanee River ("Swanee"). He was even wild about Harry. He was a man exploding with love. He loved everybody and wanted everybody to be happy, as he suggested in songs like "April Showers" and "When the Red, Red, Robin Comes Bob, Bob, Bobbin' Along." I have to admit, I enjoy Jolson's songs. I have a particular fondness for the farewell that Jolson gave to his sweetheart in "Toot, Toot, Tootsie, Goodbye." The line that always chokes me up is, "If you don't get a letter, then you know I'm in jail." But my doctor prohibits me from listening to too many Jolson songs because it gets me using Jolson catchphrases and talking in Jolson's deep, syrupy voice. My mother had me committed when I was ten years old because I kept asking her, "Don't ya know me, mammy, it's your little boy Sammy."
Still, Jolson also did well with a number of romantic songs. "There's a Rainbow 'Round My Shoulder" has Jolson shouting "Hallelujah" and doing bird calls because he's in love. He talks about wanting "lovin'" and cuddling from his girl in "Pretty Baby." He is definitely a man who loves to smooch with a woman. He wails in "You Made Me Love You," "Gimmie, gimmie, gimmie what I cry for, you know you got the brand of kisses that I'd die for." He promises to deliver to his lover "a million baby kisses" in "Rock-A-Bye Your Baby With A Dixie Melody."
In my estimation, it would be best for Jolson to sing for the American Idol crowd the biggest and most optimistic arena rock song of all time - Queens' "We Are the Champions." Afterwards, he could tell the crowd, "You ain't heard nothin' yet!' Then, he could perform as an encore "Another One Bites the Dust." He could drop to his knees before singing, "There are plenty of ways you can hurt a man and bring him to the ground." That would be great to see.
I bought this handkerchief off ebay. It's supposed to be a handkerchief that Jolson used to wipe off his blackface make-up after performing at Chicago's Soldier's Field in 1949. I was thinking that I could get some geneticist to use this handkerchief to clone Jolson. I saw a scientist do something like this on that Fox show Fringe. I could make a fortune, just be sitting on top of the world, if I could get the Jolson clone to tour in a Best of Queen show. Judy Garland had a huge comeback with a Best of Jolson show in 1951 and it's my guess that Jolson's Best of Queen show would go over a lot bigger. I just need to find out if there's genetic material in discarded make-up.
Okay, I have to go now. I have to go strolling with my girlie where the dew is pearly early.
Hey, handkerchief, how about giving us a big finish?