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MARILYN AND BIRD
by Charlie Finch
 
Novelty keeps us spry, and it cleans up after itself by being gone in a minute.
-- Peter Schjeldahl

I speak not of Marilyn Monroe and Charlie "Bird" Parker, cultural innovators of the 1950s, but of Marilyn Chambers and Mark "the Bird" Fidrych, icons of the Ď70s, who died, in their mid-50s, on the same day last week.

Each flared up in a single season, Marilyn passing out after being serviced by Johnny Keyes for 45 minutes in Behind the Green Door, one of the first overground, commercially advertised X films in America, and Mark, kissing a baseball on the mound, while giving a charge to the woeful Detroit Tigers. Soon, Mark blew out his pitching arm and Marilyn blew out Johnny "the Wadd" Holmes and both disappeared from the scene.

Their cultural imprint endured, however, through last week's obituaries and beyond, like a time capsule shot into space for the delectation of future intelligences, only to emerge from our own soil, a monolith for the eternal ape. Chambers and Fidrych survive, thrive and signify because they embody the true arts of America, porn and sports. No amount of economic Depression or multiple 9/11s or speeches by Barack Obama or anonymous youthquaking at new museums can derail the twin art that is pornsports.

Its mythos is simplicity itself: repetition skulking through always the same nine innings and introductory fellatio; dominance: there is a winner, someone comes; voyeurism, safe in one's seat, reaching for the popcorn or the penis; and above all, a diminished human god in a baseball suit or on a box of Ivory Snow.

To which Peggy Lee croons, "Is That All There Is?" In America, the answer is "yes," for the true worm in our rotting apple is not hedge funds, bad banks, mortgage come-ons or even a Bush: it is the dead hand of a land in which there is no art but a continuous loop of a gash and a game.

Young artists at their parties won't save us, neither will old farts at play, only something unknown over the horizon to wash it all away.


CHARLIE FINCH is co-author of Most Art Sucks: Five Years of Coagula (Smart Art Press).



 



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